Staring down a few tons of aluminum, steel, electronics and explosives can be an invigorating experience. A few ounces of plastic, glue and paint on the other hand lacks the intimidation factor. However, with some simple lighting and the right camera work, it can be hard to distinguish it from the real deal. 

I started photographing miniatures about five years ago with a little P-51 Mustang I bought online, pre built and painted. It took a few tries, but I turned it into a nice little picture over the english countryside. Something in me wanted to do more models and building, but I never seemed to have the time or the space to do it. 

Once I had the space (dining room tables, entire floors) I started building with an eye towards photographing the results. Which would have been disappointing at first with the glue everywhere, paint peeling off, and decals falling away.

Eventually, I had a fleet of mostly complete, partially well done airplanes from various time periods. None were good enough to photograph the way that first one was, in the full light of day. However, they were not assembled as poorly as they had been painted, and made for an intimidating shape when viewed head on. Trouble is, when your subject is supposed to be 16 feet high, and is actually only five or six inches, perspective comes in.

You need to be low on miniatures, frequently below the surface you're actually shooting on. It makes it a bit harder to get the right proportion of floor visible to apparent height of your camera. When your lens element is about the same size as your subject, something isn't going to fit, and you have to compromise.

However, as demonstrated by the SR-71 here, a smaller lens on a smaller camera lets you split that difference. This was done on my iPhone, held with the lens right above the surface. You get the ground filling in all the way to the lens, and it looks like you're still below a plane only sitting 2 inches off the ground.

But with a real lens on a real camera for real size quality, you can't quite do that. Here my lens is even with the tabletop, minimizing the amount of 'ground' visible to get the right height of the B-25 showing. I could crop down, or move the camera higher to get rid of the bar across the bottom, but I can also spin it as shooting from far enough away with a longer lens. Which is also what it took for some of these. A wide angle lens would be great on a full size plane, but all these were shot with a 70-200 most of the way in.

Photographing miniatures in a convincing manner is something of a bygone technique with the ease that we can strip and place the full size item from a source image. But to get access to these kinds of subjects is an arduous process, let alone to be able to set up any kind of lighting and positioning you want. And it's always fun when people ask if it's the real steel or a model, and even better when they don't ask, and believe the picture outright.

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