Sunday, May 4, 2014

Foldio - An easy solution to taking pictures of miniatures

Finally, I have a way to take nice model photos!

I have struggled to take nice photos of my models for a long time.  Between poor lightning, an old “point and shoot” digital camera, and a general lack of knowledge about photography, getting good pictures never came very easily for me.  Since starting this blog, I have tried a little harder to experiment with backdrops and lighting with mixed success, but I was still never very satisfied.  So you can imagine my delight when I learned about the Foldio, a foldable studio, over on Frothing Muppet’s excellent miniature blog.  Designed to allow for taking professional looking photos with a smartphone camera, the Foldio is essentially a foldable plastic lightbox/shadowbox with a LED strip attached that provides light from all angles.  Although it was initially brought into reality via Kickstarter, the designer, a Korean company called Orangemonkie, recently began selling them to the general public.  I wasted no time and ordered one, and to my excitement it arrived promptly.

The collapsed Foldio, with the 3 included foam backdrops.

The Foldio unfolded, with the single LED strip on the right.

The Foldio came in a small cardboard box that, when opened, contained the lightbox folded up inside a little synthetic cloth bag, with 3 foam background sheets wrapped around it.  Pulling the Foldio out of the bag, I noticed that there were no instructions on how to assemble the device other than a square piece of translucent paper that has a picture of the assembled unit.  Due to its intuitive design, however, within 30 seconds of taking it out, I had it assembled, using the magnets on each plastic side to hold it together.  After sliding in one of the foam background sheets and attaching a 9V battery to the LED strip (which conveniently attaches to the side of the Foldio using the same magnets that hold it together), I was already taking pictures.

The assembled Foldio, with a shot of how the backdrop fits in and the location on the LED strip.

Of all the three backdrops, grey works the best for miniatures (from left to right: grey, black, white).

An old elf freelancer from Mordheim, filled with character, if not a little flat in his pose.
I tried all of the different backdrops and found that grey worked the best for models (white resulted in clear but dark pictures and the black reflected so much light that the models almost glowed).  The Foldio I purchased has a single LED strip along the top, but they also have one that has a second strip attached to the small flap along the front, which can be folded inward to apply additional light.  Without using the second strip first-hand, I cannot really comment on how much (or little) to does to affect the photo quality.  It is only 10 additional dollars for the second, and it is as easy as adding/removing a second battery to use it, so it is certainly something to consider.  However, I must say that I am extremely satisfied with the photos I have been able to take with just one LED strip.  Within an hour of assembling the Foldio, I was able to take photos of models that I was never able to, ones that captured the care put into each.

When these Chaos Warriors first came out, it was hard to resist building a unit with 2 hand weapons to bring glory to the Lord of Skulls!

One of Adam's first attempts at freehand on a large surface, with a grinning face to look like Ivan Isaacs from Hyung Min-woo's Priest.

Although small and very portable, the Foldio can effectively accommodate some of the larger models on the market.
The true strength of the Foldio is its ease of use and portability.  It easily fits into a backpack and sets up in less than a minute.  Regardless of the lighting in the room, or the camera at hand, you can take nice, clear pictures.  While I was able to take reasonably good photos of my models before, it was always a hassle of adjusting lamps and fiddling with plastic card to make a suitable backdrop.  With the Foldio, I was taking better pictures than I ever had before within a few minutes of taking it out of the box, even using the lackluster camera on my Moto X phone.  While $50 is not exactly cheap, if you have struggled in the past to take photos of your models, ones that actually convey the amount time and effort that you have poured into them, I would strongly urge you to give the Foldio a try.  I am certainly pleased with it, and know there will be countless pictures coming out of it in the future.

- Eric Wier


  1. Nice - glad to see some more of these popping up around the place - the Kickstarter price was a steal at $37 with the 2 strips and the extra colour backing.

    Like you, I think the grey works the best with the minis. I have both LED strips out the front but am thinking of swapping one to the back to get lighting from each angle.

    One thing I have learned is to take my pictures from slightly below front on where the mini has some undercut features otherwise you tend to end up with shadowed shots from a strictly top down shooting angle.

    Seeing so many of your posts about conversion or unboxing of minis - I sometimes forget you guys have some awesome paint jobs lurking in your back catalogue of posts. Those WoC are very cool.

  2. Yeah, I too have found taking shots from below can be very helpful. Will have to see what I can do to that end with the Foldio.

    It really has been so long since any of have painted anything. I never did much, but Adam was pretty enthusiastic about it, but it just takes so much time. I have been considering getting an airbrush, hoping to expand my techniques and encourage me to pick up again. I still need to do a bunch of research for that though.

  3. Love my Foldio. Cannot give enough praise to those guys. Im currently in the process of building my own LED strips to make a painting lamp. those LEDs are unforgiving!

    1. I can't wait to see with that you come up with!

  4. awesome product. Thanks for doing an overview/review of it!

    1. Certainly! I was quite impressed with it, and figured I should get the word out.

  5. Thank you for the great review! I have long been looking for a good unit for photography and this seems like it's both portable (very important for my workspace) and effective.

    The box itself doesn't look too small but it's hard to tell. Do you think large models can be as easily photographed inside, say, like an imperial knight or similar model?

    1. I am glad you found the review informative! The foldio is certainly something you should look into.

      It can hold some of the larger models currently on the market, easily fitting an Imperial Knight for example. I added an image into the post to show how a Knight fits inside, to give you a better sense of how large it is.

  6. Love my foldio too. Will have to give the grey background a try I mostly stuck with white, although the green was interesting too. I got one for my dad as well so we have all the colours and a spare LED strip - which I think will just save until it's needed.

    1. Yeah, I think all the different backgrounds have their place. I would really give the grey a try, particularly for painted models. Just plastic can look a bit washed out, but still nice.