Many of you surely wondered what kind of photographic backdrops we’ve been using recently. Searching the internet might have provided you the answer already, but now we’ve got more than that. This Hangar 18 Miniatures photo backgrounds review sheds some more light on this subject, so in case you are wondering if these backgrounds would be of any use to you – read on.
Search for the perfect photo backdrop
We’ve been using quite a wide selection of photo backgrounds, ranging from digitally painted grunge through traditional blue-to-white gradients to plain white, black, gray or blue paper. Some of them did their job better, some did worse. But as some of you may know, I took many of the pictures presented in our galleries, and photography is also one of the aspects I enjoy in this hobby. So these experiments were a part of the hobby to me, and I must say I enjoyed them.
Still I was not sure that I got it all right, that we’ve been doing it the right way and not missing something.
The pains or doubts I had usually could be classified as:
- backgrounds too distracting attention from the models,
- backgrounds too plain and uninteresting,
- texture too rough and thus creating „noise” in perception,
- backgrounds getting damaged and worn too quickly,
- backgrounds being too glossy or looking too faded,
- color of the background unsuitable or even clashing with the model,
- size of backgrounds being insufficient.
Of course, one can always print a new backdrop and not worry too much about damage to a printed sheet of paper. But having a tested and tried backdrop that is durable to at least some reasonable degree is always a nice touch that makes taking photos easier and more comfortable.
Then I was offered a chance to review Hangar 18 Miniatures‚ photo backgrounds. What a treat!
Hangar 18 Miniatures photo backgrounds
Honestly speaking for a long time I was not aware that Hangar 18 Miniatures existed at all, and later I didn’t realize they made any photo backgrounds. So when I got the chance to test their products it was like waiting to play with a new and unexpected toy.
I had completely no idea about the kind of material they were made of, the quality of printing, texture of the material, durability and such. So when the tube with photo backgrounds arrived, I impatiently unpacked it.
The backgrounds were rolled together and protected with a sheet of paper:
So what was inside?
What I received was a HiDef Background Studio Series – 6 Prints Set. It included six photo backgrounds in A3 size (11″ x 17″). Each of them comes with a different print:
- Green Gold
- Soft Lavender
- Antique Leather
- Antique Parchment
That’s what they look like on the official photos (taken from the Hangar 18 Miniatures website):
These backgrounds are printed on flexible fabric, which allows to shape them, easily adjust them to your photo setup, and makes them very resistant to wrinkling. They’re nearly no-glare, so even in direct light conditions they look good on photos.
This also has another effect though. The texture of the fabric is still visible on macro photos (that photos of miniatures usually are). Some people may like it, yet I would prefer the texture of fabric to be less defined.
Of course with macrophotography you usually get pretty small depth of field, so it’s very easy to get the texture nicely blurred and unnoticeable in the background behind the model, but the part directly around the model’s base will usually be sharp and in focus, so the texture will be very sharp there, too. It will show on the photos later in the review, so read on…
How I used them
There are many ways to use the backgrounds and most photographers will find their own ways to do it, so I will not go into too much detail here. After all the article is not about the way I work but about the backgrounds. One can easily attach them to a vertical surface with some sticky tape, paper clips or – what I usually do – with some blutack/patafix.
Thanks to the matte surface these backgrounds can be easily used in natural daylight and in artificial light coming from lamps. And even if the light is not diffused, there is no glare on the backgrounds. Well done!
Just take a look at these photos to see how we used these backgrounds:
The size is pretty versatile. It allows to take photos not only of small miniatures but even of large models and whole units of smaller miniatures. Of course the size is not sufficient for whole armies or forces consisting of multiple units, but I read that larger versions of these backdrops were already released (A2 size), so maybe we will be able to take photos of whole forces on these backgrounds soon?
While the size allows to take photos even of larger subjects, it is still compact enough to fit into many light tents or on photo tables and booths. So if you want a versatile and universal size of a background the regular A3 size may be the way to go anyway.
Now this was one of the points which are pretty important to me. I don’t want to buy new backgrounds again any day soon, so knowing that my backgrounds will not be scratched, bent or wrinked after a few weeks or months of use may be a tipping point for me. This was always a problem for me with my paper backgrounds, and I had pretty high hopes here.
Let me add that I can give my backgrounds pretty tough time when I get to start a photo session. I take pretty many photos of our miniatures even if only a few of them are published. This often includes some exposure variations, additional takes to be sure that I have everything sharp, plus some additional angles, etc. So when you take like 50-100 photos per photo session, you may expect that your background will be put to a test.
So how did Hangar 18 Miniatures photo backgrounds do in this test? Well, very well and not so well.
There was no wrinkling, no permanent bending. The flexible fabric is really good material for a photo background. But bear in mind that the miniatures will be placed on the surface for most of the time, they will be pushed around, moved, rotated, and so on. So won’t this scratch the surface? Unfortunately it will…
These are photos of my Hangar 18 Miniatures photo backgrounds after like two months of use. Some were used more frequently, some not so often, but you can see some wear marks on the surfaces.
I think you can easily recognize the backgrounds that I use most frequently… 😉
Now these two will be the least frequently used backdrops, so they’re the least scratched ones. But they’re also the lightest-colored of them all, so those scratches wouldn’t be as visible as on darker backgrounds.
So what do I think? Well, I won’t pretend they’re completely scratch resistant. They managed to avoid any other kind of damage, except for those scratches. Now let’s make one point clear: these scratches don’t mean the paint rubbed off from the backgrounds! No, they are only the spots where bases of my miniatures rubbed against the fabric and the backgrounds lost some of their dullness and became slightly more shiny.
So what you saw on the photos and what looked as if the color wore off, is only more light reflected from the backgrounds which became a kind of „polished” there. Still I consider it some problem, as I prefer my backgrounds to keep their no-glare finish, but I understand that with my „heavy duty” approach every background will be put to a hard test!
I still haven’t found a way to remove the scratches. I tried rubbing the backgrounds with a damp cloth, washing them, and a few other tricks, but none of them worked. Maybe giving them a spray coat of flat varnish will do the trick? 😉
One miniature, many backgrounds!
Having a choice of these Hangar 18 Miniatures photo backgrounds allows me to choose a suitable background for most miniatures quite easily and fast. By taking a look at these photos you can see results of my little experiment: how the same model may look on different backgrounds.
I took photos of most of them with and without a miniature, so you can see what the background looks like when the background is in focus (so you can see the details of texture and print more precisely) and when it is intentionally out of focus (with focus being on the miniature, so the background is slightly blurred in a way that doesn’t distract from the model).
Why there are no photos of the Antique Parchment background here? Wait, and you will see them in a moment…
We’re going to show you another cool thing that can be pulled off with these backgrounds!
The backlighting trick
You might want to create a special focal point to attract attention to your miniature. Now you can do it without any photoshopping, just get yourself a little lamp and put it behind the background.
This is what the background looks like in normal lighting conditions – pretty much evenly lit:
But when you turn that backlight on, you may create the additional focus!
With some adjustments to the position, distance, power and difussion of that backlight, you may achieve excellent results with no additional photo manipulation other than simple cropping!
Of course you may try it with every Hangar 18 Miniatures photo background, but you will notice that with the lightest ones…
… effects are much less spectacular.
Nothing should discourage you from experimenting a bit with various lighting setups, including backlights. My suggestion is to diffuse the backlight a bit so the shape of your light (lamp/light bulb) is not so obviously and intrusively visible. If you don’t have a special diffuser, you may use a piece of milky plastic or even tissue.
Would you like to see more examples before the final judgement? Sure, we have quite a few of them. Just take a peek at the galleries of our works. There should be many photos taken with these backgrounds. Check Ana’s, JerzyK’s, Rzymek’s, Slawol’s, Benathai’s and Rentall’s galleries in particular. They should have the most examples of such photos. I told you I wasn’t all that easy on these backgrounds. 😛
And what do I think?
Well, these are some of the best (if not the best) photo backgrounds I have used so far. There was only one problem for me – these shiny scratches, but as you can see on the photos of miniatures taken with these backgrounds – it’s nothing terrible, but I would still want my perfect product to be free of this problem. Maybe I can find a solution for this issue and in this case I will update the review, but if you know how to deal with it – tell me in the comments, please.
Now that even A2-sized backgrounds are available (no, I didn’t manage to get them yet) these seem to be a good choice for any hobbyist. Even those of us who need to take photographs of warbands or smaller armies will find these backgrounds useful.
And what do you think about these backgrounds? Let us know, please, share your own tips and show us how you use these Hangar 18 Miniatures photo backgrounds for your hobby purposes. 🙂