John Allen wrote an article in a 1946 Model Railroader (not long after he'd started in the hobby) about his photo techniques. In it, he said that shadows were important in making the photo look real, and in addition to his advice about things like focus, depth of field, and composition, he said the best lighting simulated the sun, which could be done with a single 150-watt bulb hanging maybe 6 or 8 feet from the photo subject.
This goes against the conventional wisdom, at least where lighting is concerned. I've been playing around somewhat with his ideas. Here's a photo I took with the light about 5 feet from the subject, using flourescent room lighting as fill. It doesn't make as many shadows as having the light closer to the subject. I did some post-processing to brighten the exposure and minimize shadows so you could see some of the running gear.
Here's a version with half the room lights turned off and the single light source moved a little closer.
This seems to stress the shadows a little better and bring out the running gear details a little more on the right, but the left is still too dark. Part of the problem is what John Allen talked about in the article, that you can't cover too great an area in the photo with the light set up this way, or you get too much of a transition from the dark area to the lighter. Next step will be to try a smaller model.
So here's one with all the room lights out (no fill at all), the single light source moved a little closer yet, and a smaller model.
I tweaked the exposure and contrast a little bit in post-processing to even things out. There isn't a whole lot of shadow because I moved the light down to a low angle to see how much I could light up the running gear. (John Allen doesn't seem to have had this goal in mind on overall shots, as far as I can see, but I think he maybe had a little more wiggle room in what he could do in the darkroom, too.)
One very good side effect of posting photos is that I get a lot of ideas on how to improve my scenes. I was looking at that roundhouse scene and trying to compose shots that avoided the area just to the left, because it was bare. Then I realized I had a bunch of leftover bits and pieces from other kitbashing projects and saw I had something I could start to put in that area. (I can see I also need to paint some of the rail joiners, too):
Yes, a photograph has a way of pointing out things like that! I didn,t realise that I had installed a step on a scratch built loco cockeyed, until I posted a photo here.
When I suggested an outside photo, I didn't mean that you had to drag the whole layout outside. Just set the loco on a piece of track, with perhaps some cars behind it for a background and try a couple pix with the sun coming from different angles.
Post the best one for comparison.
____________________ Fix it again, Mr Gates--it still works!"
I really can't complain about the lighting on my layout...if I did, I might be struck with lightning! Mr Allen was a pro photographer so he knew all the "tricks", my buddy Muj made his living taking photos also and he has forgotten more than most of us will ever learn. I do know one thing, never, NEVER use a flash! Well, that's my take on things.
____________________ It doesn't matter if you win or lose, its' how you rig the game.