For me photography is not to portray what exists out there, but to portray what exists in me.
… I remember. Since I was a child I used to spend hours alone in my room playing with my toys. I also remember that the best part was customising them and creating worlds where they could exist.
Now that I am “grownup" I realize that I never stopped playing and that the only difference is that now I do it with a camera on my hands.
Photography and digital art have given me the possibility to bring to life those scenes that when I was a kid I had on my mind.
Photography with scale models is not so different from other disciplines of photography, but it has its peculiarities. You have to think big but at the same time small. The possibilities are endless and there are no recipes. You just have to use your imagination.
Scale is one of the most important. If what you want is to give a sense of "realism" to your scaled models (toys) you will need in many cases to get closer with your camera. You could think that using a Macro lens would do the job, but the problem with Macro lenses is that they have a shallow depth of field, that meaning that you will only have focus in a small area of your subject and the rest of your subject and scene would be out of focus, and that would be a downfall for our purpose in making them look "real". That’s the way our brain has been taught to perceive scale.
So one solution for using a Macro lens and achieving focus in all of our subject is to use the technique of "focus stacking". (Even if you are not using a macro lens)
Focus Stacking means to take different shots of your subject, focusing from the very first plane (the closer part of the subject towards your lens) to the farther plane of your subject and in between. At the end you will have "X" amount of individual shots of all the planes of your subject in focus. Individual images that you will process in digital softwares to get a final image with all it's planes in focus.
Some important notes for scale.
• Focus stacking can be done with any kind of lens, not necessarily a macro lens.
• When your scene is wide enough a macro lens won't help. Use a wide angle lens.
• I normally use a 24-105mm lens. The focal length that I choose will depend on the scene and composition I am working with.
• You don't have to do focus stacking if your models (toys) are big enough.
• I do the focus stacking technique (sometimes) even if I’m shooting with a f.22
I shoot my models mixing studio flahes, light painting techniques or natural light. It could be similar to shooting a product, but again, if you want to give the sense of realism, you have to think in scale. Its not the same to shoot a real human model with an "octabox" than to shoot a "scaled model" with the same "octabox"… The quality of the light would be softer due its a huge modifier used in a scaled model. So all the basics of lighting in studio or at location will apply but take them to a smaller scale.
I love photo manipulation and digital art… but what is really cool, is to do all you can in camera. It is not only fun, it also gives the image a more realistic look.
So if your model is in the snow, use your imagination and create a snow scene… I use wheat flour to do snow and I use corn flour to do deserts. If I want to add some atmosphere I use smoke from a cigaret (you don't have to smoke, but I have found that its the best way to control small amounts of smoke and put them where you want), or spray water for a rainy day… If I want to make droplets I use corn syrup or if I want to freeze something I use a air blower can. You can use fog machines, wind machines, Dry Ice (Co2), etc…
The possibilities are endless and there is no recipe, only use your imagination and try different things. Most of the things you will need are at home or at the store around the corner. Be creative!
Post will give the final "punch" to your image.
In post you can insert elements to your backgrounds, objects that complement your story telling, effects that could be complex to do in camera, adding sense of motion, color grading fo the "mood", etc... All of these tasks are done in Post.
At the end, photography for me, is just a mixture of playing with different techniques and disciplines The technical side can be learned "easily", but the "hard" part is hidden in our minds and in our hearts. It’s just a matter of staying childish, curious,... It’s just a matter of learning to play again.
Residence: Cancun, Mexico.
Director / Owner of Hernandez Dreamphography / Photo studio
Director / Partner of Proyecto Matatema / Creative Agency
I’m a Graphic Designer, Photographer, Digital artist, Maker.