Thursday, 9 February 2017

Two-Headed Trolls and How to Shoot Them

Here’s the last mini from my recent batch of Reaper Bones goodness: an Ettin which I will use as a two-headed troll (see the bestiary in ‘Into the Breeding Pits’)

Someone on the Frostgrave Facebook page recently asked me how I do my photos, so I thought I’d vaguely detail the process here.

Software used:
MS Paint – usually bundled in with all versions of Windows
Picasa – a great photo editing tool which sadly is no longer available
Windows Live Photo Gallery – again bundled in with Windows Essentials and again, no longer supported
GIMP – a very useful photo editing program

Step 1: Make a graduated background (you only need to do this once)

For this, make a blank ‘picture’ in MS Paint or something similar – literally a blank white rectangle the same size as what you want your finished article to be.
Save it and then open it in Picasa Photo Viewer and then select Edit in Picasa. Note Picasa is no longer supported so you might have to find a similar program to do this.

Select the third tab along and click Graduated Tint. Choose your colour and fiddle with the settings until you get the effect you want.
Save this picture as your main background.

You might be able to find a nice background picture on the internet if you don’t want to bother with all of the above!

Step 2: Take photos of your model

There are loads of guides on the internet about photographing miniatures. Below is a link to one from Annie of Bad SquiddoGames, if only because she’s awesome and it’s an excuse to link to her new website.

By necessity I have to take my photos indoors, under fluorescent light. FYI I use my iPhone camera (again there are loads of iPhone photography guides online).
Take the photos in front of a blank background, a curved sheet of white card for example. Or you could knock up a rough and ready light box like mine (made from a metal file box lined with paper).

Make sure that your camera is focusing on the model. If need be take plenty of shots and choose the best ones.

Step 3: Put the photos onto your computer

This will depend on what you used to take the photos and what device you are using to edit them.

Step 4: Crop the photo

Once again I use Picassa for this, but you could just as easily use MS Paint or a host of other photo editing programs and apps.

Crop the photo so that the model is roughly in the centre. Leave a reasonable amount of blank space around the model so that it’s not ‘in your face’. Save the photo.

Step 5: Resize the photo

Resize the photo to the same size as your background photo (see step 1). It doesn’t have to be exactly the same size, just somewhere near.
For lots of photos I use Windows Live Photo Gallery, as I can batch resize multiple photos with this (though it does save them as separate files rather than overwriting the originals).

Step 6: Select the model

Open the photo in GIMP. You need to select (or ‘cut around’) the model. I do this in several stages:

1 – Roughly select around the model using the Free Select ‘lasso’ tool. This ensures that most of the background shadows and such are cut out. It's difficult to see in the photo, but I've basically used the lasso tool to draw a shape around the model.

2 – Click ‘Select’ menu and then ‘Invert’.
3 – Use the Fuzzy Select ‘magic wand’ tool to select around the model. Change the settings (feathering etc.) to suit. Make sure the ‘Add to Current Selection’ option is on.
It's difficult to see in the photo, but I've clicked the magic wand tool on all the unselected bits of background around the model.

Keep using the magic wand tool until there’s a shimmering line tight around the model (this includes gaps between legs etc.)
4 - Click ‘Select’ and then ‘Invert’.

All being well you should have only the model selected and no bits of background.

Step 7: Fiddle with the model

With the model selected you can now fiddle with it to make it look better.
You can adjust the lightness and contrast (under the ‘Colors’ menu), sharpen the image (Filters – Enhance – Sharpen) and generally titivate it until you think it looks right.
There are plenty of GIMP tutorials online.

Step 8: Copy and paste the model onto the background

On your selected model, click ‘Edit’ and then ‘Copy’.
Then open your background photo and select ‘Edit’ and ‘Paste’.
Use the ‘Move’ tool and ‘Scale’ tool to move and resize the model as you see fit.

Step 9: Save the finished product

That’s it!

Now got to ‘File’ and ‘Export’ to save your nifty new photo. Upload to a good image hosting service (I use Photobucket) and then copy the associated URL to link to your blog/forum thread.

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