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.

fundamentally fun: "There's no eye in team" - Hieroglyphics teachers. Probably.
“There’s no eye in team” – Hieroglyphics teachers. Probably.

Primarily Pleasurable

I was also given a book around that time by my friend Mark that became a great source of inspiration, Letterbocks Top Tips. This book is filled with ‘pearls of thrift and wisdom’ and is ‘an invaluable compendium of 500 handy hints’. Or so they say!

“Save time when listening to LPs by playing them at 45 r.p.m.”
“When buying a camera, always buy a second one so that if you sell the first you will be able to take a picture of it for advertising purposes.”
“An old television with a toaster inside makes a cheap but effective ‘microwave’ oven. For making toast.”

“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.”
– Dr. Seuss

fundamentally fun: Gavin went to an underwater disco and pulled a muscle. Probably.
Gavin went to an underwater disco and pulled a muscle. Probably.

Looking back through some of my old posts, I realised two things; these were taken back when I was stubborn and only used my phone, and they were posted before I’d joined G+. With the chance to reshoot some old photos and share these puns and tips with a new audience, I didn’t have to think up new ideas. I only had to plan the new shots around the puns. That gave me more time for fun. And more time to focus on the photos not the ideas behind them!

“If you never did you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.”
– Dr. Seuss

Fundamentally Fun

Armed with a back-catalogue of puns and a better camera, and a new audience to inflict the puns upon, it was refreshing to revisit my roots. Shooting with the sole purpose of fun in mind freed up my creativity. It allowed me to be freer in my planning and thinking.

With fun the focus of the shots, I found myself having fun shooting them. Toppling LEGO was funny. Uncooperative bokeh was somewhat comical. I don’t think I swore once while shooting! 

fundamentally fun: I went to a zoo. The only animal in the entire zoo was a dog. It was a Shih Tzu. Probably.
I went to a zoo. The only animal in the entire zoo was a dog. It was a Shih Tzu. Probably.

The fun I was having must’ve been noticeable. My younger son asked if he could borrow my camera and take photos using the close-up filters.

But that’s another fun story!

– Brett

Why did you start photographing toys? Is it the same reason you do it now? Is fun one of those reasons?

If you’ve made through all my blathering and ended up here, you should sign up to 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.

Request Inquest

Allow me to paint a cautionary tale of a request for artwork and some unforeseen pitfalls that I encountered. Pitfalls that you might avoid after I’m done babbling.

A cautionary tale is a tale told in folklore, to warn of a danger. There are essentially three parts to a cautionary tale.

  1. Firstly, a taboo or prohibition is stated
  2. Then, the narrative itself is told
  3. And finally, the one who disregards the forewarning of taboo comes to an unpleasant fate, which is commonly told in grisly detail

1. The Cautioning (not heeded)

Recently I was contacted by an agency regarding shooting a certain line of LEGO for their client.

There had been posts about product photography, and declarations of not being a product photographer from Kristina and Shelly. I ignored them. Shelly’s post even had a heading “Be careful what you wish for” but that warning was flouted.

I agreed to their request for artwork. My agreement was based on previous dealings I’d had with clients. Previously, I’ve been asked to submit existing photographs or create new ones. Each time I’ve been approached there has been a familiarity with my work, and based on that, there’s been an understanding of what I’ll likely produce. A certain level of trust is established, and creative licence is granted around a certain theme or line.

That’s what I based my acceptance of this request for artwork on.

2. The Narrative (not in six images)

After accepting the offer, things progressed nicely. There was talk around the line to be shot, preferences for styles, number of artefacts to be submitted, timeframes, fees etc.

request for artwork: Fishing for common sense
Fishing for common sense

As the emails from the agency continued I was sent a list of links referencing other toy photographers as examples of great editing. Maybe this should’ve been when the alarm bells should’ve started ringing?

She loves me, she loves me not
Wise up sucker to what you’ve got
Pop Will Eat Itself – Wise Up, Sucker 

There was another line in these initial emails that sparked my concerns; “the client has at least 2 rounds of reviews prior to final approval“. I’d never encountered this type of caveat before. The knowing of my work and the faith that I’ll provide photographs of a similar ilk and standard never required my work to be reviewed before.

The First Review

Two weeks after the initial contact, I got my first taste of the client’s review. Based on a reference photograph I sent through, it was critiqued with “effects are welcomed but should not overshadow the characters”. This was one of my photos, underlining my apprehensions that the client wasn’t familiar with my works. It also came after the initial brief highlighted “preference is to have effects added/edit photos to make the scenes look more lifelike and cinematic” as a desired parameter.

Based on the client’s review, I then clarified that the characters would be the key focus of every shot delivered, and sent through some more of my shots as reference points, highlighting this. However, the client expected to receive more specificity around each asset.

I then sent through a list of specific ideas for each shot of the items found on the link that was provided to me as the subjects to be photographed.

request for artwork: It's a bizarro world we walk through
It’s a bizarro world we wander through.

Whilst waiting for another review of these planned shots, there was a shift in the scope. As time was ticking (5 days past the preliminary due date), the agency recommended to the client that some of the content now be created around holidays like Halloween or Thanksgiving.

You won’t even take a look,
To see another way
You aren’t even listening,
Take your ideals and go away
Pennywise- Same Old Story

The Second Review

As I attempted to digest this latest shift (Halloween and Thanksgiving are not so big in my Australian world?), the second review from the client landed in my inbox.

This review of my proposed shots contained feedback such as “we should have a character in every shot”, “we shouldn’t have other LEGO pieces in these shots”, “we’ve done something like this before” etc. Befuddled, I replied asking for a definitive list of exactly which characters the client wanted featured, not just a link to the entire line that characters were included in. 

3. The Fate (not so grisly)

The next email that popped into my inbox informed me that the client had shifted gears to focus on another campaign.

After 5 weeks and over 30 emails back and forth, the agency and I said our farewells.

I bear no grudges towards the agency that contacted me. They were merely the middleperson between the client and me. As they said “it truly took a crazy turn”. They offered the hope that we could work together in the future before we said our goodbyes.

If that opportunity arises, I’ll be better prepared to request what I’ll need to make the next venture work.

If there’s one lesson I’ve taken from this experience, it’s that not all offers are the same. I’ll never assume that my past experiences will be the same as new ones the next time a request for artwork arises. Maybe I’d just been lucky until now?

I should point out that in the days following our farewells, two extremely exciting opportunities came my way from LEGO. Working with someone who knows what I’ll produce and me! Working with someone that I understand what it is they expect!

Not all offers are as intricate or anticlimactic as the one in this tale.

– Brett

Has a request for artwork ever come your way? What was your experience like?

If you’ve made through all my blathering and ended up here, you should sign up to 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.

Taking on Tips

I don’t just write posts. I also read them. And then I write about reading them. Today I put some of Shelly’s tips into practice. And wrote about it!

Beating Baader-Meinhof to the punch!

I’ve written about Baader-Meinhof before, the term coined to describe a concept or a thing you just found out about, suddenly popping up everywhere. When I did, it was about a photo I took that I noticed a lot of Shelly’s “the basics” contained in it when I was editing.

Shelly has recently shared her tips about photographing toys in water, and written about turning any lens into a macro with close-up filters.

So, before I weirded myself out by discovering Shelly’s tips jumping out at me from my photos again, I decided to take some of her recent tips and purposely go out and put them into practice. Take that Baader-Meinhof! Continue reading Taking on Tips

While the cat’s away, the mice will play

While the cat’s away, the mice will play…hooky!

With Shelly’s away catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, taking photos of LEGO, taking about LEGO, and attending the LEGO House opening, I’ve decided to take a week off from posting. Shhh! Don’t tell her!

While the cat’s away, the mice will play…music!

While I’m here, I’ll just remind you that there’s a music themed challenge happening over at the G+ community. Continue reading While the cat’s away, the mice will play

A Busman’s Holiday

I’d never heard of a busman’s holiday before? Nor had I thought I’d ever been on one!

 noun: busman’s holiday

  1. a holiday or form of recreation that involves doing the same thing that one does at work.
    “a fire crew’s Christmas outing turned into a busman’s holiday when their coach caught fire”

While Shelly is away, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take some time off from shooting to take the wheel of the good ship Toy Photographers. I’d been running low on motivation and inspiration and thought this would be the perfect chance to recharge and reenergise. And while I thought I’d relish the break, I found myself doing what I usually do, a busman’s holiday. Continue reading A Busman’s Holiday

What came first?

What came first? The chicken or the egg? The lyrics or the music? The setup or the idea?

We all have ideas bubbling away in our heads. Preconceived concepts tag along as we venture out to shoot plastic. Stories are already playing out before our subjects are posed before the lens.

But, sometimes those stories meander off into something new. New ideas come to light with out subject of choice before us. Concepts and notions twist, turn and evolve into another. Often we return with our initial ideas, concepts and tales shelved for another venture; another day.

And all this is cool! This is one of the many things I love about photographing toys. I love thinking up stories. The tales and concepts that emerge excite me. I also relish the twists and turns that inevitably occur when I’m out shooting. And the wonderful surprises of never considered outcomes is one of the greatest thrills of this “lying in dirt focussing in on toys” thing we do. Continue reading What came first?

Appreciation for Participation

When opportunity knocks, we see a chance to show our appreciation for participation.

So often I’m amazed at how posts link together on the blog. A post about threes is followed by a post about twos. A post about the importance of Challenges precedes a post about the ripple challenge on G+. Most of these connections occur purely by chance, or do they?

Last week Kristina wrote about product photography and how it’s not for her. Shelly wrote about the merits of having a website.

These two posts happened right around the time something else exciting was happening. And they both relate to this exciting news.
Continue reading Appreciation for Participation

What if why changes from way back when?

I’ve revisited photos, but I’ve neglected to revisit the question why.

Why then?

In June 2015 I was asked “why?” A lot has changed since then.

So, with all these changes, has my reason why changed too?

Let me premise this by saying that I’m not a photographer. Heck, I don’t even own a real camera. I’m just a knucklehead with an iPhone!

Back when I first tackled the seemingly simple question, my reason why revolved around the friendships I’d made. That hasn’t changed. But my motives have grown.

Two years ago, I resisted defining what I did as art. Since then, my photos shared the walls of an art gallery with the friends that were my reason back then. So, I guess I have to accept that I create art. Continue reading What if why changes from way back when?

The Ninjago Movie Minifigures Winner(s)

With over 300 posts on Instagram and Google+, our task to pick just one Ninjago Movie Minifigures Winner wasn’t easy. Shelly and I managed to narrow it down to three favourites each. After all, three’s the magic number, as Shelly pointed out!

With our votes in, there was one shot that we’d both chosen as a favourite. Continue reading The Ninjago Movie Minifigures Winner(s)

Playtime to Stay Prime

Whether it’s taking time, or making time, getting some toy playtime can lead to some toy photography time that you didn’t know about. Playtime with toys can be not only cathartic, it can also be invigorating and energising when it comes to finding toy photography stimulus.

1. an object, often a small representation of something familiar, as an animal or person, for children or others to play with; plaything
2. something that serves for or as if for diversion, rather than for serious practical use.
3. made or designed for use as a toy.
4. to amuse oneself; play.

My desk at work is strewn with a constantly changing selection of LEGO and toys. It’s where a lot of my inspiration comes from. I bring a new batch of toys each week to play with and see if their stories emerge from our playtime. I’ll find myself playing with LEGO or figures while I try to figure out coding problems, mentally map out solutions, debate whether I should send that email or censor it, or sometimes when I probably should be paying more attention during phone calls. Continue reading Playtime to Stay Prime