STEPBYSTEP / Build a table-top city
1 Go back to black
To make this shot work effectively we need a clean, distraction-free backdrop that removes reflections and puts emphasis on the office supplies we use to create the skyline. Black fabric, especially velvet, is perfect for this. Prop it up behind on a stand, or tape it to the wall.
2 Introduce a reflection
Mimic the water reflections that you find along a river on the edge of a city skyline. We used a black acrylic board to make a seamless join between the ground and the backdrop. It’s also easier to see the reflections in black acrylic as opposed to a coloured or white board.
3 Arrange your office supplies
Get a variety of office supplies to make interesting shapes. There are classic objects you’ll keep coming back to because they work so well. Staples make great skyscrapers, with each staple mimicking a floor on a building. Screws, nuts and bolts also make great shapes.
4 Light the scene
To keep things simple, we only need to use a single lamp to one side. We went camera-right. The light cascading from the side casts shadows across the front of the staples and screws and so highlights the textures of the objects, enhancing the ‘big city’ feel.
5 Get in close
A close-focusing lens is a must with this shot, but fortunately even a 50mm lens will focus close enough. A macro lens is ideal, but longer focal length macros, such as 90mm, mean you’ll have to get quite far back to fit the scene in, depending on how big your skyline is.
6 Set a small aperture
With our Nikon on a tripod and manual mode selected, we set an aperture of f/8 (at ISO200) to increase depth of field (because a shallow depth of field tells our brain that it’s a small-scale model). We then adjusted the shutter speed until our scene was correctly exposed.