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Figure Photography: Alter's Matsuura KananFigure Photography: Alter's Matsuura Kanan

EXkuroganeEXkuroganeVor 3 MonatenTutorial
Hi everyone. It has been several months since I last wrote a blog post. Well, busy with work mainly. For today I’ve decided to come up with a post on Alter’s 1/7 scale Matsuura Kanan from Love Live Sunshine, upon request from readers who wanted more examples and tutorials concerning lighting. Since it’s a very new figure just released almost a couple of weeks ago, it’s worth writing something about her photography.

This post is in reference to this photo: PICTURE #2097391


This time, I’m keeping my blog post a bit shorter, since I did not document the process of making her props and setup for the photography. However, this was an easy set for me and it took me just 10 hours to complete building, across 2 days / a single weekend. The walls and “wooden” part of the flooring are actually just wallpapers. The key, to capturing this photo lies in the lighting techniques employed in tabletop studio photography.

Lighting Setup

On my first try, and the following test shots, were incredibly tragic that dozens of sample shots I took were rejected and tossed into the recycle bin. Lighting wasn’t optimal but the main problem was color pollution.


As you can see, the yellow color of the lockers are reflected on the figure because it’s so glossy and reflective. It’s not just the suit but also on her face. This happens when two objects of different color are at close proximity, and together with studio style lighting the problem is exaggerated further. The dark grey walls behind are also kind of blending with the figure, not great to look at. I decided that reshuffling the furniture in the room, but it also means the composition of the scene, as well as the direction of lighting, will change. It was the right decision.

So, i pushed all the lockers into the background, so that the yellows will not reflect on the figure, and will provide great contrast to the blues of the figure. The shelf and bench were aligned on each side of the figure creating a walkway. Dull greys and silvers should not have an effect on the figure.


The main key factor that allows a shot like this to be possible in the first place, is lighting techniques. It was very challenging even to me because i had to control the amount of light entering the set to keep the surroundings dark, but the crowded furniture layout is making things hard.


The key light was introduced from the windows on the right side, covered with white paper as a diffuser. The light is introduced at an angle perpendicular to the figure, or pushed further back if necessary. Because, if the light falls on the figure at the wrong angle, her eyes will reflect light like crazy. It’s too reflective. Reflections can be removed with a polarizing filter screwed on a camera lens but I did not want to use a filter unnecessarily if possible, because filters can decrease sharpness of a photo. The key light brightens up her face and one side of her body, but her chest was still relatively dark. That’s where a second light source, from above and behind, comes in. A rim light. The sole purpose of that light is to brighten up the upper portion of her breasts and create a catchlight on the left side of her hair.


This rim light had to be meticulously controlled in intensity and spread, otherwise it will just blast the entire scene bright from above. The first modification i did, was to add a DIY snoot to the lamp, which is just a roll of black paper in this case. A snoot is a type of light modifier that restricts the spread of light to a very narrow area. It is also available for camera flashes.


In addition to the snoot (where the area of spread of light is still a bit too wide), I used 3 pieces of cardboards/styrofoam to cover the top portion of the diorama set, with a hole opening for the light to pass through from above. I can adjust the size of the hole this way, and the resulting light spread, until it covers only a part of the figure.


The double layer of light restriction is the key to achieving a lighting effect like this.


The water droplets were easy to apply - this cheap water spray bottle will get the job done. As long you keep a distance and avoid spraying too close, the water droplets will be very small. After spraying water on the figure, i used cotton buds to remove water from the figure’s face (you do not want water drops on the eye, right?) .


And, if you were wondering how the figure was made to stand without her base, nope, no photoshop was used here. The figure is actually leaning against the gasoline tank on the left. So, it is entirely a balancing act.


Post processing

10 shots of the same scene were taken at f/2.8 aperture in order to create creamy smooth bokeh in the foreground and background. At f2.8 certain parts of the figure will not be sharp, which is why 10 shots were taken - with different areas of the figure in focus. For example, shot 1 = her toes and left hand in focus, shot 2 = her breasts in focus, shot 3 = her face in focus, and so on. All 10 shots will be focus stacked on top of one another in editing later, also known as focus blending.

The photos were intentionally shot underexposed by about 1 stop because I wanted to generate shadows in the scene. Since the photo was shot at native ISO of 64 on my camera, even if i pushed the exposure slider in editing by 2 stops I’d only get an equivalent of ISO 250 in exposure compensation if I assume my camera’s sensor is ISO invariant. ISO 250 will not produce noise in the photo.


The photo was first post-processed in Adobe Lightroom CC Classic 2018, with my usual exposure, contrast and color tweaks in HSL. The same exact edit was copy and pasted on all 10 shots. All of them will go into a separate software for focus stacking. You can do this with Adobe photoshop, but I’m using a more specialised software - Helicon Focus.

When you focus stack several frames of the same shot taken at wide apertures (but with different focus areas), the result is a completely sharp figure / main subject from head to toe, while retaining the smooth background blur (bokeh) of the f2.8 aperture. The photo looks “more 3D” at the same time.


When you zoom in, the difference becomes apparent:


You will never get a figure shot that’s sharp all over at f2.8. You’ll only get that sharpness at smaller apertures like f/5 to f/8, but smaller apertures like that do not give me a nice background blur. So, this technique combines the best of both worlds - the blur of a wide aperture and the sharpness of a small aperture.

This is not my first time to utilizing this technique. I have already started using this method for select figures since late last year, starting with Max factory’s Yuuki Mikan.



The main key takeaways from this tutorial is to learn and explore ways on how you can control light. Control the intensity, shape the light and limit its area of coverage as necessary, and you can do a lot of great things with lamps alone in indoor tabletop macro and studio photography. Every figure has a different pose, and may require different lighting directions, differing intensities and so on. I spent almost an hour myself adjusting the lamps and its filters on the figure before starting photographing myself. I do hope this post is beneficial to anyone interested in improving their figure photography further. Thank you for reading!
1,669 Hits • 6 Kommentare


Thank you so much for this article!!!
Vor 2 Monaten
Thanks, the focus photo stack looks really good, I'll try later.
Vor 3 Monaten
Heldrik (Vor 3 Monaten) #43767938Man, that was really interesting to read. If I were to nitpick, I'd say it can be a little too technical to a layperson, but it can't really be helped, I suppose. I love those behind the scenes, it's always good to see how people make their pictures.
This is another proof that cinematography is one, if not the most important part of the art of taking phoographs. Not everyone can be a director of photography.

I do agree it's on the technical side, though most if not all of my figure photography works were pretty technical. I was pretty torn between using layman terms or proper photographic terms but i went with the latter, since I'm always ready to answer questions asked by anyone.
Vor 3 Monaten
Man, that was really interesting to read. If I were to nitpick, I'd say it can be a little too technical to a layperson, but it can't really be helped, I suppose. I love those behind the scenes, it's always good to see how people make their pictures.

This is another proof that cinematography is one, if not the most important part of the art of taking phoographs. Not everyone can be a director of photography.
Vor 3 Monaten
Great read, really enjoyed learning about those different things! Keep up your awesome work!
Vor 3 Monaten
Always love reading the how you did it. Keep em coming you so amazing work.

= )

Vor 3 Monaten
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