Sunlight Heart - that is the name of Kazuki’s weapon in the upcoming Busou Renkin anime. But for today’s noob guide to figure taking, we are going to talk about our dear star of the solar system and its application to figurine hobbyists.

Normally the Sun is bad. It radiates ultra-violet rays which decompose our beloved PVC figurines. But it is also the cheapest and most natural source of lighting when it comes to figurine pictures.

I noticed many people try to get desk lamps, fluorescent lamps and all that to set up an indoor booth. I see no point. Because, PVC figurines are mass-produced. Nobody would really want to see figurines in a plain old boring white background because the actual professionally taken promo pics will already have those. By using a plain background, you are essentially producing a substandard version of something that is already available months before.

The biggest problem with people’s pictures are the poor lighting. Basically, let’s get down to the root of the problem. Poorly taken pictures are blurred mostly because there is not enough light and the camera being on auto mode, sets the shutterspeed lower to let more light in. Without a tripod, your hands will tremble and even the least bit of shake will blur the shot. While setting the light sensitivity aka ISO to a higher value will partially remedy this problem, a higher ISO also results in grainy pictures that don’t look smooth and pretty.

So the solution? Go out. Do it outdoors. There is always ample light thanks to the sun (haha unless you are in Manchester or something). Outside the confines of a room, you can easily set your camera to ISO 100 or below without fear of blurring.

It also adds a whole new dimension to figurine collecting, because you are now adding the options of choosing a shoot location as well as time. Different backdrops have different attributes. As for time, the angle of the sun is rather important too. Having a unique backdrop makes your pictures one of  a kind and people will be more interested. Sceptical? Compare these two shots taken with the same camera.


No photoshop required.


This has been heavily photoshopped too.

For the l33test outdoor shoots, I recommend the masses of Pinky Street collectors. These guys and girls have so much variety in their pictures, from Mount Fuji to Shibuya and the beach, the same Pinky feels completely different in each setting.

Now that we have decided to take our pictures outdoors, we find three main concerns: Will the setting suit the figurine; can the weather be controlled; and will people stare at me like an otaku freak?

To address the first, we have to examine each figurine individually. Factors like colour and the character’s personality/outfit are important. Others include the actual setting of the anime and the actual beauty of the backdrop.

Colour
It’s up to personal preference so do your best. What I do is, if I think it matches, I use it. Never had a good sense of colours.


I thought the red ribbons and dress would sort of go with the red Ixora.

Personality/outfit
A dark girl belongs in a dark area. Alter Rei needs to be photographed in a dull, gray and unfriendly setting while Tennis Rei can be shot in a tennis court.


Dark place for a rather dark girl.

Actual Setting
Sometimes, mimicking the anime backdrop can be nice albeit difficult.


I guess the steps look a wee bit Italian. It is similar in colour palette to Gun Slinger Girls.

Actual Beauty
If a place is so beautiful, any figurine looks good with it. Then use it. I like my fountain, it is elegant and a bit like abadoned ruins.


I probably used this fountain as a backdrop three or four times already and have been pleased with the results.

Of course, convenience is a big factor too. Most of my galleries are done around my house area because travelling is such a chore. A good way would be to take pictures right after getting the figurines from the store. You will then save the trouble of having to bring them out again. Otherwise, plan ahead and schedule a day to take a few of your figures. Travel to a place which will have lots of nice scenery, such as the Zoo.

The second variable would be the weather. That is why you need to be an opportunist. See good sunshine? Grab your camera and babies and go for a figurine shootout! Sometimes the randomness of it also makes for interesting effects. For example, my Henrietta shoot had direct harsh sunlight for some, gentle sunlight for others and no sunlight at all for the rest. Variety is always interesting.

The 3rd issue to ponder would be whether people will stare at you and laugh. The answer is YES they will. I’ve faced:

1. A camera crew who were waiting for me to get out of the way. I ignored them.
2. A pack of wild dogs sniffing around my FFX Playarts and knocking them off their poses.
3. Lots of young sweet girls wondering why this handsome lad was playing with plastic girls instead of them.
4. Random middle-aged people staring really hard.

But nothing is really serious, so you can just ignore them and focus on your hobby. Nothing wrong with this, it’s like taking pictures of your car.

So what lessons have we learnt today?

1. Indoor is difficult and needs good equipment. Outdoors is free.
2. Outdoors adds variety and fun.
3. Go out when there’s nice sunlight.
4. Pick your spots wisely.
5. Have confidence in your hobby and ignore the silly ignorant people.

Next part 3 would be on the actual shooting!


7 Responses to “Figurine Science: n00b’s Guide to Figurine Photo-Taking Part 2! Sunlight Heart!”  

  1. 1 Erwin

    Hilarious :D But true! I’ve never taken my figures outside. Most of the steps you provide actually apply to professional gravure photoshoots. It’s not the actual act of taking the pictures, but it’s the *mindset*. You take an object (a figurine, Gundam, or busty girl with a cute face), appropriate a fitting background, setup your equipment, manage the lighting and settings, and you shoot. It’s the basis of photography, really.

  2. 2 Tsubaki

    You’re missing something important:

    6. Leave the outdoor shooting to tjhan.

  3. 3 Juice

    interesting point made there, tsubaki

  4. 4 Saviour

    The 3rd issue definitely stops me from photographing outdoors.

  5. 5 Windbell

    Natural Lighting is the way to go of course. Indoor lighting is tough to work with.

    […] Nobody would really want to see figurines in a plain old boring white background because the actual professionally taken promo pics will already have those. By using a plain background, you are essentially producing a substandard version of something that is already available months before. […]

    I used to do that! :)

  6. 6 Jan

    Thank you for that interesting article!
    After reading I actually went outside - and took pictures of my “Fate Stay Night” Saber 1/8 figurine (black dress version) with a garden background.

    Results can be seen on http://www.janwn.de/figurines_pictures.html

    (Direkt links to 1600×1200 (700kb) images:
    http://www.janwn.de/images/figurines/Fate Stay Night - Saber 1.jpeg
    http://www.janwn.de/images/figurines/Fate Stay Night - Saber 2.jpeg )

    Best regards, Jan

  7. 7 SolitaryDragon

    I TRIED to take some good pictures in the pictures below are my Alter Meg and Bome Ignis

    http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l162/SolitaryDrag0n/Meg1.jpg

    http://i96.photobucket.com/albums/l162/SolitaryDrag0n/Ingis1.jpg

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