Raging Rancor Deconstructed

When I present or post an image like this I get a lot of questions on how I made it. So I’ve made an effort to take a few behind the scenes photos as I shoot or prep a shot. Here’s my first attempt at deconstructing an image and the process that led to the final result. Hopefully, this will help answer a few questions regarding my editing process.


  • Rancor
  • Flashlight
  • Light Painting Brushes Universal Connector
  • Light Painting Brushes 9 inch White Fiber Optic Tool
  • Red gel (dollar store gift wrap)
  • Canon 5D
  • Canon 50mm Macro f/2.5
  • Manfrotto 190X Pro B
Tools for the shoot.
Assembled Light Painting Brush + Universal Connector +gel and flashlight
  • Set up the scene.
  • Place camera on tripod.
  • Attach fiber optic brush to the Universal Connector.
  • Place gel over flashlight and attach the Universal Connector and brush to flashlight.
  • Prefocus and set to manual focus -don’t bump the camera or lens!
  • Turn room lights off.
  • Trip the shutter and paint in scene:
  • The tip of the brush was pointed towards subject and camera for ~20 seconds.
  • The fiber optic brush was removed for the last 10 seconds leaving the gel and Universal Connector on the flashlight to paint in detail on the Rancor.

ISO 100 | f/4 | 30 Seconds

The Edits

Editing was quick and limited. A Virtual Copy of the Digital Negative (DNG) was created in Adobe Lightroom. A simple and basic clean up was applied by adjusting the shadows and highlights, adding a slight crop and sharpening. After exporting as a full resolution TIFF, color grading was applied in the Mextures app with my CETISLW Formula.

RAW file imported into Lightroom as Digital Negative.
After Lightroom edits.
Final Image exported from Mextures.
The Rejects

This was my first shooting session with the Light Painting Brushes White Fiber Optic Tool and it quickly became my favorite. However, like most first runs with light painting, it took a little practice to achieve results I was happy with. All these images had issues I wasn’t pleased with, but they were quite useful in figuring out what I did like. So don’t be afraid to experiment and just try something.

Reject #1. The Rancor’s is too dark. I was still figuring out how long to light him and the background. While I could play with the shadows in Lightroom, I find the right side of the frame distracting and the image as a whole doesn’t interest me very much.
Reject #2. I am happy with the exposure on the Rancor, bit the top right of the frame is distracting.
Reject #3 I tried a second light source to light the front of the Rancor. I left this light on for too long and the color just didn’t work for me. However, it led to deciding to light the rancor for 10 seconds with just the red gel, universal connector on the flashlight to paint in his camera side a little more.
Reject #4. This was just overkill. I used the fiber optic tool for too long on the Rancor. His back and shoulder are just too much.


Attempt this at your own risk! Light Painting is easy, fun and addictive. You will need an extra bag just for the collection of tools and brushes. For example, I only used the white fiber optic tool and I now I realize I need the black version.

So, go grab some light sources (or don’t, you were warned) and get to playing. Tag me on G+ or Instagram and show me what you come up with.

Action Figure Workout

And then there was light

“Light comes in flickers, defining the darkness, not dispelling it.”
Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

Although lighting is crucial in the Noir series, I never payed attention to how exactly I proceed. I do not know much about light. I only have a general idea of the look I want to achieve. And then I kind of play around, which at the end of the day leaves me with lots of pictures that are ‘same but different,’ as they say.

However, since the lighting in this series has been commented on a couple of times, I tried to pay more attention to the process. Here’s what I think I do:

It all started with ideas about lighting

At one point for example, I wanted the central person to be illuminated by light falling out of a door or a window, casting a long shadow. That’s how Noir started, and you can tell from the first pictures of the series that in the beginning, there was the light, and then the story followed.

First the light, then the couple. But they are cute, aren’t they?

But in the run of the course came a shift of attention towards story telling. I still wanted certain pictures, but now I’d try to better integrate them into the narrative: For example, I wanted that car down the slope; so how could it be a more or less plausible part of the story?

A slightly more systematic approach

Shifting perspective like that, light at times became a different matter. I started thinking in ‘scenes’ (like “woman getting on the bus“). With that, I imagined light sources as they would be in reality: Light from the sky, street lamps, lights shining out of buildings, car lights. And I decided for a basic, all-over source of light to set the mood: Is it a sunny day? A clear night with a full moon? Do we have street lamps on?

Down those well lit streets: I later found out that using these lamps rarely makes sense – unless you want them to be part of the picture.

Then I tried to ‘translate’ the real world light sources into the minuscule H0 scale. I set those ‘naturalistic’ lights to see how they work: Do they make the important parts of the picture visible? – A question like that means that I work my way from darkness toward light, rather than lighting everything and then trying to arrange the shadows.

Once I have the important parts of the picture in broad light, there is something else to consider: Does the light evoke a sense of drama? Is the atmosphere anything I would expect? When I arrive at this stage, switching off lights can be as important as switching them on. Some of the later pictures in the series were supposed to be lit by the miniature street lamps. But once I had lit the scene, I just switched them off to see if they made any difference. They didn’t. So I put them away altogether, giving me more maneuvering room for the camera.

Not quite what I had planned: I went for a ‘plain’ daylight scene, but it lacked drama. So here’s what looks like a quite sunny late afternoon to me.

Proceeding like this, I might end up with something very different from what I started with. Sunny might turn into extremely shadowy and vice versa, just for the sake of composition, visibility, and drama.

Same but different… I used the same light source in all these pictures and only changed the light by moving the lamp around.

I considered adding a list of light sources I use but then decided against it. Because it is too much fun to grab any source of light you can get hold of and play around with it. I would not want to spoil that for you!

Did you ever play with light? Did you ever try out different sources of light? Do you have a favourite?

~ Tobias M. Schiel

The $5 Photograph

I’ll readily admit I have a lot of supplies for my toy photography – various toys, camera equipment and other gear.

I don’t have the latest and greatest anything, but I make what I have, and what I can further source, work for me.

This concept can be true at any range of your budget. While social media can make it seem like you need a $2000 camera and $300 figure to make it in this field/hobby that’s far from true. Continue reading The $5 Photograph

6 Ways to Fix your Photo Funk

Discouragement, fear, demotivation, I’ve discussed these way too much at this point here (I promise I’ll write about something else soon). But no matter how many posts I write (which end up being extensions of lectures I’ve given myself) about forgetting the world and creating for yourself, there is always more to say.

I am very good at not taking pictures. I’ll have tons of ideas itching at my brain, the supplies to make each one and absolutely no motivation. Whether stress, general creative discouragement, or a world of other thoughts in my head, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to create. The problem there, is that then I mentally beat myself up for not making photos and the cycle continues. Continue reading 6 Ways to Fix your Photo Funk

Growing little worlds

A strolling Brett gathers mo moss

“Growing little worlds” sounds like a cheesy song title, but it’s a way to create little living habitats for toys to roam.

I was intrigued to see Luigi’s ‘Killer Score’ and ‘The Are Not The Droids’ setups, in particular the scale, or lack of, that he utilised to create these shots.

It was interesting to read Shelly’s post on the outdoors being studios. I especially liked reading that Kristina had shown Shelly that you ‘can do a lot with very little’. Continue reading Growing little worlds

How and when did you find your photographic expression?

How does a photographer find their own photographic expression? Have you ever wondered? I often wonder if or when I’ll ever find or be content with mine. I often feel that I’m in search of my own expression, or for the right expression. This search has gotten me to see that there is some advice that I believe has helped me to define my style… Continue reading How and when did you find your photographic expression?

The dream is free   

If you’re only taking photos for fun, this post is not for you. If you’re happy sharing your images to social media, this post is not for you. If photography is your creative release from the drudgery of day-to-day life, then this post is definitely not for you.

But…maybe your like me and you’re driven to take your work farther. Continue reading The dream is free   

Behind the scenes of “These are not the droids…”

Another photo which I created for the Stuck in Plastic Star Wars contest is “These are not the droids we are looking for” and you can easily understand why I titled it that. What? Wait a minute? Haven’t I just written that I tried something different from my usual Benny and Mr. Robot adventures? Well, that isn’t exactly 100% true, as you can see here. I woke up one morning with this idea in my mind and I couldn’t help but take this photo. I kept chuckling. 🙂 Continue reading Behind the scenes of “These are not the droids…”

Studios can be outdoors too!

Did you know studios can be outdoors too? We’ve all seen amazing behind the scenes glimpses of indoor studios, but until recently it hadn’t occurred me to do the same outdoors. Duh! Right?

Let me back track a few months to that time last fall when I visited Kristina in Sweden. Part of our adventuring was to visit all the places that she takes her amazing photos. If you were to visit me, this would take days since I’m prone to driving 60 minutes and hiking another hour to get to a perfect spot near my favorite mountain steam. Kristina showed me that this isn’t necessary.

Continue reading Studios can be outdoors too!

A Behind the Scenes look at “Killer Score”

This is the first of three photos I took for the Stuck in Plastic Star Wars contest two month ago. The title is “Killer Score” and I was playing with the bounty hunter nature of IG-88. He was probably thinking: “I’m gonna get you, damn Han Solo! Just let me unlock the multiballs!” None of these photos were chosen but Star Wars LEGOgraphy is not exactly my thing; there are many, many photographers out there much better than I. Continue reading A Behind the Scenes look at “Killer Score”