How Can I Take Great Pictures Of My Model Train Set?

Collecting trains and building railroads is a hobby followed by millions around the world. Although the process itself is exciting but taking great pictures of your accomplishment is another way of making yourself feel proud.

Since it takes time to collect trains and combine different parts to achieve a great model train set, therefore, it is only right that some great pictures are captured so that you can look back and remind yourself of some amazing projects.

Choose the Right Type of Camera

Choose the Right Type of Camera

If you are starting out, a 35mm camera is going to be the best option. It will allow you to experiment with different angles and photo capturing techniques. However, what you also need to consider is that developing films is an expensive process and there are limited places available that deal with films. Plus, unless you have your own darkroom, you have no control over the final results.

On the other hand, DSLR cameras are also an excellent option if you can afford them. These are usually expensive but offer a lot of space and freedom to capture pictures from different angles and edit them. In addition to that, you can also change the lenses.

Finally, if that does not work out, you can use your smartphone to take excellent pictures at the beginning. Today, smartphones are equipped with all sorts of advanced image capturing features. Therefore, you can use it to take pictures until you have saved enough to buy a good camera.

Use a Tripod

Use a Tripod

Once you have decided on the right type of camera, it is now time to focus your attention on using a tripod. You should invest in a good quality tripod since the low-quality ones tend to shake as soon as the second picture is taken. It is advised to use a regular-floor type tripod that can balance your camera and take steady pictures.

Using a tripod also allows you to achieve a better depth of field if you have positioned yourself at least a few feet away from the subject. If possible, try connecting a self-timer via remote shutter or Bluetooth, which is going to make the image capturing process much easier.

Avoid On-Camera Flash

You might have come across photographers using the on-camera flash to take pictures but that is simply useless. It ruins the entire model railroad photo scene and the results are nowhere near being realistic. If your camera allows you to use a wireless flash-off camera and set it above the flash and to the side of the subject, things are going to get better.

Additionally, make sure that the camera’s white balance is set to whatever type of light source you intend to use for your train model. At the same time, using a tripod is necessary to enable your camera to use a slow shutter speed without vibrating. If you happen to use one light source, it will give an appearance of the sun shining with all the shadows going in one direction.

This is why you need to avoid multiple light sources as it makes the entire scene look unrealistic and artificial. Furthermore, dark and deep shadows in the background as well as in your toy train model are going to take away all the details and scenery.

The best way to avoid such a situation is by using homemade reflectors. You can use cardboard pieces in such a way that reflects the light from your light source into the shadows. There is no universal principle in this regard to be followed. Therefore, you will have to experiment with the positioning and angles.

Use the Self-Timer or Remote Shutter Button

Using the self-timer or remote shutter button can make all the difference when it comes to photographing a model train set. Some photographers tend to use tripods but manually push down the shutter button, which slightly shakes the camera and results in blurred photos.

You might not notice it until the pictures are uploaded on the computer. Therefore, it is important to reinstate that you should always use the self-timer feature. There is a reason professional photographers use such features to capture splendid pictures of toy train model set.

It allows them to capture perfect images by removing any risks related to shaking and vibration etc.

Depth of Field for Model Railroad Photos

Model train sets are usually large. This means that you will want the majority of the scene to be in focus. As a result, a large depth of field is required. You can achieve this by using a high “f’ setting in your camera that narrows the aperture.

Moreover, using a wider-angle setting or lens can also help in achieving greater depth of field. If possible, set your camera a few feet away from the subject and use very high-quality settings so that you can crop the pictures on the computer without losing too much detail.

When capturing pictures of model train sets, always use optical zoom instead of digital zoom. In some cases, you might want the depth of field to be narrow allowing you to focus on a particular subject while blurring the background. To do that, use a lower f-stop and telephoto lens.


While the depth of field is one thing, proper photocomposition is another. Your pictures of the model train set should be well-balanced. However, that does not mean the subject is supposed to be directly in the center. Create a good composition with the subject located on an imaginary line, diving the picture into thirds both horizontally and vertically.

Plus, try taking pictures from eye level. This helps in capturing realistic pictures. You can “frame” your pictures as well so that it seems as if the subject is framed by structures or trees. If you are trying to take “landscape” pictures of the model train set, add some bushes or tracks.

Use “forced perspective” in your model railroad photocomposition and scenery to make the scene’s depth look much larger than it actually is. Finally, you would want the people, trains, or cars moving into the picture’s center and not away into the side of the picture.

Final Word

Taking great pictures of your model train set takes time and a lot of experimenting. If you are a beginner, you will have to capture multiple photos of the same subject from different angles to achieve the best result. This can become frustrating but it is a part of the process. At the same time, make sure that you get the basics right especially when it comes to selecting the right camera type to prevent complications down the road.