I’ve done a 365-project before and something seems to happen in mid-October. It’s that part of the year when the days get shorter and the rain gets more intense. Because I am a photographer who prefer to work with daylight, this time of the year always is unexpected. Until mid-October hits me the light has been my friend.
During work days
During work days, I photograph the kitchen with flash as a light source. During the project mid-October meant mer than the fact that I had to find the flash. I also realized that my ideas and my lack of attributes make the images feel predictable. And a bit boring to do. Many days this project feels like one other thing I have to do.
My doubts are high and I wonder what this 365-project will give me…
My first 365-project gave me invaluable knowledge about technics. Doing an image a day made me find my language or at least the beginning of what would become my language as a photographer.
My second taught me to develop my style, my expression and to work with the flash, a controlled light as a tool.
This is my third, what have I learned more than October means that the light disappears and with that also the desire and the will to creat. I do not yet see what I have learned, but I have some insights:
The first one is that ”a lego-figure” is a tough toy to vary a story around. I would say that as a toy for a story it requires attributes. Many legophotographers like to use attributes like faces to enhance their story. I use a bit of attribute but my toy box is limited, by choise. I prefer to let the viewer read emotions / mood in the image via the light and the choice of location, time, angle and composition.
In my first 365-project the lego-figure was an attribute, and looking back at that I think the next toy-project will be with another sort of toy – no more – lego for me… When I do a new toy-porject I’ll probably choose use lego-figures be just attributes. I am currently doubting that I am a pure lego photographer.
I also doubt what the value of a 365-project. To take a picture a day is not really a challenge, it’s mostly a matter of planning.
How to Steal Like an Artist is the title of a book you should read. Yes…you! The sub title of this amazing (and short) books is: 10 things nobody told you about being creative. And if you’re reading this blog, then you’re a creative. So you should read it.
We all like to look at other people’s toy imagery and get ideas for our own photos. Recently I had a conversation with a friend who stopped following a fellow photographer because he said: he learned everything he needed to learn from her. A shocking statement to make, but at least an honest one. We all look and learn. Its how we get better at our craft.
In my early days on Instagram I would also look at other peoples images and take my cues from their work. I incorporated many of their ideas into my own work in my search for my own style and voice. I looked at all sorts of different toy photographers. Photographers who worked with a variety of toys. Even though we are all toy photographers we approach the subject in (hopefully) unique ways. I enjoy learning from these differences. Today, I still do skim through Instagram and Flickr, although not to the extent I used to. Now when I look at others peoples images, I’m looking for accessories or mini figures I may want to purchase.
My style of short depth of field, crisp focus, creamy bokeh, lots of empty space surrounding the figures is a style that emerged over time. This style evolved, not only from taking thousands of toy photos, but from my earlier work as an underwater photographer. I put the ideas of many other photographers through my unique filter and came up with my own look that, even to this day, is easily recognizable.
So how do you steal like an artist in a way that does not directly copy another toy photographer. It’s actually pretty easy, and based on what I’ve been seeing lately, needs to be repeated.
Good Ways to Steal Like an Artist
Honor your heroes by not copying them
Study the ‘why‘ of what they are doing, not the ‘what‘
Steal from many creative people, not just one
credit those you’re emulating
transform what they’re doing into your own work
remix the ideas that inspire you
Bad Ways to Steal like an artist
By copying your hero’s you degrade them
Stealing means you only superficially understand what they’re doing
steal from only one person
plagiarize, this means stealing without giving credit
blatantly rip off
What to copy is little bit trickier. Don’t just steal the style, steal the thinking behind the style. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to seelike your heroes. – Austin Kleon
It can be a fine line between copying, emulating, stealing or being influenced by another artist. If you’re in doubt where you fall on this spectrum, there is an easy way to solve the dilemma: give credit to the artist that inspires you.
No New Ideas Under the Sun
I think most people would be hard pressed not to see an image of a stormtrooper in a snow storm and not think of Vesa Lehtimäke. If you’re taking photos along these lines, you can easily add a simple line to your caption: taken in the style of Avanaut. By doing this you’re not only crediting the originator but honoring your hero. Also, you may unwittingly be making a friend.
We all know there are no new ideas under the sun. No one is saying that Vesa owns every image of a stormtrooper ever taken in a snow storm. But until you have put this simple idea successful through your own filter, put your own twist on it, understood the ‘why’ of his images, not the how, then you should pay homage to the master.
Imitation is not flattery – Austin Kleon
Trust me, if you do this, you will create an image that is completely your own. You will not have look over your shoulder to see if anyone notices that you just ripped off another artists idea. And really isn’t that what we all want to be doing, creating original work?
How to successfully steal from your heroes is only one of the many great topics covered in Steal Like an Artist. Other chapters that have inspired me are:
Side Projects and Hobbies are Important
Geography is No Longer Your Master
Whatever your creative bent is, I’m sure you will find some ideas in this book worthy of your attention.
If you want to be a successful creative its important to know the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to steal your ideas. In the toy photography community there are many different styles that all have their origin with a specific artist. Avanaut isn’t the only toy photographer with a distinctive style. Other artists that have been pioneers in their genres are Matt Rhode, Johnny Wu, Kristina Alexanderson, Mike Stimpson, Mitchel Wu, Lynn Moore, Luigi Priori and Brett Wilson to only name a few. I respect and admire these photographers who have managed to carve out their own unique style amongst the clutter of social media. When I see one of their images, I have no doubt who’s work I’m looking at.
Even with all the hundreds of toy photographers flooding social media with their creations, there is plenty of room to create your own distinct style. There are many photographers that have managed to do this before you and there will be many who succeed after you.
The only question I want to ask you is this: do you steal like an artist, or just steal?
If you’re attracted to informative articles like this, about toy related photography, thenyou should sign upfor our weekly email round up. At the end of the week we will send you a recap of all the weeks posts.
Avid travelers, occasional tourists, whoever you are, if you’re a toy photographer, when you leave town you probably bring a toy figure or two (or ten).
Historic Artistic Travel
From the very early days of photography, travel photography has been a part of the medium. From the time photography came to be, those who had the capability to travel were, and they were creating momentos of their travels – from Francis Bedford’s pyramids, George Wilson’s Temple of Jupiter, Francis Frith’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to the works of Maxime Du Camp, Solomon Nunes Carvalho, James Ricalton all created in the 1840s & 50s. And the history of artistic travel doesn’t stop there painters make images of their world travels as well.
Perhaps the most iconic toy photography example would be Brian McCarty’s War Toys, a project he began in 2011. In this, he travels to war zones and creates images while there using locally sourced toys to illustrate stories shared with him by local children. I’m simplifying his work overly so, so please learn more here.
Why We Do It
All in all, humans like saving their memories, they like souvenirs, not to mention, we’d have very limited world views if there were no images of other places and cultures.
As toy photographers, the items we photograph are often an extension of ourselves and how we feel about the world. Because of this they become perfect representations of our feelings toward the places we visit.
We can savor our memories, while creating new narratives around them. Explore a new place an inch from ground level. Tell tales and weave experiences that no other person who has visited that place can.
We give toys memory and a sense of adventure by allowing them to travel the world.
Did you know 2 and 5 are the only prime numbers that end with a 2 or a 5?
And did you know, 40 when written “forty” is the only number with letters in alphabetical order, while “one” is the only one with letters in reverse order when written in English? And “four” is the only number in the English language that is spelt with the same number of letters as the number itself?
I love maths
111,111,111 × 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321. In fact, multiplying ones will always give you a palindromic result. 11 x 11 = 121
Maths and palindromes? So many dynamos! *read that backwards
I even love math rock bands like Nomeansno and Shellac, and mathcore bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Locust.
Yep, I’m a delight be have a beer with! I’ll bore you with numbers facts whilst The Locust blast their complex, aggressive weirdness from the stereo.
A week of number fun
This past week has been an intriguing one regrading numbers.
On Monday LEGO shared an image of mine on their social media channels, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
The featured posts collected 34k Instagram likes, 1.6k Facebook likes and 512 Twitter likes in the first 24 hours.
And what did all these numbers mean for my numbers?
In the 24 hours following I amassed a total of 78 more Instagram followers. Sure, this number doesn’t take into account the average daily follower losses I’ve experienced since the algorithm screwed things up and I renounced my Instagram allegiance.
This is a picture
Of things going a little out of hand.
This is a sculpture
Of a couple of things we gotta get straight Shellac – This Is A Picture
I’m not disparaging my appreciation that LEGO chose to share one of my photos. Not at all! I’m incredibly grateful that LEGO wanted to share my junk. I’m not questioning the gesture; it’s the platform on which it occurred I’m questioning.
As someone who loves numbers I was curious to explore these numbers a little more.
I remember when LEGO followed me on Instagram in 2014. I woke that morning and thought something was broken; overnight my follower count had exploded. Yet, now LEGO share a photo of mine and the impact on my account is barely noticeable.
Coincidentally, on the same day last week Google+ promoted my account in their G+ Create community. This feature resulted in 30 new followers.
Let’s look at some numbers. Yay!
An Instagram account with 2.3million followers shares my photo and I end up with a percentage gain of 0.26%.
(30030 – 29952) / 29952 x 100 = 0.26
Google+ feature me in a community of 730 members and the result is a 14.6% gain in followers.
(227 – 198) / 198 x 100 = 14.6
And what percentage of those community’s members or followers chose to pursue the features? Well, 4.11% of the G+ community, compared with 0.003% from Instagram.
(30 / 730) x 100 = 4.11%
(78 / 2300000) x 100 = 0.003%
Yeah, I get that the number changes on these days may have been shaped from outside these two events. And yes, I get that there may have been fluctuations in these numbers that weren’t direct result of the features. I understand that the mathematical outcomes aren’t purely the result of the features I’ve mentioned. And yeah, I get that lower base numbers require lower number additions or subtractions to impact on the results proportionately.
Out with the old. This is the new. The minor details have been overlooked. Plastic people making plastic trees grow out of concrete, This landscape lacks intellectual quality. Emergency. The Locust – Stucco Obelisiks Labelled as Trees
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
However, I still say that these numbers illustrate how broken Instagram is now. I’d argue that the gap between the numbers from these two platforms wouldn’t have been so great a few years ago. In fact, the Instagram numbers would’ve overshadowed those from G+. But they don’t now!
When a new following, that’s only discovered by a user checking through a following list or checking through the activity of those they follow, results in a bigger gain than a feature in a feed, something doesn’t compute. Perhaps it’s because that post is now buried below advertising, stories and the algorithm, requiring greater digging to unearth than mining through the activities of a feed you follow?
When a community of 730 is alerted to someone, and it results in 30 new followers, whereas an account with 2.3 million followers results in 78, those maths don’t add up. No matter what type of trickery I try to apply!
I’ve never made a fuss about follower numbers. I truly appreciate those that do follow, but it’s not why I do what I do, or why I started.
This post is neither a gloat nor a grumble; it’s just some curious maths!
If you’ve made through all my blathering and ended up here,you should sign upto our weekly email round up where you’ll get a recap of all the babbling from the week.
And while you’re doing things, you should definitely join our G+ Community where we hold monthly contests with prizes and lots of other cool stuff too.
To celebrate the impending Halloween holiday, the fine folks at Google+ announced a fun opportunity yesterday that I encourage everyone in our community to take part in: #Googleween!
Here’s what they said about the special hashtag:
Do you have Halloween plans this year? People around the world celebrate this spirited day in their own ways, and we are excited to see what you are going to do.
For those of you making costumes or decorating your houses, share your tips and progress on Google+. If you prefer to spend this day watching horror movies with friends, tell us about your favorites!
Whether your Halloween plans include haunted houses, trick-or-treating, or your children’s school costume parade, share your day on Google+!
Spread the spookiness all through Google+ using the #Googleween hashtag on your posts!
Normally I wouldn’t devote a blog post to a hashtag event, but as pointed out by our very own Tony Tulloch, creative posts are often re-shared and highlighted on Google+. So, this could be a great opportunity to not only share your Halloween-themed shots, but get the chance to receive a bit of extra exposure while you’re at it.
But wait, there’s more!
Speaking of Google+, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you about this month’s photo challenge on our Google+ community! There are three days left to take photos of $1 toys. The winning entry will not only be featured on our community banner, but receive a cool prize as well.
For the price of one Halloween candy bar, you can snap a great holiday-themed pic and kill two birds with one stone!
Happy shooting, and happy Halloween!
If you enjoy posts like this (and fun contests!), we invite you to join our G+ community.
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Toy photography yoga is a little know branch of the more common discipline of yoga. Toy photography yoga, like the other varieties of yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, helps to promote physical and emotional well being.
noun | yo·ga |\ ˈyō-gə \
capitalized :a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation
:a system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and sometimes meditation derived from Yoga but often practiced independently especially in Western cultures to promote physical and emotional well-being
We’ve talked about putting the fun back into toy photography, but did you know there’s also a health component to the practice of toy photography yoga? By practicing toy photography yoga on a regular basis you will exercise your body, practice breath control and achieve a sense of well being not found in traditional forms of yoga or photography.
To help you get your own toy photography yoga practice started, I’ve assembled a selection of basic positions. Please don’t feel intimidated by the following images; these are toy photography professionals and well versed in the art of toy photography yoga. With a little practice I’m sure you too will be able to achieve these feats of contortion.
First rule of toy photography yoga: it’s more fun when practiced with friends!
Seated Forward Bend
The Seated Forward Bend is a great position for the toy photographer who uses a mobile device for capturing images. With the legs in an outward position the photographer maintains a stable position while keeping the hands free. With the torso in an near upright position you’re able to maintain steady and controlled breathing. Th Seated Forward Bend is a great starting position for the beginning outdoor toy photographer. Even in a crowded situations, like this beach scene, you will be able to set up your photo without drawing attention to yourself. Thus avoiding unwanted conversations with strangers.
The Cobra Pose is a popular yoga pose amongst toy photographers. This requires the toy photographer to lay flat on the ground. This is a great position when you’re practicing on asphalt or concrete, but less comfortable in damp or uneven terrain. Notice the arms tight against the body for support and legs flared out for added stability. This is great position when you’re worried about precise focus and camera shake. With the upward bend of the back you’re able to stretch your abdomen and maintain maximum breath control. Maintaining a steady breathing pattern helps to reach a relaxed, zen like state; perfect when you want your photo to find you. While the Cobra Pose is a relatively comfortable position to maintain, its not an ideal position in crowed areas. The beginning outdoor toy photographer may feel self conscious in such a conspicuous position.
Reverse Corpse Pose
The Reverse Corpse Pose is perfect for the advanced toy photographer. As you can see this is a relatively easy pose to achieve once you decide you’re going to sacrifice all dignity and your clothes for the perfect photo. Simply lie on the ground, with your camera and face as near as possible, and start taking photos. The biggest drawback to this position is its lack of mobility. Make sure you’ve made all the necessary tweaks to your set up, because once you achieve the perfect pose, getting up can be difficult and awkward.
Much like the Reverse Corpse the Extended Sphinx is best practiced flat on the ground. The main difference between these two poses is the extended arms. By extending the camera full out in front of your body you can maximize the view on your camera’s screen. This is also a great position for the mobile phone photographer. By placing the camera directly on the ground, you can maintain maximum stability without using a tri-pod.
The full prone poses are great for getting the perfect photo. There is no substitute to getting low to the ground and capturing the world from your toys point of view. You can maintain stability by using your body as a tripod, exercise little used muscles and maintain a zen like calm with by breathing slowly and steadily. If you are going to practice any of these full contact positions, I would suggest you wear the appropriate clothing.
The Chair Pose is a classic position for the toy photographer. This position is easy to get into, relatively comfortable and most importantly, easy to get out of quickly. The Chair Pose, while a popular choice, requires you to place your toys on an elevated platform. Again, notice the legs are set apart to maintain stability. This is a great pose to exercise your gluteal muscles and practice that controlled breathing that is crucial to excellent toy photography results!
Partial Lunge PosE
The Partial Lunge Pose is a great pose to use when you need to get in and out quickly. With one knee on the ground and elbows stabilized on the raised knee, you maximize stability. These lightning fast situations need the extra stability to maintain focus. There is nothing more frustrating than having a quick photo and later looking at the results and finding you missed your focus!
Partial Lunge with a side Twist
The Partial Lunge with a Side Twist is a toy photography yoga position that can be useful in most outdoor situations. With only one knee on the ground you minimize your exposure to dirt, mud and water while maintaining a stable pose. By adding in a side twist you can contorted your body into the perfect position to capture either a horizontal or vertical image. The Partial Lunge with a Side Twist is considered an advanced pose. Please do not try this position until you’re comfortable with the basics of toy photography yoga.
The Cat Pose is another classic toy photography yoga pose. Unlike the Partial Lunge, the Cat Pose requires you to have both knees and elbows firmly planted on the ground. While this might seem like an easy and stable position, most toy photography practitioners can only stand a limited amount of time kneeling on hard and rough surfaces. If you enjoy the Cat Pose, you may want to invest in a set of knee pads or a gardening pad to save your knees and clothes. The Cat Pose is suitable for both DSLR and mobile photographers.
The Child’s Pose is a versatile position that can be practiced with one elbow or shoulder on the ground. Like the previously mentioned Cat Pose, you will want to have knee protection handy for this toy photography yoga pose. The Child’s Pose is relatively easy to get into and out of quickly. One advantage of this pose is that you free up one hand to hold a bounce card, tweak your figures or create practical effects.
Child’s Pose – twist Variation
The Child’s Pose is a classic toy photography yoga pose. It can be used in its most basic form, or you can add a simple twist for those hard to capture images. By adding the twist you can get your entire arm on the ground for greater stability. The more stable you can make your body, the more reliable your focus will be. I consider the Childs Pose with a Twist Variation to be an advanced move. Not only is this position hard on your body, it can be difficult to maintain slow, steady breathing.
Child’s Pose Rear View
Child’s Pose is great all around pose. Of course it does have its draw backs, the rear view is less than flattering. But what is a little public humiliation when you have a photograph to capture!
Child’s Pose is the most versatile toy photography yoga pose. It will work great when your toys are on the ground or on an elevated surface.
Side Angle Pose
The Side Angle Pose is an advanced position suitable for the toy photographer comfortable in any situation . Nothing says “I could care less what you think of me” than lying down in a public space, arms outstretched, taking a photo of toys. Not only is this a power position, you will achieve a much needed stretch after the contortions of the child’s pose.
Remember toy photography yoga is more fun with friends! You don’t have to practice similar poses; different situations will call for different solutions.
Extended Puppy Pose
Like the Side Angle Pose, the Extended Puppy Pose is not for the faint of heart. This advanced position is not particularly difficult but you will risk ridicule from both friends and strangers alike. While you might look ridiculous, the tripod nature of the position allows for great stability when attempting to capture a difficult photo.
The All In Pose
Like the Extended Puppy Pose, the All In Pose is a unusual position suitable for unique situations. You never know when you will need to climb into a cave, under a stump or down a hole. Going the extra mile can lead to extraordinary imagery or it will give your friends a good chuckle. Either way, a win in my book!
Toy photography yoga is great way to stay in shape, increase flexibility and help you capture the best toy photography you can. You will meld mind and spirit in your quest for the next great image. I hope you enjoyed this introduction to this fun and growing movement.
What’s your favorite position?
A special thank you to Dennis, Maëlick, Julien, Josh, Luigi and Leila for providing this wonderful images showcasing the variety of positions toy photography yoga experts can get themselves into.
If you’re attracted to silly articles about toy related photography, thenyou should sign upfor our weekly email round up where you’ll get a recap of the weeks goofiness.
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
The following article was originally published by The Rambling Brick on September 29, 2016. It has been reprinted by permission of Richard Jones and The Rambling Brick.
Living with DiverCITY: changing depictions of gender roles with LEGO minifigures in the post-Friends era.
When I was a boy, and we rode dinosaurs to school, life was a little more simple than it is today. When the first LEGO mini figures were introduced, they were people. Not really men or women, just people. Their faces all looked the same: depicting the now classic smiley face. The only attempts to define gender, in terms of appearance, came in the form of the hair piece they had on if they were not wearing a hat! In that first year there were four ‘female’ mini figures released: they had hair with pigtails. If they were wearing a hat, you could quite happily identify that knight, policeman or astronaut as male or female as you should choose.
Two of these ‘people with hair, defining their gender as female’ came as the only figure in their sets, along with vehicles: one an ambulance (606) and one a ‘Red Cross’ car(623). Another worked at the service station (376) and the final one came with a home (377). There was also a female passenger with a railway carriage. in 1979, the first classic ‘male’ minifigure hair appeared. In this first year, printed torsos were still a year or two away, and defining your minifigure’s identity came down to the sticker that you placed on the torso piece. Continue reading Living with DiverCITY
I was out last Saturday and photographed in a parking lot. I was down on my knees with my toys in the pool of water in front of me when a car drove in and parked. I saw it happening in the corner of the eye and realized that it was probably best to leave.
I prefer to photograph for myself, not hiding, but with my own company. I had already picked up my things, when I realize that it was too late. The man in the car has decided that it was time to ask me what I do. But when he reached me, I realized that he already knew or had guessed. Because he wanted to see the images.
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