Used to be when you wanted to put a background with a model you
had to use a slide projector, projection screen, 35mm camera, black
velvet light trap, photo floods, and a beam splitter. It took a lot of
trial and error to get just the right shot, not to mention a lot of
film. It definitely helped to have your own darkroom to develop the
The next best thing was to run an r/c boat in an area to where you
could make the background look in perspective with the model, but then
again you have a problem if the boat is a display only model.
With today's digital cameras and the array of photo editing
software you can print photos of your model that is hard to discern
between what's real and what's a model. I use Corel Photo Paint for all
my photo editing. A popular software used by a lot of individuals today
is Adobe's Photoshop. With the right backdrop and angle, the model can
be made to look like the real thing.
A good photo can be taken with a good digital or an instamatic
because it's all in the angle of the shot and paying attention to the
background. Here are some tips to remember.....
1. Try to get down at
ground level with the model. Imagine yourself as being the height
of the crew aboard the vessel. It gives a more realistic perspective to
2. Pay attention to
the background. Try to make the background un-busy as possible.
If there is something going on in the background it draws attention away
from the model being photographed. Sometimes this is where you may want
to shoot from a higher angle as to crop out the background.
When shooting, know where you're at. Always be aware of your
surroundings when around models and especially public exhibits. While
you're engrossed in getting that perfect shot, you may step back into a
child or worse in the middle of a highly detailed model someone is
getting ready to launch. A guy was getting so entranced with video
taping an event one time he literally stepped off the end of the dock.
4. Shooting display
models. Always try to photograph a display model on a blank
background. A plain sheet works well. Try to use one with pastel colors.
If you use a white sheet the hull will look great, but if your cabins
are white they'll wash out into the background. Same thing for using a
dark sheet. The hull will blend into the background. At times I have
used the couch with a sheet draped over it so it will cover bottom and
back and I have somewhere to sit the model. Using a plain background
makes it easier when you go to play with photo editing and pasting your
model into a background photo.
Here's a photo of the model of mv. G L FURR that I pasted into a
background photo taken while on a trip aboard the prototype vessel in
Oct '05. I'm not an expert by no means with photo editing (I spent about
a half hour on this photo), but with patience and experimenting you too
can have fun after the model is finished and put up for the winter.
For those of you who like to dabble in photo editing, here are
some photos I took that you can try editing and adding your model into.
Got a shot of you model from the stern? Try a passing shot
How about a shot from the pilot house deck like your looking
across at the other vessel.
How about cropping your model down and place it coming out of the
Here's a background shot of a loading dock.
Here's a sunrise shot
Paducah, Kentucky riverfront
Another riverfront with casino boat
This is the one I used in photo above
Another Paducah photo
A good shot for an approaching model vessel.
Here's one with a power plant in the background
Here's one for you tug enthusiasts. See if you can have your tug
riding over the wave.
Or use it for a bow wave.
If you use any of my photos
for your model shots send them to me and I'll post them here.