I am very interested in the miniature effect widely used in photography. Which is to make large scenes such as if they were toys.

I wonder if the opposite effect was, of giving a tiny object the appearance of a huge object and where I could find information about it.


  • 2
    I think you're looking for the term "forced perspective".
    – inkista
    May 23 '14 at 2:40
  • yes inkista, this is similar but not exactly that. This effect use perspective. I was thinking a zoom lens or reduced. May 23 '14 at 2:58
  • 1
    You can look at the work of Adam Makarenko. He builds miniature models and then photographs them. Not sure if he has any tutorials or workflows on the net so I didn't want to post a response.
    – Rado
    Jun 5 '14 at 13:03

In my career as a VFX supervisor, I've helped supervise several miniature shoots. Shooting miniatures in substitution of a full size scene has been a common technique for almost as long as films have been produced.

There are several important steps to make the photograph convincing:

Use a small aperture

Consider a 1:10 scale model, and put your camera in the scene. Just look at it: that camera is massive! Instead of a 35mm film back, you all of a sudden have the same optics as a 350mm large format camera!

Because everything is so close to the lens, your depth of field will be much shallower. Compensate for this with a smaller aperture. This should scale linearly, so to achieve the look of f/2.0 on a 1:10 scale model, you'll need to use a f/20 aperture.

Add light

Because your aperture is smaller, you'll need correspondingly more light. Where aperture scales linearly, the surface area of that opening diminishes by the square, so you'll need 100x the light for 1:10 scale. Fortunately, this is still photography, so you can get plenty of help just from shutter speed. Otherwise, increase the physical light, or up the ISO.

Use a natural focal length

Some people suggest using a wide lens. While this has the effect of exaggerating perspective, overdoing it quickly makes it look like a miniature. If you want it to look natural, the field of view shouldn't be any different than how you'd shoot a full size scene.

Conversely, you shouldn't use an especially long lens either. This compresses the perspective, making the scene look flat and dull. It can also be a telltale sign of a miniature, since a long lens is a rough substitute for getting the camera in closer. Which brings me to...

Position your camera appropriately!

This is probably the single most important point I can make. If your camera is angled down on the scene, it'll look miniature. Angled up, it'll look larger than life. Position the camera where it naturally could — and would — be. If you take a photo of a building, chances are it'll be from the street, looking up at the building. If you photograph your miniature scene standing up, it'll look like you took it from a blimp.

In many cases, you'll need to carve out space for the camera. If you need the lens 1/2" above the floor, the body will stick many inches beneath the floor. Cut a hole or remove pieces to position it properly.

Of course the scene itself may need improvement as well. The biggest giveaway is a lack of fine detail. In a full size scene, these come naturally, but in a miniature, it takes a lot of work to avoid a smooth, rounded appearance. One neat trick: for water, add some detergent to break up the surface tension. It gives it smaller wavelets.

Lastly, though admittedly off-topic for this site, if you're shooting video, your frame rate should be increased by the square root of the scale. So 1:10 scale would be around 3.1x frame rate (so instead of 24 fps, shoot 72). In this way anything affected by gravity will move at the right speed.

  • Huh? Can you give an explanation why the frame rate should be higher? The only reason I can imagine would be if you show some sort of pendulum moving May 30 '14 at 14:33
  • 4
    Sure. You're absolutely on the right track with the pendulum, but you need to extend that further to include anything affected by gravity. Demolition is one very common use for miniatures, since it's obviously a lot more practical than blowing up the real thing. Gravity being what it is, small objects will fall too fast relative to their larger counterparts. Short of filming on the moon, the easiest way to make gravity behave in miniature is to over-crank the camera
    – mhlester
    May 30 '14 at 14:39

An object alone in a photograph does not give any its size. Instead our visual system collects hints:

  • Seeing an object of a known size helps establish perspective relative to other elements in the photo.
  • Seeing object shadows and occlusions, how one things blocks another, establishes relation of depth and, knowing perspective, this helps approximate the actual size.

When you want to emphasize another perspective than the actual one, you have control which hints end-up in the photo. This can mean doing one or more of the following:

  • Wide-angle lens: Exaggerates perspective, making closer objects look bigger. the further ones look smaller which is why foreground objects look bigger than they are.
  • Include more: The more sharp objects there are an image, the less it looks lie a miniature.
  • Relativity. If you photo a bed in a large room is looks small. If you want to condos, like they do around here, put small furniture and not much less. Places will look huge because on sees how many furniture could git and how much extra space there is.
  • Thanks Itai. Someone should have links to examples? This effect would have a name? May 23 '14 at 4:14
  • A good place to start might be to look at some examples from gestalt psychology en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_psychology There are some "classic" books on the subject, such as Wolfgang Metzger's "Laws of Seeing" which should be easily gotten at your local library.
    – moorej
    May 24 '14 at 3:41

My wife and I constructed a doll house (scale 1"=1') I put the widest lens I had on the camera. This was film and the lens was 20mm. The corner rooms were missing the outside walls. I moved my camera until the front of the lens was even with where the wall would have been and allowed in plenty of light from the adjacent missing wall. I made a few prints and showed them to coworkers. The reactions were along the lines of "yeah, why did you shoot that room". I said look closer. As I remember I had to tell each of them that this was not a real room but a doll house.

The method of making a real life scene look miniature is to limit the correct focus to a narrow range which is what will happen with a normal lens on a miniature scene. Using a very wide angle will keep the entire miniature scene in focus which will make it appear full size.

Hope this helps.


I have found the name.

It's "macro-photography" for magnifications from 1:1 to 10:1.

Beyond it's called "photomicrography".

Below it's called "Proxiphotography".


  • 2
    That's what your question was? You just wanted to know what it's called? Sorry, that wasn't very clear. Glad you figured it out anyway..
    – mhlester
    Jun 12 '14 at 6:09
  • My question is about finding information. With the name that is easier... Jun 12 '14 at 19:16

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