Trying to capture your LEGO minifigures in action? Here are a handful of tips on using your phone to take photos of little plastic people!
I’ve been taking photos of LEGO minifigures for just over a year and while I now use a ‘proper’ camera, I started out with the camera on my phone. To be honest, the cameras in smartphones are getting better and not only that, the default camera apps aren’t too shabby either.
These tips are for the default camera iOS camera app, but should also work for most camera apps out there. There’s also a bunch of other camera apps for iOS and Android that specialise in macro shots, but I really like how quickly I can open the iOS camera from the lock screen and it’s an app that’s matured into something that rivals even some of the paid options. So here goes!
1) Turn your phone upside down
The aim here is to get your camera lens as close to your minifig’s perspective as possible. It makes a huge when you’re shooting close to the ground and helps to make your minifig feel more ‘alive’.
Simple, yet effective!
2) Turn on the Rule of Thirds grid
What’s the Rule of Thirds? It’s a handy rule of thumb for taking photos that stand out.
There are a lot of different “rules” and approaches to taking a photo with good composition but the Rule of Thirds is a good place to start.
Basically you imagine the photo is divided up by two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines, creating a grid of nine boxes.
The idea is that these lines are where you should try and line up your points of interest – even better, you can put those points of interest where the lines intersect.
Here’s an example from the Wikipedia article on the Rule of Thirds with the image cropped using the rule of thirds and how the grid works:
<a title=”Tadrart01.JPG: Pir6mon
derivative work: Teeks99, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons” href=”https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RuleOfThirds-SideBySide.gif”>
Tadrart01.JPG: Pir6monderivative work: Teeks99, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The great thing is, a lot of camera apps have this grid built-in, making it easy to line up your photos. Simply go to the settings and see if the option is there. If not, it may be time to look at other camera apps for your phone.
3) Clean that lens!
It doesn’t take much for your phone’s camera to get dusty or grimey and giving it a good wipe before you start shooting can make a world of difference. I’d recommend keeping a small lens wipe on you for when you’re off on your photography adventure.
4) Start with good lighting
Lighting is key. Often the cameras on phones don’t do that well in low-light, so make sure you either work with your surroundings and find a well-lit area or provide some of your own light. But don’t overdue it. Working with minifigs means you’re taking photos of what can be very reflective ABS plastic so direct midday sun or flashes may cause glaring, over-exposed highlights. Playing around with the direction and intensity of your lighting can also give you a different feel/effect to your photos so if you can, play around with angles and positions until you get something you like.
5) Get your focus right
One of the joys of shooting photos on a smartphone is that it’s very simple to choose what you want to focus on – simply touch the screen and the camera will try its best to focus on whatever you’re touching. This makes getting nice, sharp images a little easier but on such a small subject, your camera may try and focus on something else – and it can be the most frustrating part of using a smartphone to take macro photos. For more tips on focusing, read “How to improve the focus on your smartphone camera“.
6) Use a tripod + timer/remote switch
Finally, camera shake can be the final enemy when it comes to taking macro photos on your smartphone – especially in low-light situations. Start by picking up a smartphone tripod. I use a JOBY Magnetic Gorillapod with a cheap smartphone mount I picked up at Ted’s Camera. JOBY also now do a range of smartphone tripods that may be worth looking at.
Next, you’ll want to remove any camera shake that may happen when you take the photo and there are a couple of easy options here:
Timer: First up, try using the timer. On the iOS 8 Camera app, you can choose 3 or 10 seconds. This gives you time to press the button to take the photo, but be hands off when it actually fires.
Remote switch: Take your hands off the phone completely and use a remote switch. The easiest option would be to use the earphones you got with your iPhone. The volume switch acts as a shutter-release so you don’t have to touch the phone once it’s set up.
Alternatively, you could buy a cheap Bluetooth remote switch fairly cheaply from eBay and use that too (I think you can also use the volume controls from a Bluetooth headset if you have one).
Do you have more tips or want more ideas, leave a comment here or connect with Brick Pixels on Instagram and ask!
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