Home photography ideas: Toy soldiers battling with light painting!

Paint toy soldiers with light and add a touch of smoke, to create a miniature scene on an epic scale for photo shoot.

Most folks probably have a couple of old toy figures tucked away that might be perfect for a fun project like this. But this isn’t just an excuse to urge out some cherished playthings – it’s also a lesson within the power of mood lighting.

By illuminating a tabletop toy scene with a few of torches, we will evoke a strong , cinematic atmosphere. during this project we’ll explain how it’s done, employing a long exposure in order that we will ‘paint’ with light.

If you’re not into the war theme, then check out this purely as an exercise in lighting. These same tricks might be wont to create a Jurassic scene, or to bring a Lego landscape to life.

Our finished image here may be a composite of several frames. By doing it like this we will have as many attempts at light painting as we like. So we will perfect the lighting and therefore the distribution of smoke in one area, then advance to a different .

This involves using Photoshop or your preferred photo editing software to mix frames. It’s easier and quicker than you would possibly think, because the majority of the work is completed in-camera.

(Before we bestir oneself we should always say that we made use of a vape to make our billowing smoke effect here. Although we used nicotine-free liquid, this method won’t be to everyone’s taste – if you favor to not use a vape, you’ll use an alternate sort of a clothes steamer.)

Establish a miniature war zone area.


01 Toys and props


We found out our battlefield with toy soldiers. It helps to possess an array of poses to feature variety. We also sprinkled some soil within the foreground along side sticks, then used other props for the backdrop.

02 Scene depth


To give our scene some depth, we posed our figures and scenery on three planes – a foreground (the frontmost soldiers) midground (distant soldiers) and background (hills, statue and trees).

03 Tripod


We’ll build our image by capturing several different shots, so we’d like a tripod to stay them in alignment. It must all stay within the same position, so take care to not nudge the table or figures between shots.

04 Cable release


A cable release enables us to shoot without having to the touch the camera. It also means we will consider creating the smoke and lighting it with the torch then fire the shutter at the proper time.

05 Wide lens


A wide focal distance is best, because it enables us to make a way of epic scale – we shot at 24mm. This also exaggerates perspective, so objects on the brink of the camera appear larger than those further away.

06 Dark room


We’ll be painting with light, so confirm that the space stays dark – which can enable us to use longer exposures. So close up any lights and seal windows, or try shooting in the dark . The less ambient light, the higher .

Staging an action-packed skirmish


01 Frame silhouettes

Each figure are going to be in silhouette, so place them side on to form strong shapes. Consider how you’ll separate them from the background and leave room behind each to permit for the smoke. this is often how our scene looks through the camera, but with lights on.

02 Create billowing smoke

We used a vape to make our smoky effect (filled with a nicotine-free E-liquid). It’s best to not inhale, because the vapor is thicker when blown out instantly. Aim the vapor behind the figures, which is what we’d like for silhouettes. (If you’d rather not vape, try alternatives sort of a clothes steamer.)

03 Set the exposure

With our camera found out on a tripod and therefore the room made dark, we set our camera to manual then use a coffee ISO of 100 and a narrow aperture of f/20 to maximise depth of field. We used a five second exposure, but you’ll experiment with other lengths if you select.

04 Shining the torch

We shine our torch in our scene during the long exposure – you’ll see how the torch has moved here, creating the Z at the highest . Direct the sunshine at the scene from behind; we don’t want to light the figures, rather the smoke behind them to form silhouettes.

05 Light painting tips

We paint with light by moving the torch round the scene to illuminate areas during the exposure. Results are often unpredictable, which is why we use a tripod and cable release. this manner we’ve several chances at lighting the shot – we’ll bring all of them together later.

06 Make sparks fly

To make red flashes of gunfire we used a red LED, wrapped in gaffer tape to go away a small speck of sunshine . By holding the LED at the barrel of a figure’s weapon, then pulling it sharply away, we will create streaks of red. It also adds subtle highlights to the figures.

Piecing together the battlefield


01 Choose your shots

Open the pictures into Adobe Bridge. undergo and add a star rating (Cmd / Ctrl + 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) to the photos you’d wish to use (leave out the red LED ones), then attend the Filter panel (Window > Filter) and click on on the celebs to filter so you’ll see your favorite shots.

02 Load into layers

Click on the primary image within the sequence then hold Shift and click on on the last to pick all of them , then attend Tools > Photoshop > Load Files into Photoshop Layers. This opens all the pictures into Photoshop during a single document, with each image on a separate layer.

03 Add a black mask

Go to the Layers panel (Window > Layers). Click the attention icon to cover about rock bottom two layers, then look over the image and choose which areas you would like to stay visible on the upper layer. Next hold Alt and click on the Add Mask icon to cover the whole layer.

04 Paint layer masks

Grab the comb tool, set your color to white then paint to reveal the world you would like visible on the layer. Next, highlight and reveal subsequent layer up within the stack and repeat the method . Continue until all the separate pieces of the scene are blended together.

05 Blend the sparks

Go back to Bridge and highlight the red spark shots, then ‘Load Files into Photoshop Layers’. Once done, attend the Layers panel and Shift-click between the highest and bottom layer. attend the Blending Mode drop-down within the Layers panel and alter it to Screen.

06 Copy and reshape

Right-click over the layers within the Layers panel then attend Duplicate > Layers. Set Destination to the opposite image and hit OK. attend the opposite image and click on through the sparks layers, adding layer masks to cover areas. you’ll reshape the sparks using the Liquify filter.

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