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Guide to taking Great Model Photos

A great way to share your finished models is with photos.  While you can always snap a quick one with your smart phone, taking quality photos isn't hard.  Here are some tips that we at TractorFab follow:

  • Lighting

The single most important component to a quality photo is the lighting.  The best light source for a realistic photo is the sun.  All of our photos on are taken outside in the sunshine.  Good quality ighting will make even a low qualtiy model look better.  The lighting angle is important too.  Make sure the sun is behind you, not in front of you.  Otherwise you'll end up with shadows.

Warm Sunlight

This picture was taken in the late afternoon fall sunshine, giving the picture an overall warm tone.

  • Backdrop

To improve your realism, look at what is going to be behind your model in the picture.  Try for something natural, such as trees of fields.  Buildings that are in the distance work great too, as they can blend in better.  Even if you live in an urban setting, you'll be able to find something, like a pine tree or some bushes for your back drop, rather than a car, or your front door.

The picture above ended up having the electric meter in the background, not noticed until after the picture was viewed on a larger screen.  After cropping (below), it was still turned out OK.

While the lighting in this picture is acceptable, the rear car hatch in the background is not.

  • Diarama

This is kind of a scary word, but a simple photo board will greatly improve your photo realism level.  Even a board with sifted dirt will do fine.  Almost all of our pictures are taken on a small 10" x 16" diarama we built just for that purpose.  Get creative as time permits - add fences, gravel, dirt, grass, trees, etc. 

tractorfab's photo board

Above is TractorFab's diarama.  Below is an easier version - a small piece of plywood with ground cover.

low buget photo board
  • Your Model

Check your model for dust or specs of dirt before you shoot.  Paint chips will definately show up too.  Also check wheel alignment, etc.

The picture above is a nice setting - the diarama blends in nicely with the background.  The shadow at the bottom of the picture can be cropped off.

With closer examination however, we can see the truck has a few dust specks on the windshield, and it also becomes apparent that the tires are oversized.

  • The Camera

Another important tool to taking quality photos is, of course, the camera.  One of the most important features of a camera for taking model pictures is "depth of field".  In other words, you need to be able to focus the camera on what's in front of you.  When you are at your favorite camera retailer, look at their display.  Most displays will have a small bar code label by each camera.  Turn the camera on, get up close, and focus on the label.  If the camera won't focus, it probably won't focus on your models either.  This is an easy quick test we used to select our camera.  Oh - and one other thing - make sure your lense is clean!

  • The Shoot

Take a variety of pictures, not just one or two.  That is the great thing about digital - you can always delete the ones you don't want.  Turn the display to different angles to get a varitety of shots as well, working with the sun.  Afterwards, inspect your photos on a large screen and see how you did.  Don't be surprised if you notice something out of place!  Looking at a picture is a great way to improve your models and picture taking ability!

These three pictures were all taken during the same photo shoot - play around with different angles and lighting effects - you'll get something you like!

Have a Question?

If you have comments or questions, feel free to contact us. Please read our FAQ page first, as it might help with your questions.
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