Friday, January 17, 2014

Preparing Your Images for Message Board Viewing


I wanted to do a little, quick, tutorial on how to prepare your images for sharing with others on Message Boards and for hobby challenges in particular.  This article will focus less on actually photographing the models or uploading and storing the images as I'm trying to keep this article focused and a little more audience agnostic.

These days, the images we take are enormous.  For the purposes of actual miniature gallery sites, this is fine because they usually have a server-side mechanism for re-sizing the images for user consumption and downloading.  However, when posting images on a forum, you want to make your images a reasonable size because your audience could be on a mobile device or have a bad internet connection.  What size is most appropriate is debatable.  I try to keep my group pictures down to an absolute maximum of 1000 pixels per side and my individual miniature shots to 800 pixels maximum per side.

Tools


There are two major tools which people use to manipulate images: Photoshop and The Gimp.  You could steal Photoshop or sell a kidney and buy it, but there's really no need to when The Gimp is free. It can be a little buggy at times, but it's good enough for our purposes. There may be other tools out there which are lighter weight, but to be honest, The Gimp is so full-featured that there's no reason really not to use it.

White Balance


Before you do anything, you'll want to White Balance your photo.  You do this first so that the program can more easily figure out the temperature of the picture.  In The Gimp, you'll find an Automatic White Balance tool in the Colors menu under Auto.  This is usually all you'll need or want to do to White Balance your photo.  You can get very finicky about specific settings here, but it takes practice and additional knowledge. For the layman like me, the Automatic White Balance works just fine!

Mad Doc before White Balance:



Mad Doc after White Balance:




You'll notice that the Automatic White Balance removed the natural yellow of the lamp bulb I used and strengthened the natural colors in the model.  This tool will also remove the blue of outdoors lights or the greens in some other weird bulbs.



This is not cheating. This is what your model is supposed to look like.

Cropping


Now, go to your Toolbox and select the Rectangle Select Tool.  Click and drag a box around the area you want to show.  This will bring focus to the important parts of the picture instead of wasting a lot of space in the image on useless background stuff.  This also assures that when we re-size the image, that it doesn't make your model too small for the viewer.

After making a selection, go to the menu and click "Image" and then "Crop to Selection".



You may find that you've not got it quite right. You can either undo or crop a little bit more off the image to center things just right.




Resizing


You can re-size your image under the "Image" menu by selecting "Scale Image".  Look at your largest dimension.  Re-size it to 1000 pixels or less.  The other dimension should re-size along with it.

Saving


In The Gimp, you'll have to use a different method to save your image than you're used to.  You will do this under "File" by selecting "Export as".  This is because of the functions we've performed on the original image.

Now your picture is ready to upload to your forum or to your image sharing site. There are a lot of other topics that we could broach on the broader topic of photographing miniatures and preparing them for viewing by others, but I wanted this to be very specific in the hopes that folks engaging in hobby challenges will read it and find it useful.  I hope this helped in that regard.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent run-down of basic tips! I have to say that auto white-balalance (or the white-level dropper-tool that I prefer to use) makes all the difference in pictures. I also remember seeing a 12Mpix picture posted which was basically "Hey all, this is my bedroom. By the way, there's a Dark Eldar army on the desk in the corner there!" Not a very good photo to post.

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