Friday, January 17, 2014

Model Railroad Photography

Ok, I'll admit it.  Model Railroad Photography is probably my biggest struggle.  In 2014, I'm going to change that and master it.

I'll start off with my friend Brooks Stover's excellent article on model railroad photography, a 34 full documentary on how to do it:

By Brooks Stover, MMR

Brooks is a Master Model Railroader and has a fantastic layout.  I'm always blown away by his modeling skills, but I never really thought about the fact that the reason I so enjoy his model work is because of his fantastic camera skills.  Naturally, I'm going to tap his knowledge and master my camera.

Other good links for model railroad photography:

John Sing's Photographing Model Railroads - a clinic I was able to attend.

Model Railroad Photography by David Latham

Today I spent time with the camera going through the settings.  First off I worked with the lighting balance setting.  I shot one picture of a model with each setting to see what happened.

I'm using a Canon Rebel XTi 50mm DSLR camera.  
Shooting Setting: Av (auto-adjustable aperture)
F-stop: F29 (lowest setting)
ISO - 100
Lighting - 4 each CF 5500k bulbs and Sunlight Fluorescents overhead (room)
Light Setting - changed, see below
Shutter speed: automatic
Focus - manual
Capture: L - large and RAW

 Auto White Balance Setting

 Daylight Setting

 Tungsten Light Setting

 5200k Incandescent Setting

 Flash Setting

Custom Light Setting

As you can see, all other settings remaining the same, the white balance adjustment has a lot of options.  None of them did exactly what I wanted, so I changed other settings and kept tinkering with it.  Depth of field is bad in all of them.

After tinkering with the settings for a while, I finally started getting shots that had the right light balance and good depth of field.  I experimented with the shutter speed using these settings:

Shooting Setting: M (manual)
F-stop: F29 (lowest setting)
ISO - 100
Lighting - 4 each CF 5500k bulbs and Sunlight Fluorescents overhead (room)
Light Setting - changed, see below
Shutter speed: variable, see bleow
Focus - manual
Capture: L - large and RAW

1"3 Shutter Setting

1" Shutter Setting

0"8 Shutter Setting

0"6 Shutter Setting

0"5 Shutter Setting

Of the bunch, the 0"8 setting had the best depth of field and lighting.   This isn't hard I suppose, but it does take an awful lot of time to figure it out and do it right.  I'll keep working to bring you better pictures, and open to good ideas!!!


  1. The one thing to remember is that at small apertures such as F29, you're going to get diffraction in your lens resulting in images which are more blurry. For photographing relatively small objects such as the one above, you don't need such a small aperture to get most of it in focus. For consumer DSLR+lens combinations such as the one you are using, try to use apertures like F8 or F11. You'll get a smaller area in focus, but the part that is in focus will be much sharper.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Colin! Keep 'em coming. I'm going to try a "not so small" aperture.


Thanks for your comment!