Wednesday, April 11, 2012


In this post, I'll be going over how the quality of the images I've been uploading to this blog, have improved over the years as I've learned a thing or two, and share how I go about it.
I'm certainly no pro, and I'm still learning, but i think I've made good progress while picking things up on my own.
Above is the camera I use for almost all the photos in this blog (used a webcam to take a pic of it)
It's a Sony Ericsson c9051

 This was one of the first images I took of any of my figures for the purpose of sharing it online.
At the time, I didn't put anything into consideration other than just point and click. 

 and some time passed and I made a few really crappy reviews.

Didn't take long though before I tried building my first light box, made from 4 sheets of printer paper taped together and a cardboard box with a few sides cut out. At this point, I had only even began to think about image enhancement, and as such, there was barely any difference in image quality after editing. All I really did was increase the brightness via levels ever so slightly. I was sort of worried about losing color information and making it look unnatural by jacking up the brightness...

 but then after some more time I started to really rev up the photo editing, and eventually went to buy a more proper background for the light box, it was a solid white display type thing... poster board maybe, I forget.
but anyway, I did a few reviews with it, but my camera couldn't stand the pure white background, and it screwed up the background colors badly for some reason, (as you can see in the image above, the area around the item is a sort of lime green color) so I had to get a new background.

  At first I got a black sheet of constriction paper for the background, but images didn't look right at all with it, a little to dark I guess you could say
(I did still however use it for a few photos in my kaiji figma review.)

Lucky though, I was able to use the back of a insert from a poser frame I bought, which was solid gray.
It's what I've been using even since.
At the time, I guess I didn't think images needed editing with the new BG, because  the image above wasn't enhanced at all.

 Still, as time went on, I did continue with image enhancement using photo shop, and was really getting the hang of it.
For the most part, it's pretty simple, just little bit of level adjustment, some color correction, increased brightness with some lowered contrast and it was looking nice.
I also found a nice little plug-in for photoshop that reduces image noise called 'define', been using that for every image I took after getting it.

 Didn't take long though to realize that the color of the backgrounds was still all messed up.
parts would show up in a greenish yellow, with others in a subtle sort of violet color.
So what I did was create a duplicate layer, then make the lower level monochrome, then erase the background of the top layer.
It certainly does take time to do, but it leaves the backgrounds looking a lot nicer and consistent.

  Some more time passed and I started to notice the items were still a lot darker than they should be, and had some really ugly shadows, ( see miku figma review ) it was partially do to my own laziness I suppose, not wanting to disassemble and move around the floor lamp in my room every time I wanted to photograph something.
So I overhauled my light box, and used built in lights so I can be as lazy as I want.
The results are the image above, it really made a huge difference.
Although I started to run into the same problem I had with the white background, my camera just can't take the brightness and images turn dark and yellow if I leave the camera pointed at the item for more than 2 seconds.
solution? well all I can really do until I get a real camera is just point the camera at the ground, then quickly snap a shot right after getting the item into view.

sooner after, someone pointed out that although the lighting looked good, the model's paint job was off, keeping it from looking professional.
This got me to thinking, maybe I should do even more photo editing, and I do mean some heavy editing.
For the most part, it's just editing out dust on the item, fixing paint errors and stuff like that, but also smoothing out some select color gradients that would look really pixelated before becuase of my low quality camera.

Then I noticed there were still some faint shadows in front of the items I was photographing, clearly I needed more light, mainly from in front of the item.
This is the level I'm currently at.
I'm truly pushing my camera as far as it'll go, and although spending up to an hour at a time editing these photos really helps, it just doesn't substitute completely for a real camera.
I say real camera, becuase I've been using what is technically a cellphone camera for all the images in this blog.
Amazing what a little bit... a lot, of photo editing can do, right?

The above image shows step by step how exactly I go about compensating for not having a particularly 'good' camera using image editing in photo shop.
Image 1) this image is straight out the camera, before editing has been done.
Image 2) here I use the photo shop plug in "define" to eliminate most of the static/noise
Image 3) in this image I've applied auto level adjustment (Image > adjustments > auto level) to fix  the  brightness a bit, I'll also try auto color, but most of the time that just makes colors worse.
Image 4) From the same drop down tab, I'll adjust the brightness/contrast as need be, usually I go with contrast -50 and raise the brightness to +30
Image 5) here I'll create another layer and make it monochrome (Image > adjustments > hue/saturation) by lowering the saturation completely.
Image 6) Then I'll erase the parts of that layer that should have color to them (sometimes I'll do it the other way around by erasing from a colored layer over the monochrome layer) I also leave parts of the item that should be black or white monochromed during this process.
Image 7) This image shows what it looks like after the monochrome process, this is also when I re-size the image to a smaller resolution, I also hit the image again with the define plugin.
Image 8) Here I create another layer, and apply a Gaussian blur filter. (Filter > blur > Gaussian blur) usually I set it around 1.8 - 2.0
Image 9) With the old layer above the new one, I erase parts that should be blurred out. This helps make pixalated parts even, and also removes some left over image noise. and as shown, it's best to avoid areas with detail when doing this, it works best on skin parts and things with solid colors. I've tryed using the blur tool in the past, but it just isn't strong enough.
Image 10) the finished product!

You guys might be able to use this to improve your own cellphone quality photos

And yeah, I'll be updating some of my old reviews at random with new photos.
As is, I've already retaken most of the photos in my crummy old RC AE86 review.

Why do I do this you might ask?
well, it's not solely for this blog, which gets very little traffic, and there's no ads since google banned me from absence, so it's not about making any money off it or anything like that.
I do post some of these images on a figure collection site, but as I've found out, no one there gives two shits about photos of figures that don't have flowers and trash included in the image.
I mean, who cares about professional quality images when you can have images of figures laying in the dirt, being eaten by some cat or something?
well, I guess I just find this kind of fun in a way, and I just like doing it in a style mimicking professional images, it's kind of a goal of mine, to reach a point where my photos look just like the stuff the pros make, Just for the heck of it, but I'm still a ways off, maybe someday... 
and like I was alluding to before, I think the images most other people take themselves of figures (especially on that site)  are damn ugly, I mean seriously ugly, makes my own early stuff look like gold by comparison.
and you know, a lot of people might use photos people take of figs to decide if they want to buy it or not.

.......who the fuck am I even talking to, no one's reading this shit.


  1. I-I read it...

    Please don't be sad ;_;

    I'm sure you'll be a great photographer!

  2. insightful post. you can really see the difference in quality and post-production. it's very impressive, given it's just a cellphone camera.

  3. Thanks for sharing!