Model Train Express - Articles & advice for model train enthusiasts

Photographing your model trains

Photos allow you to show of your layout and with modern digital cameras it’s easier than ever to take great looking photos. There a few things you can do to ensure you are taking the best photos possible and truly capture the essence of your layout.

Camera settings

Firstly you want to make sure that your camera is using the highest photo output settings possible, this is especially important if you want to make large prints of your photos and not have them appear grainy.

When taking photos you don’t want to use the camera flash as this leads to overly lit pictures that lack depth. A lot of cameras will automatically detect the amount of available light and turn on the flash, you can override this functionality so the flash isn’t used.

When taking close up photos you should use your camera’s “macro” functionality, this is often indicated with an icon of a small flower. Macro mode allows you to focus on objects close to your to camera, some cameras allow for photos to be taken from as close as 2cm away.


One of the most important elements of taking good photographs is to have the correct lighting. When possible you should allow as much natural light into the area you are photographing as possible by opening any blinds or curtains and taking your pictures at the time of day when the room is well lit.

If you need to light up your layout using a lamp don’t shine the light directly at your layout as this will cause shadows. Instead you should position the lamp behind a white sheet, this prevents shadows and will light your layout in a more natural manner.

Avoid camera shake

Even the most minute camera movement when taking a photo can cause it to turn out blurry. This can be eliminated by using a tripod, if you don’t have a tripod a make shift one can be built using a small bag of rice to steady the camera.

Once you have set up your tripod you should use your camera’s self timer function so you don’t have to manually press the button, this eliminates the chance of any camera movement leading to better photos.

Composing photographs

Here are some tips you should follow to compose great photographs:

Focal point – you should select an element in your layout that you want to be the focal point of your photograph, this could be a train, a building or people. Ideally your focal point should fill most of the frame, this will give your photographs a point of interest without any distractions.

Include foreground objects – By including an object in the foreground such as a tree, building or person you add a sense of depth to the picture. Foreground objects also help show the scale of the object being photographed.

Shoot from unusual angles – You can get more interesting photos by shooting from unusual angles. Imagine locations in your layout that you would stand to shoot photos from if it was in the real world, this could be from behind trees, on the top of a building or at the end of a bend.