Say It Loud…

It’s not easy being a toy photographer. 

If you happen to take photos of Lego outside I’m sure you’ve had a few awkward moments. You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones where people look at you in that weird “What are you doing?” sort of way. Or how about the time you told your friends (or family) that you photograph toys and there only response was a blank look. 

We have all been there. 

Instead of feeling ashamed of this wonderful hobby, each one of these interactions is an opportunity to engage, educate and  hopefully create a connection with a like minded individual. The trick is finding a way to connect in a way that is both accessible and informative.  

I’ve been rather glib when people ask me what I do, I simply respond that I take pictures of Lego. They immediately give me that blank look indicating a total lack of understanding until I whip out my iPad and show them. Generally their response is enthusiastic and we have a great conversation. 

After reading “Show Your Work!” by Austin Kleon I realize I have to do a better job. I need to be respectful of my audience and myself by providing an answer that better describes what I’m doing, is brief and accessible. I was considering going with “I’m a bookkeep that takes pictures of Lego mini figures in the wild.” This is not entirely accurate but it would certainly start a conversation.

I’m proud of the toy photography community I am a part of. I want the world to know what an amazing art movement this is. So I am going to stop being glib and take more time to help people understand what is going on. 

In the mean time, the next time you’re lying on the ground and getting “that look” from some passerby, know you are in good company. 

~ xxsjc

Have you ever been stopped on the street and asked what you are doing?
Do you feel foolish lying on the ground to get that perfect shot?
How do you describe your photographic hobby to you family?

A behind the scenes photo of me in action today. 


  1. Again a very inspiring post, Shelly. Even though I am not a shy person in public by any means, it is a whole different story when it comes to shooting Lego photos. It feels as if doing an unsuitable thing in public!.. Esp. I don’t want people at work to know my passion besides a few close colleagues.
    Yet never I have encountered someone who did not admire it when I shared some samples from my gallery. (I mean, after they found about it themselves)
    But the most interesting part of my story is that I am very comfortable with it when I am abroad on a trip. Maybe it is because I live in a more conservative society in my country compared to places I visit. Or maybe it is the comfort of knowing that I will probably never ever see those people again 🙂
    Still, there are many people that I “want” to be aware of my work, but only if they find it out themselves..

    • Serhat, thank you for sharing your story. I am glad you have found the courage and freedom to take your photos when you travel. For me these are often the most fun any way. Exploring a new place through the eyes of macro / toy photography is such fun! I hope more people find out about your work, surreptitiously or otherwise.

      Cheers my friend!

  2. Funnily enough, the first comment you ever posted against one of my pictures was on the same lines as your blog. One of Karen’s (my significant other) cousins made an inference that I was a bit old to be playing with Lego. I subsequently posted a Lego picture saying that I may play with Lego, but I don’t have a games console. To this, you posted a comment saying, never apologise, never explain.

    There are a fair amount of people I know who follow me on IG. I often get likes from a few of them, but the majority stay silent and I do have, at the back of my mind, that little rattle of what people think of me when they see the toy photography that I do?

    This is probably more about paranoia than anything else, but I have to sadly admit that I’d be too self-conscious to do any Lego photography in public; unless, of course, no one else was about. In fact, all of my toy photography is done in private.

    Having said that, the afore-mentioned cousin (although I’d suspect it would be more his wife) bought me a Lego-head storage box last Christmas and their three-year-old son adores my feed.

    • Cole, Lol! I remember that. 😀 I guess I will have to alter my policy to “Never apologize but maybe explain a little.”

      I have the same experience with my real life friends. They follow me on IG but rarely like or comment. I chalk this up to their problem, not mine. Jealousy, envy, genuine disinterest are all likely culprits. I don’t expect everyone to get it and luckily those who don’t are polite enough to remain silent. I would venture to guess you have a few of those as well.

      If we ever meet up in person we will go on a photo safari together and I can show you how much fun outdoor photography isI Maybe it is not so suited for standup comedy, but I am sure you would enjoy it.

      Until then…

  3. My close family know I do, ie my kids and my husband, although he really does not get it full stop. My in laws know I do, as part of a photography project I was doing, so aren’t too surprised when I whip them out in various locations. The rest of my family don’t know in general, and that’s how I’d like to keep it with them.

    I have been question in the past, once was at the local tennis club where I Was doing a maintenance job, and I took advantage of the courts being empty, well that was until the OAP’s lunchtime group turned up , and wondered what I was doing lying on the court. lol They were quite interested in my photography project. Normally though I don’t care what people think these days, if they want to ask, I’ll explain. I did have someone say once as I was lying on edge of a footpath by a stream, cool, did you see it was a Lego man they were taking a photo of 🙂

  4. This is a wonderful post! I take most of my photos indoors so I don’t have exactly the same issues but I did recently get a snide comment from a fellow photographer at a photo meetup a couple of months ago. The comment, actually the tone of the comment, hurt but it’s not going to stop me from taking minifig photos. I always love your bog and your photos!

    • Thanks Lyn! You are a master of the indoor shot. I wish I was with you when the fellow photographer made his snide comment. I am sure I would have had a few choice comments for him.

      Honestly I take photos outdoors because it is easier. I can rely more on the scenery and less on my own brains to tell a story. So my hat is off to all those, like yourself, who take such great photos indoors.

      And thank you so much for being a loyal reader!

    • I wish you had been there too 🙂

      It’s funny because I view taking photos outdoors as “more difficult” than what I do indoors 🙂 So I always admire the work of you and the other photographers who get such great outdoor minifig shots.

  5. Great post Shelly! I’ve been photographing toys of all sorts for about six years now. Started with stuffed animals then it was McDonald’s Happy Meal toys and worked my way up (down?) to Lego. Toy photographers are generally a fun group and share freely, I am thrilled to find like-minded individuals and I’m in awe of some of the great work they share. My daughter shake her head often and other family members think I’m just daft… I love it; it’s fun and creative and keeps me out of trouble!

    • It’s great to have friends and family who accept you for who you are. In my conversations with other people on the inter webs that is not always the case. Of course when you start lying on the ground in public places, it puts a bit of a different spin on it. 🙂

  6. No explanations, no excuses, just go and shoot. That’s what I try to do whenever I go outside with the little plastic things. But then, I do not go out that much with them, I do not face these situations that often because I’m more of a destop hack.

    I remember only one comment from a stranger while shooting a toy photo outdoors. I was shooting a Rodney Copperbottom figure (from a cereal box) on the top of The Empire State Building in New York in June 2005, when a guy leaned to me and, seeing what I was doing, burst to laughter, patted me on my shoulder and said “Wonderful! You just made my day.” We ended up having a little chat afterwards, he was a nice fellow. 🙂

    • That is a great story. More often than note our interactions with people over photographing toys in public run along these lines. Like minded individuals are usually the ones who step forward. What a memorable moment for you as well! Thanks for sharing and commenting. 🙂

  7. Kiwi

    I’m really glad you wrote this article about being a toy photographer. I get these awkward looks and people asking me all the time, what I’m doing. Your article makes me look at things in a different perspective and makes me realize I could explain myself more in detail for people to understand too. Thank you xxsjc!

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