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EXkuroganeEXkurogane4 år sedan
(Caution: Image-heavy post)
Hi everyone, another photography article from my side here, though this one is actually a bit unexpected. I wasn’t planning to write an article for this, as I initially thought the initial setup and background design for this figure would be simple enough since the figure is a simple one.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/01%20artoria%20icon_zpsuzbzpu7a.jpg

This article is in reference to this photo:
Portrait ver.: PICTURE #1611635

Landscape ver.: PICTURE #1612381


I was very wrong; as the ideas keep on rolling into my head, it slowly transitioned from something simple into something a bit outrageous due to the amount of work required. The final results exceeded my own expectations, so I suppose I’ll write about it. I have a habit of snapping photos of my works in progress so I definite have some photos to show.


However this article is more of a diorama-making post rather than a photography one, because there is absolutely no lighting equipment or any unique photography techniques used to capture the photos of Artoria – everything was shot outdoors. More on that later. I've split the article into several sections below.

Ideas and Concept

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There’re figures that are detailed, with a very dynamic pose and a unique base that cost a lot, and then there are simple ones like Alter’s Master Artoria/Altria (as spelled on her box). Highly dynamic poses and detailed bases are great to the eye in person - they look exceptionally good, but designing backgrounds for such figures tend to be very difficult (you need a bigger background, sometimes really huge) and such figures only look good from certain angles, and composing shots for these figures are sometimes very challenging due to practical reasons.

Plain figures like Master Artoria may seem boring at first sight, but they are great for diorama photography because they look rather natural, it is easy to make them interact with nature (i.e. the background you designed), and background designs tend to be more flexible – you have multiple options to consider. When you look at Master Artoria in school uniform, you have so many options to think of. In a classroom or corridor? Not so suitable because she’s holding a concealed sword (or kendo stick, depending how you want to interpret it).

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/02%20school-cleaning_zpshwp3yr4r.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/03%2042558effea4c9ba1c80d83ffb2733e12_zpswocitdyb.jpg

However, a background at the school’s main gate could be fitting. Just that the examples below especially the second one looks like a stereotypical VN or eroge intro scene, which I don’t like.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/04%20chihayafuru-school_zpslwzkkumg.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/05%20ayakashi_kan_gate_zpsm6osj76e.png

You can also go for the entrance or main door or main gate of a dojo. There are examples from Fate Stay Night UBW itself. She can also be matched with a spring (sakura tree behind) theme, summer theme (standard trees with green leaves), or autumn/fall i.e. yellow and orange colors everywhere. There’s so much you can do with this figure.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/06%20grgrrbnilhhm6_zpsqqi9akmx.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/07%20grgrrbnilhhl4_zpsedm3uozh.jpg

However, I like surprises, or being a bit unconventional. I want to come up with a choice of background no one would have thought of (even though it isn’t an uncommon scene in anime). Dojo or school is kind of, predictable, and an obvious choice for anyone if you asked for opinions. To be honest I had no idea how the bus stop idea came into my mind, but it was probably triggered by the thought of “she looks like she’s waiting for someone/something”. “Waiting”. It’s all about how you interpret a figure’s expression and pose, and think out of the box.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/08%202016-07-22%2018.52.58_zpsvwcoow0q.jpg

The initial plan as rendered above – which was simpler, was to make her wait by a bench under a tree, but I told myself: “More details”. That’s where waiting under a tree transitioned to waiting at a bus stop (but keeping the fencing behind, and the tree - which its position was changed), since I can just spam ads and maps on a bus stop as an easy way out to make things look detailed and realistic at the same time. As for design of a bus stop, Google search is enough to obtain some references. I used the first photo below as a reference.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/09%20ByTheBusStopSample-18_zpscnjgpou6.jpeg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/10%20download_zpsnkobhlnt.jpg

As for the choice of autumn theme, there are two reasons why I went for this theme. The main reason is I was inspired by another figure photographer’s work – Hinagiku’s photo on Kikuchi Makoto by Phat Company (PICTURE #1448296). I liked the combination of colors where the blue outfit goes so well with an orange background. I always look for someone else’s ideas or photos to copy, but I will apply or adapt it in a way it needs to match my own style of photography, maybe even take it to the next level if possible – especially with the details. So, autumn/fall theme is the way to go, matching Artoria’s blue uniform with massive amounts of yellow and orange leaves like what Hinagiku did, but it will be applied in the form of a diorama. The color palette – that’s very important. The other reason is more trivial – I have never done an autumn themed photo before. I’m always seeking for variety for my photos.


Composition Planning

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Unlike Eriri’s photography project, which was so complex it required intricate planning with compositional grids, I did not use any composition grids as a guide for Artoria because I already had the figure on hand. All I needed was a few sample photos to see which angle Artoria looks the best, and from there I already know how to design my background without the aid of any sketch or grids. The bigger photo in the tiled image below is one of those angles where Artoria looks the best – above eye level, from a right angle, with the subject tilted to the left slightly (known as the “Dutch tilt” method in composition of arts and photography, it’s very useful in improving the appeal of a photo if used correctly). The tilt direction – right or left, varies depending on a figure’s pose.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/11%20sampleartoria_zps6ogqoxg3.jpg

What’s even more crucial, is color matching. It’s an autumn theme with yellow to orange leaves, with a warm shade of color for the photo. Hence, everything else, from the flooring to the fencing behind the bus stop, needs to have a color that complements yellow and orange. That’s where I decided to place a red brick fencing behind, and give the flooring a sand-grey look. Color matching is extremely important.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/12%20color%20matching_zpsyyowlvsm.jpg

When you mix red with yellow, you get orange, so complimentary colors to yellow and orange are all kinds of shades of red including pink and certain shades of brown (because Red + Black, and Orange + Black = Brown). These colors will be the major colors that contrasts with blue, making saber stand out in the photo. This is actually a pretty well-known and basic color theory used in arts, known as the Warm VS Cold color theory. To get the desired results I had to plan the color palette carefully, especially in this case.


Building the Props

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I started with importing all the raw materials from China because many arts and crafts materials are hard to find in my hometown, while it costs a lot if I can find local online retailers selling (not to mention they are often out of stock and on backorder). Unlike Eriri’s setup where her furniture was commissioned and custom built, with many other items bought outright with minimal modifications done, Artoria’s setup is the exact opposite – Most of the parts you see in her diorama are built from scratch. An estimated 80% of it in fact. These are some of the stuff I imported for two photography projects; I also picked up a power tool (can be used with wheel saws, sanding burs, and drills) to speed up and improve the quality of my work.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/13%2020160808_123630_zpsaghokpb7.jpg

The fence: brick wall
I imported these 1/6 scale bricks (mainly intended for dioramas involving 1/6 scale Hot Toys/Military action figures) made of sand and plaster. Quite brittle and fragile. Wetted them, then cemented it onto Styrofoam with putty (the kind used to patch walls), and left to set. Sometimes you may need to cement a second time, two or three bricks falling off after the first attempt is normal.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/14%20wall1_zps95hb9pur.jpg

For the color, I actually didn’t use any orange/amber colored paint. It was a mix of 3 colors – 45% light pink (close to the color of Sonico’s hair) + 45% deep yellow (banana yellow) + (~10%, variable percentage) sepia brown. The percentage of that trace amount of brown determines the shade of the final color, hence I can make a brick wall with varying shades of the same color. After painting, the second step is spraying a light layer of grey on top to make the orange color fade a bit (less saturated) and the final layer - Krylon’s stone effect spray for the texture.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/15%20wall2_zpsuszt4xtf.jpg

Metal fencing

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/16%20fence_zps7nsgmr4y.jpg

Fully built from cutting/sawing, trimming and gluing ABS sticks together. The banisters are already prefabricated, I just have to join parts together. Superglue works just fine but the bonding surfaces need to be kept clean. Spray painting is just 2 steps – a grey undercoat/primer, followed by chrome paint.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/17%20fence2_zpsbt1q620g.jpg

Bus Stop, Flooring

Also built from ABS sticks, and the clear parts are clear acrylic plastic. Masking is done as necessary for spray painting – also two layers, a grey primer layer, followed by matte black. Matte instead of gloss, because gloss makes the parts look plasticky instead, and reflects too much light (especially when I plan to do the photos outdoors). The flooring you see in the top left in the pic below is also ABS plastic, already prefabricated. All I need is to spray paint it (mix of grey and sand beige, topped by Krylon stone effect spray).

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/18%20stop1_zpshbxh2knb.jpg

The bus stop sign is also ABS plastic material, and I printed and pasted the sign on it (no photos here in this section). The ads and maps were random online searches I printed out and pasted on the clear parts, that’s the final step after I’ve completed everything. The supporting end of the bus stop is just a tap filter – it’s already chrome silver so there’s no need to paint it.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/19%20stop2_zpsmjfvard4.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/20%20stop3_zpskheycm6f.jpg

The Tree

Artificial branch and leaves. The leaves are actually fragrance material you can find in gift stores. Leaves come in a variety of features, size, shape, etc, so im not concerned with these factors. I only want highly detailed artificial leaves. Glue the leaves to the branches one by one, then I cemented the main trunk into a self-made wooden box using plaster of paris (which is then painted to look like soil). Pretty simple, except that it’s highly time-consuming. The tree’s weight is actually unbalanced in distribution due to the weight of the leaves, but it will be leaning on the bus stop so it’s not an issue.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/21%20tree1_zpsbyodh1tw.jpg

Rear wall (behind the fence)

This was a reused part, first used in my Matabei Gotou’s set, but it was modified to be longer in length. The details isn’t important because it’s intended to only fill in the empty spaces in the diorama, and most importantly, in the final photos. It will be covered mostly, and blurred (background blur/bokeh).

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/22%20ZDSC_0482R_zpsdgx4rqs5.jpg

http://s1.tsuki-board.net/upload/pictures/2016/06/27/1568994.jpeg
PICTURE #1568994

Final setup photos
The post box is a just fancy coin box I picked up from a gift shop ages ago, but never really used it in any of my previous photography projects. I placed it there in the setup, well, just in case, it doesn’t serve any purpose other than filling up areas that look a bit empty to me.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/24%20ZDSC_0466R_zpssvjnu6u8.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/25%20ZDSC_0467R_zps1jnbx1ab.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/26%20ZDSC_0464R_zpsmtt0lt7h.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/27%20ZDSC_0478-5_zpsi2x13c62.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/28%20ZDSC_0481R_zpssxjczx1q.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/29%20ZDSC_0479R_zpseugwyway.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/30%20ZDSC_0473R_zpsrqxuxzmw.jpg

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/23%20ZDSC_0472R_zps87zc6bux.jpg



Photography Process

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What makes this photography setup a bit different from my others, is the complete lack of any lighting equipment or modifiers being used. No additional lamps, or camera flash of any kind, nor even a reflector, and no filters of any kind attached on my camera lens as well. Set up the whole thing, and just snap away with the aid of a tripod. The below pic is similar to my final setup (I made a few adjustments later and removed that white filter object on the vase, it’s not used). I dragged a vase and placed it there mainly as a wind breaker, it was a hot and very windy day.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/31%2020160820_153013_zpsejfdpkoq.jpg

On how to achieve decent results straight out of a camera before sending the photos into post processing software to improve its looks, that’s where you need to choose the right location and weather for the right looks, and be able to choose the camera settings correctly. Unfortunately, weather factors completely out of your control, hence you are at the mercy of nature.

Choosing the right venue is probably the most important factor in my books. It’s not about driving dozens of miles to an ideal or pretty location (that’s more to incorporating outdoor/landscape photography into figure shots), but what kind of looks do you want to have in your photos will be impacted by the place you choose to shoot your photos – especially between right under direct sunlight or under a shade. The weather isn’t warm during spring and autumn, and hence I did my shots of Artoria under a shade – the roof of my balcony, right next to a very warm and direct source of sunlight.


Summer themed shots can be done either under direct sunlight (beach) or under a shade depending on your background (a park or perhaps a forest?), but a very intense sun is often an enemy both to figures and to photography. Intense sunlight creates bright highlights on areas directly illuminated by the sun (can be erased or reduced by screwing a CPL/Polarizing filter into your camera lens, and later on the aid of post processing software). Very bright highlights are often unwanted in photos except in cases where it is intended to be a creative effect. A very bright and intense source of sun also results in more deep shadows – also often unwanted. In such cases, watching the direction of sun (and corresponding time of the day to shoot your photos) may be helpful. Do note that shooting photos in late afternoon or evening will also add a warmer color tinge to your shots. If you asked me when would be the best time to shoot figures outdoors, I’d probably think in the morning (except that sometimes I don’t wake up early enough to prepare lol).


Inability to judge your photos on screen under the sun is a common annoyance, and not every camera comes with an active histogram on live view mode for you to judge the accuracy of your exposure. There’s a very easy way out of this – take several shots, preferable up to five, of the same shots with different exposure values or shutter speed. For the same shot on manual mode, I shot 1/100, 1/125, 1/160, 1/200, 1/250 for my Artoria, and when I judged it later, 1/160 is the best looking one for me. I also like my shots slightly underexposed so that I can work on refining it in post processing. On priority modes like aperture priority you can shoot at several different exposure values (EV) of -1.0, -0.7, -0.3, 0.0, +0.3 and so on, and choose later. Of course, film camera users will cringe at this advice (films are expensive and you can’t waste five just to obtain one good shot). I won’t elaborate on using a film camera because I believe there are probably no figure photographers who use one.



Results and Post Processing

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Here’s a comparison between what I got straight out of camera (SOOC) and after post processing in Lightroom CC.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/b-a%20saber%20artoria_zpskilmjppt.jpg

As long the details were captured by the camera, it can be resolved in post processing. Hence, never overexpose your shots. The bus stop seat looked better after post-processing, which I resolved the details of the reflections on its surface which was initially not that visible.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/32%20detail_zpsh1v5clex.jpg

As I mentioned earlier, I did not use the aid of any compositional grids when I planned for the photography of this figure, but somehow when I compared it to a grid after doing the shots, im fairly satisfied with how well the shot was composed. When you gain enough experience sometimes you can just “feel it”, on whether the shoot looks good or ideal or not on the camera preview screen itself. However, to have a good composition in diorama setups, especially for fixed-pose figures, proper planning is quite important, so that you don’t make mistakes during prop-building, mistakes that will ruin the results of your shots just because of their wrong placement or color.

http://i363.photobucket.com/albums/oo72/EXkurogane/Alter%20Master%20Artoria%20WIP/33%20compoDSC_0434R_zpswd5wsaia.jpg

So, that’s all for today’s article. Thank you for reading, and I’ll be coming up with something else soon. =) Feel free to ask any questions.


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11,708 visningar • 0 favorit13 kommentarer

Kommentarer13

Wow. Really cool picture! i really like the breakdown of all the work you put into this! :)
3 år sedan
This is adorable~ hehe~
4 år sedan
Very nice review. I always wanted to know how to make a simple diorama for my figures so they appear more nature than just standing around on their bases.
4 år sedan
Very very impressive! Love the attention to detail you put into your sets.
4 år sedan
Rajke Ca Fanatic
Amazing. The thing what surprised me the most is that your Diorama exists in multiple parts that are rearangable. And the details you see.
Respect for your work. :)
4 år sedan
This is really impressive. The sheer dedication blows my mind. Keep up the good work!
4 år sedan
dymitr4 år sedan#14478569An amazing picture. I really love the authenticity of the bus booth with busline map and gravure ads. This is arguably your best work to date. I like this picture most of all i363.photobucke... since it shows her at a better angle and feels more intimite.
That golden ratio at the end is a nice touch too, though I thought it should've ended at Altria's face, rather than the bus stall.


Thank you :D
Yea, the compositional grid eh, i did not even use it before and during the photography process. I just slapped it on the photo to see how close it is after I've done everything. I was completely relying on "feel" when i framed the shots. Anyway I appreciate the feedback.
4 år sedan
Muntoe4 år sedan#14479377I love seeing your work on here and this setup is definitely one of my favorites so far.
Your prop building skills are awesome, every time I look through one of these I am astounded at the work that goes into your photos. What do you do after you build these sets? Do you put other figures on them or do you just have a bunch of large dioramas sitting around your house? xD


Thank you. My sets can be dismantled (they are assembled like gunplas, except that they are not made to be snap fit. That makes it easier to keep. Most of my sets end up like that because i don't have the space to keep them (i know, it's a shame). Some parts are not kept permanently, sometimes they are stripped down or modified to be used in a different photography project (to keep the costs low).
4 år sedan
Muntoe Lover of cacti ♡꒰*・ω・
I love seeing your work on here and this setup is definitely one of my favorites so far.

Your prop building skills are awesome, every time I look through one of these I am astounded at the work that goes into your photos. What do you do after you build these sets? Do you put other figures on them or do you just have a bunch of large dioramas sitting around your house? xD
4 år sedan
An amazing picture. I really love the authenticity of the bus booth with busline map and gravure ads. This is arguably your best work to date. I like this picture most of all i363.photobucke... since it shows her at a better angle and feels more intimite.

That golden ratio at the end is a nice touch too, though I thought it should've ended at Altria's face, rather than the bus stall.
4 år sedan
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