Helllllooooo Rivendell!

It’s open mike night – what do you think Elrond will open with?

This is my final entry to the #bc_makingmusic photo contest on Brickcentral, showing our minifigures is a music scene: singing their hearts out in a duet, playing a concert in a theatre, gigging in a nightclub, or even posing for an album cover.

Behind the Scenes

I enjoy sharing a look at the process behind my work and my creative journey.

Photography has long been my passion. With the level of technology available to us today, it’s easier than ever to take a technically competent photograph. And yet, some images still clearly ‘work’ more than others.

With LEGO photography, where we can often control almost every aspect of the scene, I believe that investing time and mental energy in the creative process can help make that difference. So I consider four fundamental things in making an image:

  • The Idea
  • Light
  • Subject Isolation
  • Composition

The Idea

Continuing with The Lord of the Rings theme, and wanting a final music-inspired scene for the Brickcentral activity, I decided to put a modern twist on the elvish love of music:

Light

My preferred style is low key photography with soft lighting: predominantly dark and dramatic scenes, with light emphasizing only specific areas of the frame and with smooth transitions between light and shadow.

I use a continuous light source, which in combination with my camera’s live view, allows me to see in real time the result of my light positioning and shaping.

This is a simple one light setup:

  • Key light: Litrapro with softbox, positioned with a Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base
  • Reflectors: DIY with folded recipe cards, to provide fill and to help soften the light

Subject Isolation

The subject is ultimately what the photo is about and there should be no doubt in the viewer’s mind as to what it is.

I considered Elrond as the subject, with Legolas as a strong supporting character. While both are emphasized equally with lighting and depth of field, I’ve placed Elrond in motion and with Legolas’ gaze and the microphone pointing at him to help draw our eyes to him as the primary character.

Instead of my usual f/8 aperture, I’ve shot wide open at f/4 to minimize depth of field and separate the two from the background greenery. This does make Elrond’s raised hand a little blurry, which to my eye suggests a little motion.

Composition

I try hard to get as close to the final image as possible in camera. To help with this I compose in live view with my mirrorless camera’s rear display, using a crop mask and grid overlay. It looked almost exactly like this:

I composed using the rules of thirds, with vertical framing anchored on Elrond’s eyes and horizontal spacing placing the character’s heads just into the outer thirds of the frame. I’ve put Elrond moving diagonally into the scene to create a dynamic feel, and Legolas in a more static pose. I filled the space beneath them with their reflection, for both aesthetic and balancing purposes, and left the perimeter as negative space to help define the focus area.

Tech Stuff

Instead of sharing the technical settings for this one photo, I’d rather share my standard operating procedure for, which can be applied to all of my LEGO photography with but few exceptions:

  • Tripod mounted mirrorless camera set to ISO 100 and triggered with 2 second delayed shutter
  • 120mm macro lens shot at f/8 and manually focused using magnified live view
  • Aperture priority centre-weighted metering with exposure compensation to taste
  • Post processing the RAW files with custom white balance, luma curve, saturation, contrast, sharpness, vignette, levels, and dust removal

Up Close and Personal

Macro photography allows us to see small objects in spectacular detail. For me, LEGO minifigures are perfect subject material.

This is as close as I can get with my system – the only crop is to make the image square. Now let’s get a little closer look at Bilbio with with a tighter crop:

Love the texture on that crown!

Wrap Up

Time once again to close out with the before and after shots, showing how I realized my idea through deliberate lighting, subject isolation, and composition choices.

Best,

Scott.

Published by Scott Murphy

Photography for the love of it.

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