Boardgame Photography with your smartphone

 

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From this…

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…to this

 

Too often I see photos of boardgames that are far too dark and off-colour, pale and blueish, and mushy.

temptation

Often the temptation is to take a pic with the board filling the view for maximum resolution, but this can cause the pic to be too dark (and sometimes too bright). If you don’t need every,small detail to be visible then you can get a better pic with the tips below.

temptation

Often the temptation is to take a pic with the board filling the view for maximum resolution, but this can cause the pic to be too dark (or sometimes too bright). If you don’t need every detail to be visible then you can get a better pic with the tips below.

simple steps

Without going in to the technical details of how this works, and avoiding composition which is a huge and subjective topic, there are four simple steps that go a long way to getting a better photo.

perfect pic

The aim isn’t to make a perfect pic since smartphones have their limitations (eg, the illustrative ‘better’ pic is somewhat washed out, which is my crappy phone).

So…….

1)Wipe the lens.

I’m not kidding. People forget this one and so many photos are blighted by it.

2)Move the boardgame to a window or surround it with plenty of lamps to get light on it.

Or use a flash if you have one. That helps avoid the mushy pics, but it won’t help the darkness issue rather make it potentially worse

This technique is also marvelous for people and children pics. Drag them to a window or glass door, then take a pic from the side.

3)Include plenty of dark background, and then crop; or else brighten the pic afterwards

A dark background will take care of the darkness issue as the camera will compensate  by lightening the pic. If the boardgame were at a window, you would take the pic from the side, excluding the window.

Not all boardgames need this. Paradoxically it’s the lighter coloured boards that end up too dark.

Some smartphones let you adjust “Exposure Compensation”, in which case you can just do that instead to get a bright pic. Look for ‘+/-‘ or ‘EV’.

4)Adjust the colours afterwards. 

It’s usually just a matter of adjusting a slider until the colours look better. Results may be unexpected as you won’t have a colour calibrated screen to get the adjustment right.  Often better than nothing, though.

I recommend shelling out a few dollars for the app ‘Perfectly Clear’. Used by pro photographers. It’s automatic and does a good job.

Taking the pic ‘zoomed out’ as in bullet 3 above, also gives better colours as the camera has more normal scenery by which to guess at the correct colour balance. (With thanks to Christopher Wionzeck, Dragoonkin, for that excellent contribution.)

5)or go pro: place a ‘whitebalance target’ in the scene.

Creditcard sized whitebalance targets are just a few dollars. They are colour calibrated and used by pros. When the phone ‘sees’ it, it automatically adjusts the tint of the pic to get something more true to life. As an aside, you’ll get wonderful skin tones for your people pics; including skype calls.

If the phone supports it, you could instead try one of the preset whitebalance settings, rather than the default, and not-so-good, ‘auto’ which is usually calibrated to Asian skin and makes everything so pale. The ‘Cloudy’ setting is often the best for day-time light.

Pic I took that uses my tips, before I cropped it

Not as much dark background as I thought I needed but it was enough.

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Open door, to the left, excluded from the pic.

You can see my whitebalance target peeking at the bottom. I use a full sized photographers one but a credit card sized one is just fine.

(If you have a half-decent ‘real’ camera, however, then a bigger one is usually needed for manually programming whitebalance in to the camera, which is even more accurate; so spend the extra.)

 

 

(With thanks to contribution from Christopher Wionzek, Dragoonkin, from Boardgamegeek.com.)

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