Making Toys for Toy Photography

There are various way to approach the creation of new photos. Personally, I like to think of an idea then figure out what toys and other props would be best to make that vision a reality.

Sometimes I look through my collection, other times I’ll browse online or in shops, and sometimes I’ll make my own objects. I don’t typically make the precise, detail oriented, gorgeous work you’ll see of miniaturists or customizers, but I do make simplistic models that fit my end goal. I like to think of the camera lens as a tool of transformation. Through it, I can make my simple sets come to life.

Is it still a toy if I make it myself?

Well, I’ll leave that up to you in the end. But I’d like to think a small trinket posed with other toy or toy-like items still falls into the range of toy photography.

When I say I make my own toys, here’s what I mean.

First up, I’m sure this is something we all do from time to time, building sets using paper, cardboard, foam core etc.

My other standard supplies include polymer and air dry clay, glue, and odds and ends found around the house.

Then, more technologically, I sometimes design and/or source 3D models to print and paint.

And most recently, I’ve been creating molds for play-doh and hot glue lego mini figures. For years I’ve had the idea of creating an image that shows a figure crumbling. A metaphor of the mind, shown visibly. I never quite figured out a way to do this, and then I thought of play-doh and how it gets all crumbly when it dries. I liked the symbolism of a lego figure rather than a more realistic human for this, an icon of an icon of sorts. As I started the molding process, other ideas came to life for this type of ‘toy.’ And so a short series of images began.

I’m not quite sure this is my end all be all crumbling image, but it’s a start. And the best way I knew how to make it was by making the toy I needed for it.

“With any means available, [tableau photographers] create photographs intended to convey their philosophic and moral views of the world and themselves.”

– Fabrications by Anne H. Hoy

Long story short, I find what I need to make the photo I’m envisioning, and sometimes that comes in the form of creating my own toys.

~ Jennifer Nichole Wells

Do you ever make your own toys or other photo props? Why and how? 

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures

Our friends at LEGO sent us a box of the Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures to review. Here it is…

Lloyd Garmadon

Lloyd (or L-Loyd according to his dad) comes in a green hoodie printed top, with a new headpiece for the hood with his fringe poking out below, which allows for greater head movement.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Lloyd Garmadon

His black jeans are held up with a brown belt. The silver spoon and white bowl with blue trim and dragon motif are great accessories.

Lloyd

What appears to be a standard Ninjago inclusion, Lloyd offers up so much more. His Ninja headgear is two-piece, with the upper piece with a green scarf and golden printed emblem. He also has his blonde tussled hair should he want to reveal his identity from under his mask. The printing on the legs, arms and the front and back of the torso is great.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Lloyd

The gold tasselled, silver sword is another great addition.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Lloyd

He also carries a 2×3 tile with blueprints to a dragon printed on it.

Misako

Lloyd’s mom Misako’s hair and torso are fabulous. Her orange hair is held back in a bun with two red chopsticks. Her sand green jacket has some golden floral motifs added, a name tag with “koko” on it and sits over a white blouse.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Misako

The two gold buttons of her brown are doubled to four with the pant print continuing to the torso, just as the gold floral motif of the jacket does to the legs.

Master Wu

Much of the print on Master Wu’s torso is hidden under his beard, which is a shame. The traditional top includes arm printing and a traditional emblem in red on the back.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Master Wu

The addition of a ‘skirt’ to extend the printing of the torso and add ‘length to the top is a nice touch. His tan legs include sandal printing on the feet.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Master Wu’s breakfast of champions

The Corn Flakes box is a great addition which no doubt will make its way into many LEGO photos.

Kai Kendo

Kai has some pretty standard Ninjago printing under his Kendo armour, which is mostly hidden. Under the Kendo helmet his angry face is scarred on both eyebrows, with one still sporting a Band-Aid, and that impossibly high messy hair.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Kai Kendo

How does he squoosh all that hair under his Kendo helmet?

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Kai Kendo

Zane

Zane comes with a printed backpack similar to the hiker in CMF series 16. A retro 8-bit aliens sweater vest tops his pleated white pants with black belt and black shoes. The sweater vest is so cool. I hope LEGO make these in my size, ready for Christmas!

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Zane

His flat top hairdo is buzzed down to at least a number one with the faded printing on his head. Finally, one of these guys has found a comb!

Spinjitzu Training Nya

On first opening the bag, I thought Nya was a little dull. But I was wrong.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Spinjitzu Training Nya

She’s the strong female character I’ve been craving. A determined look sits under her black hair tied up with a gold band. Her white ninja gi (uniform) has some wonderful black and gold details, including Mater Wu emblems emblazoned on the front and back.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Spinjitzu Training Nya

Brandishing two wooden swords, I wouldn’t mess with her.

Cole

Cole’s angry sneer and cropped black messy hair sit above a muscle top with what I can only assume is a Ninjago nod to ACDC with the four symbols parted by their iconic lightning bolt.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Cole

The back of this muscle top has “World Tour 1985” with a list of venues in white with “SOLD OUT” printed over it in red.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: SOLD OUT

His ghetto blaster is obviously for blasting his favourite tunes from that sold out world tour. 

GPL Tech

With printed glasses that remind me of Robin’s moulded ones from the Batman Movie, it’s a nice tie in with the Batman logo on the t-shirt she wears under her lab coat. The lab coat is printed with a pen in her top pocket and the label “GIT”. The lab coat printing continues onto her legs with another two pockets.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: GPL Tech

Carrying a black laptop and red coffee cup, she’s no doubt wired for some serious lab work.

N-POP Girl

A nod to the Korean K-POP, she is pure pastel cuteness; from her pink and blue Harley Quinn hair, all the way to her heart printed green and blue shoes with pink laces.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: N-POP Girl

She wears lollypop pink and white striped tights are under her pink, green and yellow printed tutu.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: N-POP Girl

Her top is printed with Unikitty on the front and even more love hearts on the back. A pink teddy bear is added just in case you haven’t had enough cuteness.

Jay Walker

What is it with Ninjago? Doesn’t anyone own a hairbrush? Jay’s messy hair sits atop a somewhat embarrassed look on his face.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Jay Walker

Maybe it’s because of the selfie-stick he’s wielding?

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Smile

One thing’s for sure, he can’t be ashamed of that snazzy orange scarf he’s wearing! Hopefully we’ll see some more colour variations of these!

Sushi Chef

I really like this guy. His cheeky moustachioed smirking face is topped with a black and white printed headband similar to the series 16 scallywag pirate. The subtle prawn prints on this uniform are a cool touch.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Sushi Chef

His trusty cleaver has sliced off a bite size piece from his expertly rolled sushi. I can only imagine what he’d make of the Shark Army? Something oishii no doubt!

Gong & Guitar Rocker

I REALLY like this guy! It’s amazing what a different hair colour and headband can do. The series 7 hippy’s hair turned died black and his orange headband exchanged for red, becomes pure metal! His studded belt, chain, ripped jeans (or maybe they’re leggings?) and white high top boots are straight out of a late 80s film clip!

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Gong & Guitar Rocker

His red muscle top is printed with a white skull and crossbones and a black slogan. He’s got a black dragon tattoo and a black sweatband, undoubtedly for wiping the sweat of his brow after slaying another lengthy lead break! He’s the only two sided head print, one pretty neutral, and the other one absolute “rocking out” perfection!

Garmadon

Lord Garmadon developed an extra set of arms in order to possess the Four Golden Weapons.” This, and who Misako was, is the only research I did for this review. It still means little to me, but gee, Lord Garmadon is a cool Minifigure!

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Garmadon

He looms over his enemies, dressed in typical bad guy black with printed armour. His sneering head print is reminiscent of Kabuki samurai makeup, which is cool!

Flashback Garmadon

I can only assume this is a reference to the movie and it will shed more light on this groovy looking version of Garmadon?

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Flashback Garmadon

His brown on brown attire with its collars that threaten take flight in a strong wind, obscenely wide tie and aviator shades are straight out of the 70s. The printed tile is obviously a reference to his “Underworld” kingdom, but in happier times with the white picket fence.

Volcano Garmadon

Gone is Garmadon’s sneer, replaced with a grin. And why wouldn’t he grin? He’s got his comfy volcano patented pyjamas on, and a bowl and spoon for his late night snack.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Volcano Garmadon

I don’t know how comfortable that headpiece is for his slumber party, but I still want to be invited!

Shark Army General #1

The General’s worried look might because she’s worried the N-POP girl is eyeing off her pink milkshake?

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Shark Army General #1

Or perhaps it’s a look of concern that her scaly double cape is about to be caught in the wind? Or perhaps it’s the strain of having to wear all her accolades on her uniform? I don’t know! I do know that the fish scale printing on her legs is cool though!

Shark Army Great White

This Great White has copped a battering (no pun intended). His dark blue uniform is fantastically adorned with gold medals and chains, many with underwater motifs, but the singed marks on his legs, torso and arm show signs of battle. The black shark headpiece also bores some scolded battle scars.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Shark Army Great White

And his scuba tank’s battery life is critically low. No wonder he looks so grumpy! But how can he be grumpy, he’s brandishing a flaming new black fish!

Shark Army Angler

The Anglerfish headpiece is super cool with its hypnotic eyes and dangling lure. Underneath, there is scarred female Shark Army member with lipstick and eye shadow printing.

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Shark Army Angler

A single scuba tank body wear also the printed battery life on the front it. The fishy mace is a cool little weapon.

Shark Army Octopus

Another scarred head sits underneath the wonderful octopus headpiece. Man these Shark Army guys have some war wounds! Although, I can’t help but wonder where the eighth octopus leg went. There’s only seven?

The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures
The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures: Shark Army Octopus

Like the Angler, the torso is standard and the scuba tank’s battery life is OK. He’s armed with a silver fish and a shooter (the first of these in a CMF series?).


As someone who has never really been into Ninjago, I was dubious about a Collectible Minifigure Series I didn’t really know about. I was wrong. Even to those like me that know little about Ninjago, this series offers so much. There isn’t one Minifigure in the series that disappoints.

Thanks to our friends at LEGO, especially Kim, for giving us the opportunity to review this wonderful series of The Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures. The series is due for official release on August the 1st.

Stay tuned for details of the upcoming giveaway where you could win a complete set of 20 Ninjago Movie Collectable Minifigures!

– Brett

Who is your favourite from this upcoming series? What about accessories? What has caught your eye?

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And then there was light

“Light comes in flickers, defining the darkness, not dispelling it.”
Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

Although lighting is crucial in the Noir series, I never payed attention to how exactly I proceed. I do not know much about light. I only have a general idea of the look I want to achieve. And then I kind of play around, which at the end of the day leaves me with lots of pictures that are ‘same but different,’ as they say.

However, since the lighting in this series has been commented on a couple of times, I tried to pay more attention to the process. Here’s what I think I do:

It all started with ideas about lighting

At one point for example, I wanted the central person to be illuminated by light falling out of a door or a window, casting a long shadow. That’s how Noir started, and you can tell from the first pictures of the series that in the beginning, there was the light, and then the story followed.

First the light, then the couple. But they are cute, aren’t they?

But in the run of the course came a shift of attention towards story telling. I still wanted certain pictures, but now I’d try to better integrate them into the narrative: For example, I wanted that car down the slope; so how could it be a more or less plausible part of the story?

A slightly more systematic approach

Shifting perspective like that, light at times became a different matter. I started thinking in ‘scenes’ (like “woman getting on the bus“). With that, I imagined light sources as they would be in reality: Light from the sky, street lamps, lights shining out of buildings, car lights. And I decided for a basic, all-over source of light to set the mood: Is it a sunny day? A clear night with a full moon? Do we have street lamps on?

Down those well lit streets: I later found out that using these lamps rarely makes sense – unless you want them to be part of the picture.

Then I tried to ‘translate’ the real world light sources into the minuscule H0 scale. I set those ‘naturalistic’ lights to see how they work: Do they make the important parts of the picture visible? – A question like that means that I work my way from darkness toward light, rather than lighting everything and then trying to arrange the shadows.

Once I have the important parts of the picture in broad light, there is something else to consider: Does the light evoke a sense of drama? Is the atmosphere anything I would expect? When I arrive at this stage, switching off lights can be as important as switching them on. Some of the later pictures in the series were supposed to be lit by the miniature street lamps. But once I had lit the scene, I just switched them off to see if they made any difference. They didn’t. So I put them away altogether, giving me more maneuvering room for the camera.

Not quite what I had planned: I went for a ‘plain’ daylight scene, but it lacked drama. So here’s what looks like a quite sunny late afternoon to me.

Proceeding like this, I might end up with something very different from what I started with. Sunny might turn into extremely shadowy and vice versa, just for the sake of composition, visibility, and drama.

Same but different… I used the same light source in all these pictures and only changed the light by moving the lamp around.

I considered adding a list of light sources I use but then decided against it. Because it is too much fun to grab any source of light you can get hold of and play around with it. I would not want to spoil that for you!

Did you ever play with light? Did you ever try out different sources of light? Do you have a favourite?

~ Tobias M. Schiel

Look again and you will see more than the puddles

Making a 52 project on the theme of reflections has made me realize that I really love water piles, raindrops and how water ripples around toys. Puddles are made for toys.

I have a softspot for puddles

I have always known that I have a softspot for water puddles. But doing this 52-week challenge have made me lie down on the ground for hours just to get a image. This is, or was at some point, something of a novelty for me. I do this to get to the light, the movement in the water, or the right background, the reflection and the right focus or even no focus.

Another insight that I gained from this project is that I just don’t settle for the first puddle that comes my way (I use to do that). Now I inspect them before I start. Is the light right? But it doesn’t end there because I also look at the environment – because it’s also very important. For some reason, parking lots work very well. Maybe because the puddles remain there? Maybe because I can work there without interruptions? I’m not sure. Continue reading Look again and you will see more than the puddles

Lightness: A Photo Challenge

Our most recent photo challenge in the Toy Photographers G+ Community is Lightness. We want to see how you can express a word with many meanings through your toy photography.  Because the month is nearly half over; its time to get serious about the competition. For this reason I want to talk about the idea of Lightness and what it means to me. I believe a single word can inspire creativity.

Here are a few meanings for the word Lightness and my own interpretations:

the state or quality of being light in weight

Flying shots are a staple of many toy photographers. The ability to create the illusion of flight, motion, swinging is important if your toys fly through the air, either on wings or by the use of webs. Continue reading Lightness: A Photo Challenge

The $5 Photograph

I’ll readily admit I have a lot of supplies for my toy photography – various toys, camera equipment and other gear.

I don’t have the latest and greatest anything, but I make what I have, and what I can further source, work for me.

This concept can be true at any range of your budget. While social media can make it seem like you need a $2000 camera and $300 figure to make it in this field/hobby that’s far from true. Continue reading The $5 Photograph

Feasting on Feedback

Sometimes you wanna go…

It’s been over a month since I pulled back on Instagram posting. And while I’ve been away, I’ve been feasting on feedback and gorging myself on inspiration in a new town.

Apart from pushing my posts here, the G+ monthly challenge, joining in the Raptor Pack day and #brickstameet, I haven’t posted any photos that weren’t either in support of an event or to promote another platform. Instead I’ve focussed on the blog and the G+ Toy Photographers community.

Quality or quantity
Quality or quantity
Quality or quantity a choice you have to make
Bad Religion – Quality or Quantity

And whilst on this self-imposed sabbatical, it’s dawned on me what I’d been craving. I‘ve been missing a sense of belonging, meaningful rapport, a sense of community. This is what I find in the G+ community; the clue’s in the title! Continue reading Feasting on Feedback

Foolish Lego

First off, I’d like to introduce myself; In the real world, my name is Danny. Yet, ever since my first steps on the Internet – somewhere in early nineties – I am Dwaas. I am the keeper of foolishlego.com, the home of my Lego photography and webcomic. ‘Foolish Lego’ and Dwaas are special to me. Both partly born out of the feeling of wanting to escape (or make sense of) reality and for the other part born out of wanting to share stories.

Have you ever felt the desire to do something whilst knowing you just couldn’t do it? I used to feel like that. I had many shards of stories in my mind; images, words of wisdom (or quite the opposite), small scenes, undefined thoughts, etc.

As a kid, I got the ideas out of my head by playing in my own little childhood world. As an adult that world broadened and I couldn’t figure out how to give my ideas form anymore; I’m not a gifted writer, nor can I draw any good. I tried a personal blog (in Dutch), talking about all kinds of things that were on my mind but it just wasn’t it. Continue reading Foolish Lego