I like to view the CoolMiniOrNot top rated miniatures of the week, for ideas, inspiration, and just to admire some fantastic paint jobs. I noticed a few this week that were photographed over a black background with only one strong light source. This is not an uncommon technique, especially for historical miniatures and busts. When you photograph a figure this way, though, many details of the miniature are obscured in shadow, but it creates a very striking first impression. For example, see this figure, Archaon, which received a very high rating.
This type of dramatic lighting can be an effective way of promoting your miniature, but is it honest?
When you paint a miniature, you don’t just put color on a sculpted figure. You paint blending shades of color that reflect the way light would shine on the subject. If you photograph a miniature with dramatic lighting, you are adding that in with actual light, instead of showing how the painter achieved it with the paint job.
I decided that a true evaluation required a side-by-side comparison of the same miniature, so I grabbed one of my old ones out of my box, and took it upstairs for a photo shoot:
I didn’t manage to get quite the same camera angle, but I think you get the point. The photo in the left has just one lamp shining from front-right of the mini on a black background. The photo on the right has light from all sides on a gray background.
Big difference, isn’t it?