Shooting LEGO minifigs is like a game for me, a quest to improve my photography. I invent personas for these iconic plastic toys, build MOCs for them and create worlds around them. With each photo, I rack up experience points, trying to level up my photography. With each new level achieved, I unlock a new skill: shot setups get more creative, shooting becomes more intuitive, editing goes faster. It’s a fun game, this open-ended free roam game of LEGO photography, and I intend to become a powerful wizard.
I’ve been shooting LEGO minifigs for a little over two years now and it’s taken me through a number of “boss fights”, the hulking enemy, the daunting obstacle I need to overcome before I can reach the next level: shooting full manual, mastering DOF, using reflectors/bounce cards to fill shadows, experimenting with low-light and long exposure, creating bokeh with LED lights, converting images to black and white in Lightroom, compositing with Photoshop, focus stacking, among others.
In the gaming world, the only way to defeat the boss is with correct approach and special knowledge. You have to pay attention, grind at it and use all the skills and tools in your inventory. It’s the same with photography.
The boss fight ahead of me at the moment is evaluating locations, finding interesting environments or backgrounds in my everyday surroundings for my LEGO minifigs. I look at other LEGO photographer’s work and I’m slightly envious that many seem to have access to these wild locations with carpets of velvety moss, tranquil sand dunes or whatever. While that might be true, I also know from shooting minifigs for 2 years that all you need is a little bit to pull off something big. This is the special knowledge, but what’s the correct approach to defeat this boss and level up?
I asked Shelly how to find good backgrounds and she told me to make the best of what you have. Just try it. So here’s what I have on my patio:
And here’s how I made the best of it:
My approach was to shoot this from a higher angle than I normally use so that the brick the moss was growing on and the brick wall behind are completely out of frame. However, this angle included a lot of that unattractive brown dirt. I tried shooting wide open but the dirt was still pretty ugly and distracting for me. I wanted a lot of bokeh there so I screwed on a close-up filter and moved in closer because it made the focal plane shorter and the DOF incredibly tight. I got the bokeh, but then the faun’s ears weren’t in focus but I decided that was an acceptable trade-off.
So how did I do? Did I defeat the big, bad, background boss? Was I able to evaluate the location and make the best of it? I think so. Plus 100 experience points! Now to keep grinding at this while I work my way to the next level: flash photography.