Nendorography Techniques: Low Light

Hey there, long time no see! I’ve been off the grid for quite a while with college stuff and an impending internship on my ass. But keep calm, I know that most of the anime this season is over (and How I Met Your Mother too *cries*) and the reviews will be up in a jiffy (I just need to collect more screenshots).

Anyway, I’m back in the Nendoroid photography business and I’ve learned a new technique that’s great for people who don’t like being outdoors with their precious figures. I guess I’m that kind of person. It’s really unnerving having people stare at you while you go prone looking for that best angle. And the fear of losing that small Nendoroid part at the park… *shudders*

I can’t claim this technique as my original. I learned a lot from a fellow photographer who goes by the name nikicorny, who is a master in the art of lighting techniques and also a fellow figure collector. I’m just another person who has read nikicorny‘s tutorial and tried it out for myself. (You’ll find her tutorial way more understandable than mine could ever be.)

As the title suggests, this time I’m perfecting low-light techniques. That’s when you take photos at extremely low shutter speeds in conditions where there is very little light. You can create beautiful photos with the right materials and patience. Here’s one of my results:

Dazzling lights!
Dazzling lights!

Now, here’s a checklist of the things you need:

  • A dark room. REALLY DARK. A pitch-black room where you can’t even see your hands.
  • A DSLR. Why? Because you need the settings.
  • A sturdy table to place your Nendoroid.
  • A tripod (optional). If you can’t afford one (like me), place your camera on the table. Just make sure it’s stable and doesn’t budge.
  • A Nendoroid or figure or object of interest.
  • A glowstick or colorful LED lights. I went with glowstick because they’re cheaper. For the above photo, I used a four-colored lightstick I bought at a children’s toy vendor on the streets at night. Got it for less than a buck (less than IDR 10,000).
  • Another source of light (preferably orange light) that’s not too strong. You have an iPhone or any smartphone with a large screen? Yeah, use that. I used my Galaxy Note with the Flashlight app that allows you to use the screen light and change its colors. Just make sure the light isn’t too strong; I’ll explain later.

Got all of that? Great, moving on.

What we’re trying to do here is create a colorful swirl of lights surrounding our Nendoroid. Why? Because it looks so beautifully cool.

Step 1Setting up the camera

Those who are photography-savvy may skip this; you should know what to do in cases of low light. Now, go to your DSLR and pick “Manual” mode. Turn the shutter speed to around 10 seconds. I use 10 seconds because it gives more time to draw with the lightstick. And set the aperture (that’s the f/number) to the maximum. My Nikon D3000 with 18-55mm lens has a maximum aperture of f/5.6, so I’m stuck with that. Why maximum? We want a lot of light in and a larger aperture (lower number) means the camera lets in more light through the lens. Some prime 50mm lens have an aperture of f/1.4.

Also, don’t forget to crank your ISO down. A larger ISO causes noise and unless you have access to decent noise-removal software, you don’t want grainy photos. I used an ISO of 200.

That’s the general idea. You, of course, are free to experiment however you like.

Step 2: Setting the stage

You now want to position your camera, Nendoroid, and sources of lighting. Configuring the Nendoroid is easy. The hard part is with the camera and light source.

If you own a tripod, setting up the camera position is a breeze. Without a tripod, things get trickier. You would want to align your camera with the Nendoroid and set it on the same table. The point is to not let your camera be in your hands, otherwise, you risk a shaky picture, especially at slow shutter speeds.

Once that’s done, you need to set up the light source. You can choose where the light comes from: the left, the right, front, or back if you’re aiming for a silhouette shot. I prefer from the sides, either left or right. And with the Flashlight app, change the screen color to a hue of orange. Orange light works best (for me) because it’s close to natural sunlight. Adjust the brightness to a slightly less-than-medium, just so that the Nendoroid’s face is slightly lit. We’re doing slow shutter speeds and maximum aperture, we don’t want an over-exposed photo.

See the below pictures to see the difference:

No light source.
No light source.
THE LIGHT... IT BURNS!!
THE LIGHT… IT BURNS!!

In Picture 1, the Nendoroid is… dark or under-exposed. That’s due to the strong light of the lightstick. But, in Picture 2, the Nendoroid is over-exposed and the lightstick loses its magical dazzling touch.

Step 3: Be creative!

Now that everything is in place, time to press that shutter button and in the span of 10 seconds, go crazy with that lightstick!

You’re gonna need a few tries at first, though. I did around 20-30 tries before I got 5 good shots. As you practice more, you’ll get the hang of it.

Here’s what my first shots looked like:

I was going for an energy sword, but I missed it....
I was going for an energy sword, but I missed it….
Again, missed it by just a bit...
Again, missed it by just a bit…
I was going for an energy aura, but....
I was going for an energy aura, but….

But after hours of frustration, I finally got the basic feeling on how to control my lightstick and these are my results: (Miku is still my favorite Nendoroid)

I can create an aurora in my damn room!
I can create an aurora in my damn room!
I have no idea what I did with that lightstick...
I have no idea what I did with that lightstick…
Finally succeeded in creating an aura
Finally succeeded in creating an aura.

And there you have it! Beautiful photos even in minimum light. Of course, I always prefer going out and using natural light in my photos. Thanks for reading!

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