Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to Make a Tabletop Photo Studio to Photograph Model Horses

Have you ever seen a sales ad for a model horse and you just cringed at the awful photography?

An example (it's mine, so I can share it without shaming anyone, and no it wasn't intended as a sales photo)

It's like the "what not to wear" for model horses:

Red Fox and cat, sculpted and painted by Candace Liddy. I took this picture. Candace takes better pictures!)

What's wrong with this picture, you ask? It's clear and yes, you can see the models. But it doesn't make them look attractive.

A better photo for a sales page includes a clean backdrop, one that enhances, rather than detracts, from the model.  Many of the finish work artists I know use professional-quality backdrops, and it shows.

Check out these from Schacht Studios (Dani Schacht) and Mindy Berg. Both images used with permission:

Ask resin by Michelle Platt, painting and photo by Dani Schacht.

Another lovely resin by Michelle & Dani - Boise Bound

Mindy did an outstanding job painting and photographing this Meckenzie resin by Michelle Platt.

Why do I think these images would help sell the models more quickly? The background colors complement the coat colors on the horses. When I rode English huntseat in competitions, my trainer always said that green wraps on the horse complemented a chestnut horse, blue or maroon a bay, and so on. I think backgrounds are similar; they can either complement or detract from the model.

These professional-quality backgrounds put the emphasis on the beautiful painting and finish work. They make the models stand out and look beautiful.

I don't know how Dani or Mindy made these backgrounds, but I did some research and found a great resource online that walks you through, step by step, how to build your own tabletop studio with background so that you can take great pictures of small objects. The article includes three resources, from the simplest and least expensive to the most elaborate and expensive options. The author also includes helpful suggestions on how to adjust the lighting to reduce shadows, something I struggle with when I take model horse photos.

This article is helpful for the model horse community, but I also think it will help anyone who sells crafts, yard sales finds or anything online.

I recommend the article Creating Your Personal Tabletop Studio by Jose Antunes to all model horse collectors and showers. Hopefully, the tips will help you take better photos, too!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

FREE Artist Resin

How would you like to win a free artist resin horse model? Help us find a new name for The Model Horse Quarterly, and you could win a beautiful artist resin horse model!

The contest begins today, July 15, 2014, and ends on July 31, 2014 at midnight. Winner will be announced on our website on August 1, 2014.  One winner will be chosen from among the entries, based purely on how much I like the name. Please keep in mind that the name has to be horse-related in some way, and can't be used by another publication.

For details, please visit EquinArt Creations. NO Purchase is necessary (and buying something from us doesn't increase your chance of winning). Entry form is here.

Enjoy and good luck!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Model Horse Hobby: Is Realism or Art the Goal?

Congratulations to everyone who participated in NAN or the Breyer Open Show this week in Lexington! I hope you had a chance to visit with some of our artists - Candace Liddy, Sheri Rhodes and others - who were exhibiting at Breyerfest. Candace has a beautiful new mare and kitty sculpture coming out to match Kit Fox, her 4" scale lying down foal - here's a sneak peek:

I really enjoyed following the events of the week on Facebook. People shared amazing photos of some of the NAN exhibits. I'm continually amazed at the creativity and talent among the model horse hobbyists. The setups this year were outstanding, from the perfectly posed English rider doll to the infamous "zombie apocalypse" diorama and Joyce Savage's clever use of Breyer Mini Whinnies in a "let's go to a model horse show" setup that won Grand Champion.

One debate that erupted, however, has me thinking, and prompted me to write this blog post about whether the model horse hobby is about realism or art, or maybe a blend of the two. Someone showed a 'big lick' style Tennessee Walking Horse in NAN, and the horse pinned. I don't know what it pinned but I understand it was beautifully painted, and the photograph of the exhibit that I saw online showed a nicely positioned rider doll, good tack, and a well-painted resin.

Controversy, however, erupted when some folks on Facebook began posting comments blasting both NAN and the judges for pinning the model. Cries of "You're promoting horse abuse!" and "We've got to think about the kids - what impression are they taking away from this?" followed more vitriolic threads. It got so bad I ended up avoiding Facebook for a day or two, which was probably a good thing, because the dog hair collection in my house had grown to the point that the dog-hair-dust-bunnies had become the size of cats, and I really, really, really needed to clean the refrigerator before the lettuce crisper turned into a science experiment...

But I kept replaying the conversations I'd read and flipping my opinion back and forth. Some people were adamantly opposed to allowing a big lick style TWH in the model horse show ring, claiming that the hobby was about art, and that by sharing artwork that promoted the big lick type of TWH, hobbyists were standing in favor of soring, the practice that creates the high-stepping style and that is viewed by many horseman as cruelty.

Others, however, took a more neutral stands. While they themselves do not condone soring, they do feel that because such horses exist in the real TWH show ring, and are allowed by NAMHSA by-laws, then the entry was acceptable.

Art or realism? I'm still on the fence. On the one hand, I do think realism is the name of the game in the model horse world. It always has been. Remember, I started collecting in 1974 when I was a tiny tot, and entered my first show in 1979. I guess I'm an "old timer" in that I remember the inaugural edition of Just About Horses and the upheaval when Reeves bought Breyer!

Realism or... One, the other, or both? 

I've always described the model horse hobby to family and friends as, "Like the model railroad hobby, or people who build miniature doll houses, except we build horse-themed miniatures."

People who build miniature railroads and doll houses strive for realistic expression of their respective worlds in miniature, down to the smallest details. When hobbyists make tack, they strive for this level of perfection and realism. When model horse hobbyists paint a beautiful dappled gray or Appaloosa resin, or build a carriage or cart, or even create a jumper ring scene, they're also striving for realism.

But in our hobby, we have room for fancy and fun.  The "Zombie Apocalypse" scene is one such diorama incorporating fantasy and fun!  It's a setup (I think it's Jackie Arns-Rossi's) showing a cowboy riding up to a blood-spattered horse trailer, with zombies spilling out the back. I find it really funny and clever all at the same time.

We have classes for decorator models, and I don't know about you, but I wouldn't say no if I found a true Copenhagen Blue or Gold Charm Breyer at a yard sale for $1! It's not particularly realistic, but it's lovely all the same. Ditto for the pegasus models, the unicorns, and everything else in between that I've seen over the years, both resins and clever customizations.

Heck, I even bought myself two of Breyer's "Year of Flowers" horses for Christmas a few years back and they have pride of place on my shelf, even though I'm never a fan of decorator horses. I just fell in love with them.

Isn't that what it's all about? Collecting what you love - and loving what you collect?

But should what you love be brought into the show ring? What kind of responsibility DO we have to the kids who look at the grownups showing their resins and want to do the same in a few years?

Where do we draw the line in the horse world about what we show and what we don't show? Do we ban "Big Lick" Tennessee Walking Horse style models from model horse shows? Okay, but what about American Saddlebreds?  I've heard of egregious "training" methods used on Saddlebreds, too. Do we ban them from the model horse arena?

What about Thoroughbreds? Many of them end up at the slaughterhouse because there's not enough people adopting them after their racing career is over. And how many of them end up damaged because they're trained too hard and too often before their joints and bones are strong enough to withstand the pounding their sport demands?

What do YOU think? I'd love to hear what you think about showing "big lick" TWH models. Should collectors keep them at home or is it okay to put a big lick model horse in the ring? Do you think it gives kids the wrong idea?

Is our hobby about realism...or about art?

And where do we draw the when the real world and the model horse world collide?

Thoughts welcome. Please keep the discussion focused and civil if you leave a comment. Thanks!