Digital Photography - Make Your Scale Model Aircraft Come Alive in Pictures

Remember the first time you saw a plane flying overhead? As a kid, you wanted to be like one of those pilots-the bold and skillful airmen who made daring passes in the sky.

As you've grown older, you realize that you may not be cut for a pilot's job. But one thing is for sure: your love for airplanes has never changed. And so you start collecting scale model aircraft as a hobby.

Not Kid's Play

Most people see collecting scale model aircraft as kids' play. For sure, you would disagree- there is nothing trivial about your hobby.

Your collection has a much deeper purpose. It reminds you of a special person or event in your life. Perhaps your airplane collection features your favorite military aircraft that you've secretly hoped to fly when you were little. Or perhaps your grandfather may have been a war veteran, and you want to keep his memories alive by displaying the aircraft he flew during the war.

You can't keep those memories in your mind forever, but you can surely keep a tangible memento that you can keep for years to come. When you take a photo of your favorite aircraft model, you get the chance to show the model in a different light.

Choosing Your Gear

A camera with high megapixels would be ideal for crystal-clear shots. Investing in a high-quality camera with all the bells and whistles will give you a crisp-looking photograph that looks very real.

However, taking clear shots of your scale models doesn't require fancy equipment. A $200 point-and-shoot can get you a result similar to the one taken with an expensive DSLR. But do take note that the lower resolution could mean that you're going to miss some finer details in the photograph.

A good mid-range option is an all-in-one camera that functions much like a DSLR minus the hefty price tag. This type of camera allows you to take clear, close-up shots of your subject without you having to spend a crazy sum.

In addition to the camera, you might also need a tripod. If you have shaky hands, a tripod should be your best friend. When working in low-light environments, you need to keep your camera real still to avoid blurry shots, and this is where tripods come in handy. Prop up your trust camera on a sturdy tripod, and you're ready to go.

Setting the Stage

Location plays an essential role in making your scale models look as real as possible. Where you set up your models could make or break the atmosphere you want to portray in your photograph.

While there is no definitive setup that you can use, you need to ensure that your backdrop doesn't overpower your subject. A good rule of thumb to follow is to use a plain background (unless shooting outdoors) when taking a photo of your scale model.

It could be a piece of fabric or sheet of paper big enough to serve as backdrop for your photograph. Tack the fabric or paper to a wall to create an infinity background. Make sure though that your backdrop is curved to create an illusion of endless space. It's a low-cost yet ingenious way of creating an environment for your subject.

Shooting the Picture

Most cameras come with a built-in flash. It's useful on most occasions, but not when doing scale photography.

If you're shooting indoors, chances are that overhead lighting will be too harsh on your subject. Ideally, there should be at least two sources of light for your subject - a key light and a fill light. The key light is your main light source, which means that it should be brighter than your fill light, which provides contrast in your photograph.

Although good lighting is essential, it doesn't mean that you need to shell out hundreds of dollars on professional lighting. You can improvise and make your own lighting equipment from scratch (i.e. creating your own light tent and flash ring).

Once you have that covered, you can move on the most exciting part of this project-taking the pictures! Most collectors will shoot at different angles and choose the best from that set. That could work, but it's better to plan each angle thoroughly before taking a shot.

How you position your camera has an effect on the composition of your photograph. The lower the position of your camera is, the more interesting the details would be. Play with different angles and see which one brings the life out of your subject.

To get rich details from your photos, use the macro mode (the button with a flower) on your camera. This feature will allow you to take close-up shots of your subject without blurring.

Tweaking the Outcome

Post-processing is where the magic begins. This is not saying though that your efforts in finding the best angle are futile. This is where you can make alterations on your photographs to make them stand out.

Image editing is tricky, but it's fun to learn if you're willing. You can change the size, contrast, and colors in your photographs with editing tools. Take note, though: photo editing does not compensate for a badly shot photograph. If you want your pictures to look sensational, go the extra mile to make them look stunning.

There are plenty of editing software that you can use-some free while others are paid. Regardless of the type of editing tool you're using, make sure to not over-manipulate the photographs. Some of the things you can do include cropping, resizing, and adjusting.

After all your hard work in getting the right equipment, setting up the stage for your art, and actually taking the pictures, you can now let out a sigh of relief. Your work is done-all you have to do now is display your work of art.