Toy Photographers Podcast 02 – “Play” with Kristina Alexanderson

Thank you to everyone who listened to our debut episode of the Toy Photographers Podcast last week! If you haven’t heard it yet, you can listen to it here.

This week on the podcast, I’m joined by Kristina Alexanderson for our very first “theme” episode. These will be slightly different than the interview episodes; Kristina and I will have picked a specific theme to photograph, and taken a photo with that theme in mind. We then jump on Skype, share our photos with one another, and discuss what we see, both literally and in terms of how it relates to the theme we picked.

The theme for this week’s episode was “Play,” something I think all toy photographers have considered when snapping shots of LEGO or action figures! Continue reading Toy Photographers Podcast 02 – “Play” with Kristina Alexanderson

Photography New Year’s Resolutions

Each new year feels like a blank slate full of possibilities. With that feeling of unlimited possibilities I like to set a few photography new year’s resolutions.

I’ve been talking about setting new year’s resolutions on the blog for more than a few years. These past resolutions include having more fun, five words to define a year and of course learning better technical skills. Brett and I even set one for the blog: create more opportunities to grow and support this community in 2018. Continue reading Photography New Year’s Resolutions

Power of Words

I have a lot of respect for the power of words. As the year comes to an end I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next. Both personally, for the blog and my own creative life. Like many of the readers of this blog I struggle with keeping my creativity going. I appreciate posts like the one from James on using art books to stimulate creativity.

One of my favorite books to stimulate my own creativity is The Photographer’s Playbook. I’ve been feeling lost lately so I turned to this trusty book of photography assignments. I wanted to revisit an earlier exercise by Cig Harvey: Ideas into pictures, a two part assignment. Because I believe in the power of words, I really enjoyed this task when I first completed it in March 2016. It reminds me of the surrealists use of automatic writing to unlock the subconscious. The other reason I wanted to revisit this assignment was to see if anything had changed in my perspective in the intervening two years. Continue reading Power of Words

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! Continue reading Maintaining Momentum

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

Small Surrealism

“A photograph passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened. The picture may distort; but there is always a presumption that something exists, or did exist, which is like what’s in the picture.”

– On Photography by Susan Sontag

Toy Photography Movement

When photography first came about it was a way to further describe an actual thing. It was meant to be truthful. Overtime of course, photography evolved in many ways, even becoming its own art form as creators found ways to lie through the camera lens.

Toy photography as a part of that movement, is and was a groundbreaking departure from the truth. While we may not be photographing the already existent world around us, we’re storytellers finding our own truths within the posed photograph. And I argue that sometimes we can delve deeper into a truthful topic by creating a whole new world that reflects our thoughts. Continue reading Small Surrealism

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

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