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How to get a good field of depth when photographing your models?

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  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Green Bay, WI USA
How to get a good field of depth when photographing your models?
Posted by echolmberg on Friday, June 14, 2013 11:40 AM

Hi guys!

I was taking some pics of my latest build (a P-39) and I wasn't overly thrilled with how they turned out.  I mean, they were okay but I didn't like how the nose in the foreground would be in focus but the tail in the background would be blurred.  Even when I stand further back and zoom in, I still get this effect.

Is the secret in how one sets their f-stop?  What would be your advice?  I have a Nikon D5100 if that helps any.



  • Member since
    December 2002
  • From: Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England
Posted by Bish on Friday, June 14, 2013 12:12 PM

Have a read through this Eric, I found it really useful in improving my model photography. I found the bit about depth of field really useful.

''I am a Norfolk man and i glory in being so''

On the bench: Revell 1/72nd Type VIIc U-Boat

  • Member since
    December 2006
  • From: N. Georgia
Posted by Jester75 on Friday, June 14, 2013 12:13 PM

IIRC, the higher the f-stop the more area will be in focus. I know on my crappy Kodak, f8 gives pretty good DoF which is as high as it goes. I am a total rookie in this area so my knowledge is pretty limited.



  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Green Bay, WI USA
Posted by echolmberg on Friday, June 14, 2013 12:20 PM

Thanks guys!  My wife and I inherited our camera from my mother-in-law.  I know the basic features of it but I'm still trying to figure out the nuances of it all.  I think I'm going to switch to one of those cameras Matthew Brady used during the Civil War because those cameras take far better pictures then I can with my SLR.

Bish, thanks for the link!  I'm going to give this a try when I get home tonight.


  • Member since
    June 2007
  • From: here, not over there
Posted by Dre on Friday, June 14, 2013 1:38 PM

The easiest, cheapest way to get more DoF from just about any consumer camera is to use a lot more light when shooting (or bump up the ISO/ASA rating quite a bit, but that introduces graininess).

At any set shutter speed and ISO/ASA setting, using more light necessitates a greater f/number to use.

Eric- I know you were probably joking about using Brady's camera, but a large format camera is more headaches than you want...   a scanner for those sheets of film is not cheap or easy to find while a quality digital scanning back for one might run you close to 50 grand.   Large format is fun, but it ain't easy (I quit shooting 4x5 inch color slides better than a decade ago).

  • Member since
    February 2011
  • From: Ontario, Canada
Posted by gunner_chris on Friday, June 14, 2013 1:54 PM

"F8 is great, F11 is heaven"

Try changing the f-stop to a higher value.  Try even taking photos at various f-stop as an experiment to see which one suits the effect you want.  It's the best way to understand your camera.  For consistency use a tripod though.

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Copley, Ohio
Posted by wayne baker on Friday, June 14, 2013 10:32 PM

Good lighting, high f-stop, tripod, and a remote shutter release to avoid camera shake when you press the shutter release.  With a higher f-stop, the shutter will probably be open longer.

 I may get so drunk, I have to crawl home. But dammit, I'll crawl like a Marine.

  • Member since
    April 2006
  • From: ON, Canada
Posted by jgeratic on Saturday, June 15, 2013 10:50 AM

Another key is refrain from filling in the view finder with the subject - unless you are trying to capture a specific detail.  The viewfinder likely has an array of dots that indicates where to center your subject to get the best depth and sharpness.  Once the image is in your photoshop software of choice, simply crop out the empty areas.



  • Member since
    May 2013
  • From: Indiana, USA
Posted by Greg on Saturday, June 15, 2013 11:26 AM

What everyone above said. Plus, there comes a point where regardless of the high f-stop, light, etc, still not enough depth of field (as we get closer). Folks who shoot close up seriously use a technique called 'focus stacking', in which case they take a series of shots focused at various focal lengths then use a dedicated piece of software to combine them. The result is a great macro (close up) with an apparent depth of field much wider than any lens is capable of achieving. Never tried it myself, but have seen the results.

I have been shooting my WIP pics at f36 with all the stuff mentioned above (half-decent light, tripod, I use the shutter time as opposed to a shutter release) and still if I get too close the DOF too thin to show what I would like to show.

Short of the focus stacking thing, if we want more depth of field and are already at our highest f-stop, we need to back off and sacrifice visible detail.

Hope this isn't too wordy. And that somebody might find it helpful.


  • Member since
    April 2005
  • From: Piscataway, NJ!
Posted by wing_nut on Saturday, June 15, 2013 12:02 PM

A lots of good advise but a couple more points to consider.   A wide angle lens has greater DOF than a telephoto.  If you take the shot closer to the subject it will maximize the DOF with all the other setting mentioned above.  Taking the shot further away and zooming in will decrease DOF.  The trade off is the closer in the shot the more enlarged the nearest things gets.  This is why a portrait photographer doe snot take the shots from close in so the subject does not have a bulbous nose. 

The best spot to focus is a point about 1/3 the distance from front to back.  If you don't have a remote shutter release, frame the shot, check the exposure and set the self timer to take the shot after you've taken your hands off the camera.

I take mine from a medium distance and zoom in a little to frame the shot.  At f8, or close to that, there should be more than enough DOF since the subjects we are shooting are usually not that deep. 


  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Mount Bretherton Model Aircraft Observatory
Posted by f8sader on Saturday, June 15, 2013 12:06 PM

Good post, I don't know about you folks, but I hate to have to read the instructions!  


  • Member since
    January 2007
Posted by the doog on Sunday, June 16, 2013 6:34 PM

It's all about cropping. Set your photo size on your camera to as large as you can make it. Then take a picture slightly farther away than you're comfortable with and, using a photo editing program (there are dozens out there; my favorite is Microsoft Office Picture Manager) just crop it down to what you want.

That's how the best guys out there do it; I learned that from Adam Wilder.

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Mount Bretherton Model Aircraft Observatory
Posted by f8sader on Monday, June 17, 2013 6:42 AM

Thanks for the tip doog!


  • Member since
    November 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Monday, June 17, 2013 8:54 AM

I think models look best with real sunlight as the light source.  Since I use aperture priority and super-high f/#, the sunlight has the benefit of cutting down the exposure time.

My modeling pages  

show some of my model photography.  At the bottom of the page are likes to my aircraft and car models, which I shoot outside in the sun against backdrops of an airport or a race track.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Green Bay, WI USA
Posted by echolmberg on Monday, June 17, 2013 9:47 AM

Every single post on here has been amazing.  Thanks for all the great information!  Best of all, they were all phrased in simple English so I could understand what you guys were talking about.  I know I should read the instructions and perhaps watch the accompanying DVD that came with the instructions but I knew that you guys would have the best advice for the kind of photography I'm trying accomplish.

My wife has Photoshop on her computer and she taught me enough about it to be a danger to myself.  I keep forgetting about all the wonderful stuff one can do with such programs.

Thank you all for the great tips!  I think this is going to be one of those threads that I'll print out and keep at my hobby bench for future reference.  I recently completed Revell's P-39.  I took several pictures of it so I could post them here on FSM but I just wasn't happy at all with how the pics turned out.  You guys gave me some great tips and I hope to get the pictures posted here soon.

Best wishes,


  • Member since
    January 2007
Posted by the doog on Monday, June 17, 2013 7:19 PM

Happy to help!!   Big Smile

  • Member since
    April 2009
  • From: Longmont, Colorado
Posted by Cadet Chuck on Monday, June 17, 2013 8:19 PM

Bright light, direct sunlight, and a small aperature (High f-stop) will do the trick for you.  In the old days, home made "pin hole" cameras provided almost infinite depth of field in bright lighting conditions.

Computer, did we bring batteries?.....Computer?


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