Off the Shelf

We’ve discussed many sources of inspiration here on the blog. Things like exhibitions, a change in seasoncards, and challenges can get the creative juices flowing. This summer, Shelly wrote a piece about the books that help inspire her photography. I have a reference shelf of my own, though it’s not populated by studies on photography or creativity…

I love “Art of” books, usually those about my favorite films. I’ve talked before about being inspired by movies, and this is an extension of that.

Shelly’s image of her bookshelf inspired me to recreate it with my own!

If you’re unfamiliar, the “Art of” books I’m referring to usually center around a specific movie or television series. They’re collections of behind the scenes information, character and story details, and – most importantly – concept art, storyboards, and production stills.

“It’s time for Woody’s roundup, he’s the very best!”

When I’m in a creative funk, flipping through these books can help spark new ideas, or force me to think of my potential subjects in new and interesting ways.

There are hundreds of these books out there! If you’re working with any of LEGO’s licensed sets, or with action figures from properties like Star WarsAlien, or Marvel, you can easily find tomes to choose from. I have “Art of” books for Pixar, The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Incredibles, Wonder Woman, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Man of Steel, and Mad Max: Fury Road.

Apart from the images – which have been helpful even for simple shot compositions – the actual text provides knowledge that I might have otherwise overlooked. Those details then help fuel the stories I tell!

LEGO Books

The other half of my shelf is filled with more specific books about LEGO. Things like Matthew Reinhart’s LEGO Pop-Up, a Journey through the LEGO Universe or our friend Vesa’s LEGO Star Wars: Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy.

Daydreaming of Hoth

Because these books specifically highlight LEGO – my photographic subject of choice – they are a bit more successful at igniting my creativity. I’ve been inspired by Vesa’s work for years, and I can’t tell you how valuable it’s been to have it accessible in such a tangible way.

lego books

I’m also a big fan of DK Publishing’s books like I Love that Minifigure or the character encyclopedias for LEGO Star Wars and LEGO DC Comics Superheroes. They usually come with a rare minifigure, and are packed with character details and minifig information. I’ve added many a minifig to my collection because I saw them in these books, and have since taken dozens of shots with them.

The Cult of LEGO

cult of lego

Last but not least is a book called The Cult of LEGO. Rather than simple referential information, it’s about the history of LEGO fandom. The book is chock full of information about various subsects and communities, and has countless photos of amazing LEGO builds and artwork.

Nothing sparks creativity for me like viewing the work of others. It inspires me to up my game, improve my skills, and tell better stories!

With Christmas just around the corner, perhaps you should consider adding these to your wishlist. Or buy them for a fellow photographer or artist!

Do you have any referential or art collection books that you use to spark your creativity? Tell us all about them in the comments below! 

– James

If you’ve made it this far, come continue the discussion over at our G+ community! And while you’re at it, subscribe to our weekly email round up so that you never miss a post!

Maintaining Momentum

We toy photographers sure are a busy bunch! Shelly has turned to setting deadlines to reach her goals, and Brett balances his full plate with intentional, restrictive time management in the editing room.

As we draw closer and closer to the end of the year, I’ve found that I too am struggling to keep up with the passage of time. Projects I envisioned or began earlier in the year have fallen by the wayside, photo ideas have gone untaken, and I feel constantly behind schedule. In fact, this very post is being written last-minute thanks to traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. I rushed the setting sun in order to nab my required photos in time!

“It’s late, it’s late, and I haven’t taken a photo yet!”

I have a few things to blame for my being behind schedule. 2017 as a whole has been a tumultuous year for me personally, which has thrown any sense of routine or planning out the window. I’ve started on several big photo projects, have been building a freelance business, and have exciting secretive things planned that I’ll be able to announce and fully discuss soon.

With holidays, family gatherings, and end-of-the-year anxiety in the mix, I’ve began to lose one of the most important things for success: Momentum. 

“Success is like a snowball. You gotta get it moving and the more you roll in the right direction, the greater it gets.” -Steve Ferrante

When I lose momentum, I lose focus.

I lose the drive to continue with responsibilities or ambitions. Even the smallest of tasks begin to feel overwhelming, and the finish line escapes view completely.

This loss in momentum comes in waves, and can be caused by a variety of things. Depression, anxiety, self doubt, crazy work schedules, a loss of motivation, poor health, “real world” responsibilities… the list goes on and on.

“I’m just going to rest. Just… for… a… minute… zzzzz”

Actually regaining momentum can be difficult to do. What’s helpful can change depending on the situation. Regardless of what you find helpful, one key element can keep the momentum building: Consistency. 

“One way to keep momentum going is to have constantly greater goals.” – Michael Korda

Consistency compounds.

Even the smallest tasks, repeatedly and consistently completed, can build your momentum. This time of year, I find that a routine is supremely helpful to me. So, every day, I try to go to bed at the same time. If I do this consistently, I’ll eventually make it a habit,  and I’ll stop staying up so late that it throws off my other goals and responsibilities. Then I find other things affecting my routine, and I repeat the process.

I find that giving myself deadlines (and sticking to them), trying to accomplish at least one small artistic goal each day, keeping up on my photo walks, and planning my creative output can all build up or continue my momentum.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. But it’s well worth the effort!

What have you found that helps you maintain your momentum? Do you lose momentum at the end of the year? Tell us your tips in the comments!

-James

If you’ve made it this far, come continue the discussion over at our G+ community! And while you’re at it, subscribe to our weekly email round up so that you never miss a post!

“I’m late, I’m late!’

Ready, Set, Edit!

I wrote about why I wouldn’t manipulate my photos beyond the simple edit before. I wrote about how the perfectionist in me would still see me in front of my computer hours later if I embarked down this road.

However, I’ve established a middle ground. And this medium is thanks to my old friend, time.

I’ve set the stopwatch. I’ve set a self-imposed constraint of 20-minutes for photo manipulations. Once the countdown stops at zero, Photoshop stops too!

Setting a limit puts a stop to the procrastination, the over finessing, and wasting away hours at the computer. Who’s got the time to spend hours and hours editing one photo? Not me!

Rest your head on me
I’ll smooth it nicely
Rub it better ’til it bleeds
And, and you’ll believe me
P J Harvey – Rub ‘Til It Bleeds

Continue reading Ready, Set, Edit!

Thinking of photography – What makes an image?

I don’t know how you look at your photography, maybe you are thinking just like me or maybe in a totally different way. Last night when I couldn’t sleep I let my mind wonder away around this question: “What makes an image?”

And thinking of it I came to the following answer. An image is:

• a mix of pixels or grains (I never meant to exclude analog photographers)
• a result of a technical knowledge
• a copy of the reality as it is
• a story about the motive
• or a story about the photographer Continue reading Thinking of photography – What makes an image?

Absolute Yes

Absolute Yes is not a new concept, I’ve touched on it before. In fact it was my New Year’s resolution this year. My goal was to let five words – wonder, growth, friendship, contentment and giving – define my year. Now I’m paying the price.

Not unlike Brett, I find that life has become far too busy. Too busy in fact to comfortably fit everything I want to do in. I seem to be always working at least several days or even weeks behind schedule. Every day I make a detailed to-do list just to stay on track. I blame my five words of Absolute Yes for this situation. Specifically three of them: growth, friendship and giving. Continue reading Absolute Yes

All aboard the tin TARDIS

Last week as I was sorting out my handbag I kept finding random bits of LEGO in the bottom. A mug, a wand, the wing of a chimera figure. You know, the normal stuff that lives with the crumbs and crumpled receipts.

It got me thinking about the toys we carry with us, regardless of where we’re going, or what we’re doing. It got me wondering about how many people there are out there with small collections of toys in their bags, ready and waiting for photographic inspiration to strike!

In addition to random toys lost in my bag, I carry a tin TARDIS. A tin that is, like its full sized counterpart, deceptively bigger on the inside.

Continue reading All aboard the tin TARDIS

Don’t talk to strangers

Kristina’s most recent post made me think about myself and how I respond to strangers asking me about my work. And I respond quite similarly to how she does, although maybe for slightly different reasons.

I too prefer to photograph alone. Sometimes with my boyfriend in tow, but he’s often paying attention to other things. That, and he’s not a photographer or giving unwanted input, so the act of photographing still, in a sense, is solitary.

The Approach

While I’m mostly a studio toy photographer, I sometimes venture into the great outdoors. When I do so too close to home, my neighbors get curious. “What have you got there?” “What are you doing?” And when I answer, admittedly probably down playing my passion, I get confused nods and oh okays. I very rarely will show a photo straight from my camera – the photo’s only mine until I review it, edit it and deem it time to post it. Continue reading Don’t talk to strangers

Photo or Faux Tow

When is a photo a faux tow? Is photo editing a false pull; drawing people to an artificial interpretation of reality? Or, is reality already blurred when we’re taking photos of toys?

I used to try to capture all I could in camera. Sure, I’d tweak and enhance what was captured, but I steered clear of opening Photoshop to add anything. If I did open Photoshop, it was to take away dust, dirt and imperfections. My reasoning for avoiding Photoshop was I didn’t want to unleash the perfectionist in me. Continue reading Photo or Faux Tow

Ode to the LEGO Ladder

I really like the LEGO ladder. So much so, I thought I would write an Ode to the LEGO ladder. I think the LEGO ladder is a frequently over looked accessory. Sure we see plenty of cats, dogs, teddy bears, coffee mugs and the like well represented in toy photography. But when did you last see a LEGO ladder used?

James made a great case recently about how accessories can bring depth to your story or add an unusual twist. I even wrote a piece a while back about how the venerable teddy bear seems to be everyone’s favorite prop. Now it’s time to take a closer look at the possibilities of the humble LEGO ladder. Continue reading Ode to the LEGO Ladder

Fundamentally Fun

Things have been pretty heavy on the blog of late. There have been some meaty subjects to sink our teeth into, which is cool. But, as I vegetarian, I thought it time to step away from all this meaty content, and get back to my roots. Fun.

Essentially Entertaining

I started posting LEGO photos back in 2012, with simple photos accompanied by silly captions and puns. Scouring the interwebs for puns was the source of inspiration for my photos. If a pun made me giggle, I’d then create a LEGO version of it.

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”
– Dr. Seuss

This was back in my early days on Instagram. It was before Instagram was flooded with users hell-bent on chasing numbers and fixated on follower counts. I think most of my early photos ended up in the feeds of 100 followers. But that was cool, I wasn’t doing it for numbers; I was doing it for fun. Continue reading Fundamentally Fun