A bad photo of my current setup. I've got a bigger one in the works, but soooooooooooooooo much crap going on.
But here's stuff you can do to make a cheapish but decent toy-photo studio.
- A large cardboard box
- white posterboard (or whatever color backdrop you like)
- tissue paper (again preferably white)
- desk lamps, ideally 3
- 5000K(elvin) white-light bulbs
- Some kind of clear stand-thing
- Some kind of clear support
Check with any localish stores about their shipping boxes. You want something at least a foot in every dimension, preferably more. Trust me, these places won't care it you take some of the garbage. They got loads. Just be polite and patient. Working retail sucks, don't add to their pain.
Carve up yon cardboard box, removing the "lid" bits for an open side. Cut large windows in three sides, leaving enough cardboard left to still be structurally stable. Tape white tissue paper over the holes... probably on the inside of the box to cover the cardboard frame. I shoulda done that. This is not strictly necessary, but if you'e taking pictures of bigger things (Mega/Voyager/Ultra/whatever) the frame might show up and need editing out of your image.
Cut the posterboard to the box width and slide it in, matte (non-glossy) side up. This will diffuse the light and bounce it back softly. DO NOT FOLD IT. Do a soft curve in the back corner, pushing it up to the top of the back wall of the box. While a later step minimizes the need for this, it's still best just in case.
Desk lamps with replaceable normal buIbs can be had fairly cheap. Position two in front, one on each side of the target zone, and one up top, which is more there to illuminate the backdrop. I use 5000K light bulbs that give off a blue-white light, rather than the standard yellow. And I don't just mean for this setup, I mean "in my living space in general". I do not like yellow light. These kind of bulbs are not expensive, but they ARE trickier to find. Look SPECIFICALLY for 5000K bulbs, check the back of the box for a little scale. You might have to go to Home Depot or similar. I've had no luck at Targets some nights.
Now, ideally, all of your lamps would be behind the tissue paper pointed at the item, which would diffuse the light more and prevent harsher reflection on the shiny plastic/metal toy. Notice mine are not. They should be. But I am currently operating with limited space. Next rig will.
To eliminate as much harsh shadow as possible, I use a clear-plastic riser to stand the toys on. While this does produce a minor reflection in the final photo, that is a LOT easier to cleanly eliminate than a shadow on a solid opaque surface, especially when it comes to vehicle-mode images where the subject is wider and lower on the ground. I'm using the cases from the old Micron Legend DVDs that came with toys, but I realize that's not likely viable for most. But there's lots of alternatives out there.
Since some stuff doesn't like to stand up on its own (or needs to be laid on a narrow side for a good image), I have a variety of clear-plastic stands/props to prop the toys up if needed. These too are generally easy to edit out and offer no/minimal shadows.
And that's about it for the physical studio parts. There's camera arglebargle depending on what you got with settings and stuff, but I'm not gonna cover that here (and some stuff is unavoidable... you are NEVER gonna get certain shades of aqua to look right, bright red will ALWAYS "bleed" out details, flaws and dirt your eye won't normally catch WILL be magnified, white toys on white backdrops are a huge pain, etc). There's also a load of Photoshop chicanery I use to make things look wiki-fresh, but a setup like this means a lot LESS work in editing the images to make them look good.
M "Thanks, And Enjoy" Sipher