Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Blue Yonder: a review of the Flotone graduated photography background

I'm not saying that you have to have an obsessive streak if you're going to paint miniatures, but it certainly helps. My latest obsession has been improving my miniature photography, as evinced by my recent purchase of a Foldio Light box. But even then I wasn't happy because the strong light I used to illuminate the figurines' fine detail was now washing away the colours in the paint. It reminds me of the Zen proverb, medicine cures the disease, but what cures the medicine? And so I decided to invest in a professional grade photographic backdrop. 

I'm glad I did. Here's one of my first photos with this background:

By way of contrast, below is the same miniature, taken with the same lighting, but using the white foam backdrop that was included in the Foldio:

The difference is astounding.  The blue background makes the entire miniature seem warmer and more vibrant. This is especially true for the orange flesh-tones -- through the magic of complementary colours, the blue lends them a lifelike glow. The graduated effect is also important. It gives the miniature a sense of being suspended in space. Finally, I think the deepening blue draws the eye upwards and into the faces of the miniatures. (Incidentally, the Yalta miniature is one of the Moments in History Vignettes offered by that excellent organ of our hobby, Wargames Illustrated.)

The backdrop that I'm using is the Flotone Graduated Background - 31" x 43" in Blue Jay colour. I bought it for $33.50 from B&H Photo Video in NYC (+$18 in shipping and duties to Canada). B&H was a fast and pleasant retailer. The Flotone itself is a heavy PVC material with a matte finish, making it sturdy and attractive.  In order to adapt it to the dimensions of my lightbox, I cut the massive Flotone into a number of smaller sheets.

Cutting up the Flotone was a handy thing to do since it allowed me to customize a number of continuums (continua?) of gradation from blue to white. This will be useful because I don't want too intense a blue behind miniatures that are themselves blue, for fear that the background will drown them out.

My only complaint about the Flotone is that it scuffs very easily. After taking a number of photos with it, its surface was marred by smudges from my miniature bases (as seen in the photo of this Mimic). These marks are easy to wipe away with a damp, soapy cloth, but the process of washing is a pain in the ass in the middle of a photography session. 

In sum, the Flotone Graduated backdrop is a fine product and a benefit to my photography. I now think of my backgrounds like I used to think of the base of the miniature -- a precious opportunity to highlight the figure itself.


  1. The difference in colour temperature is pronounced and pleasing. But you failed to address whether the Crabbie's paperweight is necessary or we can substitute an ale or lager.

  2. JB from pointed me in your direction. I'm glad he did, you've got some fine lookin minis for me to peruse through.

    And I'll second the first commenters sentiments about the alcohol quadary too :)