PetaPixel

Amazing Miniature Scenes Shot with Model Cars, Forced Perspective and a $250 P&S

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Model maker/collector and photographer Michael Paul Smith is a master at recreating incredibly accurate outdoor scenes using his extensive die-cast model car collection and forced perspective.

Mixing up miniature cars, detail items and buildings into a scene whose backdrop is the real world, he shoots the gorgeous miniature vistas of the town he has created and named “Elgin Park” — and he does it all with a cheap point-and-shoot.

Elgin Park is some 25 years in the making, as are Smith’s modeling and diorama photography skills. In an extensive interview with Fstoppers, he describes his tools, his process and the minute attention to detail that creating these scenes requires.

Ironically, Smith has diagnosed himself as “math challenged,” so when it comes to properly framing the forced perspective, he simply eyeballs it. Years of experience have led to an uncanny ability to do this right on the first shot, but if he doesn’t, he simply goes up and unceremoniously drags his table/models into the correct spot.

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The most intriguing part of Smith’s creations, however, isn’t how insanely detailed these models are (some of the cars have seats that move on rails and glove compartments that open and close) or even the fascinating process that he goes through from idea to final product.

The most intriguing thing is that he does this entirely outdoors, using natural light and a 14-megapixel Canon SX280, which goes for about $250 online. Before the Canon he used a 12-megapixel Sony, and before that a 6-megapixel Sony that was actually his favorite because, get this, 14 megapixels is too much resolution.

“14 megapixels is almost too much for what I need to take convincing diorama shots. There is too much information being recorded which makes every little detail show up in the photographs,” he tells Fstoppers. “When working with miniatures, at least for myself, too much detail distracts from the total scene.”

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Although he tends to self-deprecate a bit in the interview where his skills are concerned, don’t let him fool you. As his photography obviously shows, he’s very good at what he does. Whether it’s a high-school stadium parking lot scene, or a DART truck unloading a washer and dryer in a residential area, his miniatures really are quite stunning.

Here’s a look at more of what he’s put together over the years, with the behind-the-scenes photo first and the final product second:

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As he mentions above (and you probably already guessed) when it comes to putting these kinds of scenes together, as they say, the devil is in the details. When Fstoppers’ Gary Martin asked him what the most important thing to remember when creating models like this is, he responded with an adamant:

Keep everything in scale. From the thickness of the shingles down to the wallpaper design and door knobs, everything must be in the proper relationship to each other. I can’t stress that enough.

And if you want to see more of what that kind of attention to detail produces, head over to Smith’s Flickr and browse through the rest of his photostream by clicking here.

(via Fstoppers)


Image credits: Photographs by Michael Paul Smith and used with permission.


 
 
  • Nick

    I wonder how he does to get all the staff to make the scene! Amazing

  • Chris

    I wasn’t convinced at first (sort of like the model airplanes), but the 2nd half of the examples are pretty impressive. The shot under the bridge and the car in the snow would be great shots if they were just found scenes.

  • frank mckenna

    This is so fascinating. Great work!

  • Zos Xavius

    These are superbly done. Hats off.

  • http://www.michaelpalmer.com/ Michael Palmer

    Impressed. Very impressed!

  • Joeha

    Great!

  • Spanner1960

    Funnily enough, I thought quite the opposite.
    I thought the first bunch set within real scenarios, under real sunlight, were far more convincing. The last four just looked rather fake.
    I guess you really can’t fool mother nature.

  • http://bit.ly/mattaka Matthew Wagg

    Beautiful stuff and it proves you don’t need the most expensive gear to get great results.

  • Norshan Nusi

    Impressive!!!

  • madmax

    My pictures are not good enough because my gear is sooooo cheap!!! I need a full frame camera, I need a full frame camera, I need … (must repeat this mantra at least 1000 times).

  • http://www.aluzinando.com Fernando Callo

    This is AMAZING!

  • Tyler Magee

    WHAT! haha this is amazing

  • Lynda Bowyer

    Hat tip to the guy – this is unique and impressive. Brilliant work :)

  • Dean Collins

    Small cars small sensor. Bigger car bigger sensor.

  • Thomas Casey

    Apart from great models, the natural in situ light and small sensor help the illusion. Great stuff.

  • Thomas Casey

    True, you just need the right gear for the job in hand.

  • Paul

    when I come back in my next life…. I’m going to be miniature, and live in one of these miniatures scenes!

  • Facebookhasaids

    ditto.

  • Meshelly Menatac George

    Awesomeness wrapped in a giant bow.

  • Marklin Ang

    my jaw dropped.

  • catlettuce redux

    ditto

  • Sam

    This is truly incredible..

  • rbx3r

    this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.. keep up the great work!

  • Paul

    Excellent work – however a slight improvement for the article would have been to show the shots first, then the reveal of the minatures afterward. By seeing the minatures before the shots, it kinda broke the magic. But still, very impressive.

  • Casey

    What are these? Cars for ANTS!?!

  • Jonathon Robert Cowley

    How can we be expected to teach children how to read if they can’t even fit inside the building?

  • billcanada

    I am impressed. I think one or two the perspective is incorrect but most are really wonderful. I would love to see the real models.

  • johnbarclay

    That made me laugh out loud…

  • Johan Boeykens

    superbe !!!

  • Rob

    I like the first shot, where his head is in the frame. Would be cool if he tried some surreal stuff like that.

  • Christian DeBaun

    Well done Michael Paul Smith!

    So many photographers want to shoot everything, but you have mastered you craft on one specific type of shot.

  • ThisBethesdaSea

    Just wonderful. Long Live the miniature. Hollywood take note!

  • SN0man

    I love this kind of ingenuity.

  • Crump

    I had a problem with the ‘weight’ of the wheels. If it was an actual car you would see a heaviness the way the car sits on the ground. Model cars don’t have that weight. Other than that, I quite enjoyed these creative shots.

  • Twaite

    sw

  • Twaite

    if you are a fan of this type of art Google Gorman and check out his pieces

  • Twaite

    Apologies that would be Michael Goremans magic town in Manitou springs Colorado

  • http://www.slimsurveys.com/ Rodney_Rumford

    Totally amazing. As an old tin car/toy collector and photo nut this is pretty amazing stuff.

  • tiaoxue

    it must take a lot of time to build the models, amazing

  • theart

    It has to be at least three times bigger than this!

  • bob57

    He needs to remember to reduce the shine on the model cars. The reflected images on them are too distinct. When the cars look dusty the photos work better.

  • Raymond Ménard

    Thats awesomely insane, Bravo!

  • Nick Glover

    Great pictures. It just goes to show that you dont need the latest, most expensive gear on the market.

  • http://www.facebook.com/barbara.s.wilde Barbara Sorenson Wilde

    fantastic!

  • http://www.johngamboa.com/ John Gamboa

    I KNEW some lame hater would find SOMETHING to “Have a problem with” I hope Crump gets coal in his stocking this Christmas.

  • http://www.johngamboa.com/ John Gamboa

    bob57 Let’s see your inspirationally creative work.

  • http://www.johngamboa.com/ John Gamboa

    These are wonderful! I WANT MORE!!!

  • smoinpour

    wow these are awesome!!! I would have never known they were miniature cars!

  • thatguy

    The real question is, what kind of car does Michael drive?

  • Amy Byrd Thompson

    Wow, these look real!