Phonegraphy: All You Need In The Palm Of Your Hands”

What’s in your hand right now? It’s probably your cellphone, right? Maybe you’re at home or maybe you’re at work or perhaps you’re in the restroom during a first date. Hey, no judgement here.

The point is your phone is most likely with you at all times. That means that if you bring a toy along with you then you have everything you need for toy photography.

It’s what I used when I started shooting my figures. My first images were a bit stiff, editing to me meant boosting the saturation and maybe using a filter, oh and I also shot in square because I thought that was just the way it was on Instagram. But I never felt limited to when and where I could shoot, I only felt limited by my knowledge, understanding and experience as a photographer. Over time I learned more about the editing process, I appreciated the posing of an action figure and how to frame them to show a compelling image.

I eventually upgraded to a ‘real’ camera, my Canon Rebel SL1. Having a DSLR gave me the opportunity to learn more about exposure, focal lengths of lens, and other settings like that. There’s no denying the technical advantages but the creativity of your photos still stems from you.

I recently got an iPhone 7 earlier this year and started playing with a $2 app called ProCamera which allows you to adjust the exposure, shutter speed and ISO, it also gives you the ability to shoot at 16×9 plus other adjustments.

It’s truly incredible what you can capture with such a device. Whether you’re looking to capture more of the environment around your subject or zoom in on the finer details of your subject, it’s well within the capabilities of your smartphone. Because of the position of the camera lens and the size of your phone you’re able to get angles in environments that your DSLR simply can’t. That is huge.

I have since found myself alternating between my SL1 and my phone. Just like using a different toy will tell a different story, a different camera can shape the narrative of your photography as well. It all comes down to what you want to capture. Honestly, some of my favorite shots have come from what I’ve shot on my phone.

Seeing as how you most likely have your phone on you wherever you go, well then you’ve got the whole world in your hands. The whole wide world. Whatever your tool of choice is, the beauty of your work comes from your vision. So, whether you use a phone as your primary source or as an alternative method, you can capture truly amazing images that you’ll be proud of.

Austin Anderson (@toy.at.heart)

Why? by LouieBaton

The Toy Photographers Blog: What is your connection to LEGO?

Daniyel Garcia: I have been into LEGO ever since I was a kid. It was always the go-to toy for my brother and I. We had this old LEGO ideas magazine for LEGO castle system. There were many builds of yellow-bricked castles. Ours were multiple colored versions of the ideas in a smaller scale.

TTPB: How long have you been a toy photographer?

DG: I have been photographing my LEGOs with my beers before Instagram, I was using this beer tracking app called “Untappd,” which basically tracks every single beer I have drunk or tried. I was double posting on that and Instagram and started getting a lot of feedback on Instagram.

This fireside chat pic was the first pic to generate actual conversation with strangers thus boosting my hobby. It also got me a message from a marketing person at 21st Amendment.

TTPB: What is the origin of your Instagram name

DG: When my long time friend came back from one of his multiple tours in the Middle East, we had a conversation about the names of rappers. He asked how “Gucci Mane” is even a name, and we talked about “Timbaland”  also, and confirmed that brand names misspelled made great rapper names. I dubbed myself “Louie Baton,” a take on Louis Vuitton. I have been using that name on most of my online accounts, starting with XBOX live and other gaming accounts.

TTPB: I realize your main focus is beer and LEGO, has it always been this way?

DG: Pretty much for the past 4-5 years, beer has always been incorporated into my LEGO photography. It gives me ideas as to what I am going to make out of my LEGO.

This picture required 2 separate shots and photoshop. Still done in my old style, which really isn’t a style at all, really.

TTPB: What kind of equipment do you use: phone or DSLR?

DG: Right now I use a Samsung S6, basically my phone. I started off by using small Canon pocket camera, but I had to upload to a PC then move the picture from the PC to my phone. The Canon pocket camera took better pictures than my Sidekick LX (yes I know, I was totally into my Sidekick phones from the start, mainly because of the keyboard), but now newer phones basically take better pictures than most pocket cameras, and the fact that everything can be done on one device.

TTPB: Do you prefer studio or outdoor photography?

DG: I do prefer outdoor photography, but being mainly a stay-at-home dad, my outdoor options are limited. My wife allows me use of a corner in our bedroom to setup a Foldio lightbox next to a small beer fridge (that used to be the kid’s milk fridge).

This underwater shot, requires multiples shots and a review to get right. AND being in public trying to not look like a weirdo.

TTPB: What kind of studio set up do you have? Lights? Background? Light box?

DG: Just a $5 Ikea end table with a Foldio light box atop it. Sometimes, and this is rare, I’ll use a mirror/LCD TV combo only for backgrounds.

A more recent shot, employing the use of an LCD screen jpeg background, with prop and next to nothing in terms of building. The LCD technique learned from a friend @mbeach717 now @comradecrunk

TTPB: Do you really drink all that beer?

DG: Yes. I was addicted to just getting multiple check-ins on Untappd, but now it has come to the point where I get beermail sent to me so I can fashion a LEGO post for it. I am backlogged a bit, and there’s beer in the vegetable crisper and in the butter and eggs compartments in our main fridge.

TTPB: Did you know very much about beer before you started? Do you consider yourself an expert now?

DG: Before Untappd, my brother and I were keeping track of the beers we had on a blank 8.5×11″ sheet of paper kept on the fridge. It got filled front and back and we started a second page. A restaurant/beer chain opened up nearby called “Yard House” (yard house because they were serving beer in a tall bong-like glass that was a yard tall, for the past few years though they only do half-yards) and we memorized all of the tap handles. That was before how beer is now. It is now almost impossible to know every tap handle.

TTPB: Have you ever repeated a beer?

DG: Yes. There are some beers that are just that good, and/or just that popular that it warrants a second or third post. I feel that my LEGO building and photography skills have evolved at least a little bit over time.

I want to include this picture because it should show how far I have come along. There’s similar account(s) that coincidentally started doing beer and lego pics as soon as my account started taking off, and that still do this format. I am not proud of this picture at all, I am actually pretty ashamed of it right now.

TTPB: Have you ever been stumped for an appropriate image by a particular beer?

DG: Multiple times. More times than I can count. If it wasn’t sent to me, then I’ll secretly drink it. LOL. Well that’s also the beauty of Untappd. I feel like my posts aren’t wasted on there since I mainly use it for my own record keeping, whereas I have held myself up to a certain standard on Instagram.

TTPB: Do you have a goal for your beer and toy photography?

DG: Actually, now that the question has been asked. No. I just look forward to the next beer and the next tiny LEGO piece in the newest sets.

TTPB: What is the image you’re most proud of?

DG: I can’t say that there’s one single image I am proud of. I take pride in every build/photo that I do. Although, their have been builds/photos where I feel like I could have done better but for some reason gained a lot of traction, and builds/photos where I sat and took my time setting up and didn’t gain any traction.

This image is a pic of a build i did that im very proud of. i freestyle built it from the doorway as a start using a photo of the Toronado bar

TTPB: How long does it take you set up a photo?

DG: I try to do my LEGO builds in under 20 minutes. This does not account for the time I spend thinking about it, which is done while I am doing my daily tasks like driving my kid around or while I am brainstorming during one of my daily workouts/runs. The photo setup is only a couple minutes if any.

TTPB: Do you buy special parts when you plan for a photo for a particular beer?

DG: Yes. I have grown accustomed to researching new pieces, or even older pieces I do not yet own, on the LEGO bricks and pieces site, and on bricklink. I look at all new sets and look at what new piece is being introduced. LEGO sneaks in something new in most sets, and I feel the need to have it. Right now I need a dalmatian, I missed out on it in a past Advent calendar, and the firehouse it came in was too expensive for me, right now it’s available in the pricey Minifigure Fun at the Beach set, but I think he’s available on Bricks and Pieces on the LEGO site.

TTPB: What is the most surprising thing to have happened to you since your started?

DG: I still get surprised every time I am contacted about being paid or compensated for my work. I am still in the process of bringing myself up to this next level.

TTPB: Is it my imagination, or are you creating more complex custom builds for your photos?

DG: No, it is not your imagination at all. I am actually quite happy you have noticed. There are multiple other accounts that pose LEGO minifigures near beer and possibly have a silly little anecdote. That was my account 3-4 years ago. Not to distance myself from those origins, but it was getting stale for me. Here I have at my disposal an arsenal of LEGO and it wasn’t really being used. Now I think it through and  plan out every build to the tiniest 1×1 piece or LEGO friends accessory.

Basically, the start of building more elaborate scenes

TTPB: How does your family feel about your hobby? Your friends?

DG: My son loves that I go straight to the toy aisle so he can look too. He’s more into Hot Wheels Monster Jam, but he knows the deal. LEGO aisle first. That means both aisles, LEGO and DUPLO/Friends. I even buy him a set, pending I hopefully get the tiniest one piece I want out of that set. The wife gets it. And on vacations, I get to pick at least 1 beer place to visit. My friends just laugh. All know that I do stay away from my personal life and my hobby life from crossing paths online.

This was another “tricky” public shot. While in Hawaii, my wife allowed me to take this shot.

TTPB: Where do you want this to go from here? What do you envision the future to be?

DG: I envision what I am doing right now, as this is my hobby. Just building and drinking.

Daniyel Garcia (aka LouieBaton)

Martian Vacation

1. FIRST MARTIAN EXPLORERS
2. ALMOST TO THE SUMMIT
3. TAKING IN THE VIEW
4. ENTRANCE TO SOMETHING SPOOKY
5. REMAINS OF SOMETHING ANCIENT
6. I WANT TO PROBE YOU

How would a Grey spend his holiday? He would go RVing on Mars, of course.

These 6 images show some pretty exciting things to do on a vacation like: rock climbing, spelunking, camping, some touristy stuff, as well as an alien abduction. The last one is definitely not on my list.

With all my works, I try to create as much in camera as possible with only simple wire removal in Photoshop. My sets are large and comprised of dirt, rock, sand or anything I can use to create a realistic environment. After I shoot an image, it’s sent to my phone where I do some final color enhancements with Lightroom Mobile and off to Instagram it goes.

You can see this entire series on my website https://www.huehughes.com Or check out some of my many other Lego series. I’m constantly adding more.

~Hue Hughes


If you’d like to share your own six image narrative on the blog, contact Jennifer at jennifernicholewells@outlook.com.

Thinking inside the box

Let me admit that I am not a builder of models. I am a photographer. So, along with the budget, I also try to minimize the work I put into the sets (hence their slightly minimalist feeling).

To achieve this, I try to build sets which are so flexible that they can be put to multiple uses. And with the above room, I think it worked. The whole thing started when I held a wall with a pair of windows under the desk lamp. I had been ready to discard it because the windows had turned out to be too crooked for H0 scale use. But then I suddenly realized that they could still be used for lighting a room. Continue reading Thinking inside the box

Dave: An Origin Story

It seems like every once and awhile someone creates a post about how they got into toy photography, and what they get out of it.  I figure its time that I go ahead and take a swing at that particular pitch and answer the how and why of my own particular journey into the realm of toy photography.

Ready?  Here we go…

The Shocking Truth Revealed!

I got into toy photography because I didn’t want to put on pants.

I’m not kidding.

Come along on a journey with me and I’ll tell you the tale.  It was a dark, cold, wintery evening back in December of 2012 (I’m assuming it was cold and wintry; I don’t actually remember the weather. It was definitely evening in December, so it seems plausible.  It makes for a better story so I’m going with it.)  

I had signed up for the Chrysta Rae Scavenger Hunt over on the Plus.  The hunt involves shooting an image for 10 separate words, one of which was “candy cane”.  If you recall the evening was (possibly) cold and wintry. The kids were in bed, so it may not surprise you that  I didn’t feel like going out of the house to find a shot.  So I decided to stage my own.  I looked around and discovered my old LEGO set from my long lost childhood. The kitchen contained a box of candy canes, and I scrounged an old Christmas tree skirt.  The solution was obvious (to me at least), and soon I had created this shot:

Continue reading Dave: An Origin Story

Foolish Lego – Pt 2

In my last blogpost I talked about how I started in toy-photography. . Although my main concern at first was creating decent photos, my main interest came down to story-telling. While single photography brought me pleasure and such, I always felt there was something missing.

As everyone in this world does at some point in their life, I decided I wanted to write a book someday. I’m no different. I’m a person that usually contemplates a project over and over… and over again. Yet, in the end I don’t even start working on it. This time was different; I even took some lessons in creative writing. The results from that course weren’t all that bad, but I understood that actually writing a book would be way out of my league, so I shelved my plans on writing a book again. A few years later I came across another phenomenon on the Internet; Lego-comics! Continue reading Foolish Lego – Pt 2