Since nearly everything I build is huge, I can probably offer some tips:
First and foremost, use a tripod. This is the single most important tip I can think of. I use a Gorillapod. It can get low to the ground when necessary, and yet it's sturdy enough to support a DSLR camera with a heavy zoom lens. When I need something higher, it easily attaches to the back of a chair.
A tripod will give you several benefits:
- You can use a longer exposure. It's very hard to hold a camera still in your hand. It's a lot easier on a tripod. That means you can use a longer exposure without getting motion blur. A tripod works even better if your camera has a self timer. Pressing the shutter jiggles the camera. With a short delay, the camera will be still when it takes the picture.
- You can use a smaller aperture. The smaller the aperture, the larger the depth of field. If your depth of field is too small, parts of the scene will be out of focus. Sometimes you want that to draw attention to part of the scene, but with MOCs, most of us probably want the whole thing in focus.
- You can use a lower ISO speed. The lower the ISO speed, the more light it takes to register an image. That may sound bad at first glance, but lower sensitivity means higher signal-to-noise ratio in your image. If the camera is super-sensitive, a little noise will have a larger effect. Lower ISO = less noise.
Typically, I first set the ISO speed and aperture to get a clear image, and then tweak the exposure.
Tip number 2: Use good lighting. Bright daylight is great. When that's not available, I use a cheap reflector lamp with a 100 Watt light bulb. DO NOT USE YOUR CAMERA'S FLASH--you'll get better photos without it. If the scene is too dark, find another source of light or use a longer exposure.
Tip number 3: Don't use a cluttered background. I use poster-board. For large MOCs, you may need multiple sheets. I usually just Photoshop out the background, because even with poster board, you can see seams and the shadow of the MOC itself.
Tip number 4: Post-processing. I work some photoshop magic on every photo I take. This may include:
- Adjusting brightness/contrast
- Adjusting the color balance.
- Sharpening the image
- Removing unwanted specular reflection
- As I mentioned already, removing the background. (For this, I use a layer mask, because I can easily restore the edges of the MOC if I'm overzealous.
- Occasionally, I've even corrected small problems in the MOC itself (for example if a part has been knocked slightly out of place).
Tip number 5: If your camera supports it, use auto exposure-bracketing. With this setting, your camera will take three images at three different exposures every time you press the shutter. Then you can pick the one you like best.
Tip number 6: Use a good camera. It doesn't have to be super-fancy--a decent point-and-shoot camera is fine. It should at least let you tweak the exposure/aperture/ISO speed.