Character Development in LEGO Photography

Through character development in Lego photography, I’m able to explore new ideas by putting myself in the place of my mini figure counterparts.  I try to think how this character may think. I locate scenes and backgrounds that match their personality.  It really brings the toys to life for me.

I’ve found that having some characters with ongoing stories is a great way to help when a slump in creativity hits. I’m not sure what it’s called in photography… photo block maybe? Anyhow, I’ve found it useful to have several characters to lean on when the creative juices are running on fumes. Continue reading Character Development in LEGO Photography

Resistance Comes in All Strides

“I go to Instagram to see cool LEGO pics, NOT to hear your warped political views.”

This is one of the comments I received last weekend in an exchange comparing the former and current presidents of the United States.

I’m not going to lie. As much as I want to stand strong and use my art to speak up for what I think is right, comments like the one above are discouraging, to say the least. And that’s one of the more polite remarks. Continue reading Resistance Comes in All Strides

What’s In My Bag – Mitchel Wu Photography

Prior to toy photography I used to photograph weddings and portraits professionally.  I was pretty well-outfitted in terms of gear because of this – with multiple camera bodies, a range of professional lenses, and multiple speedlights and light diffusing/modifying systems.  I came into toy photography pretty well set, with the exception of a few accessories that are uniquely adapted to my style of toy photography.  But the one thing I didn’t have was toys.  Toy photography for most is a direct extension and result of their passion for toys.  If toys are the chicken and photography is the egg, then for most the chicken came before the egg.  But for me the egg came before the chicken.  I was drawn to toy photography because I saw the potential to create amazing stories and images.  And this reignited my love for toys, the one I had as a kid but somehow lost as I got older.

So anyways, here’s my bag and what’s in it.  First though, full disclosure.  I am partnered with Lowepro Bags, SOG Knives & Tools and Spider Holster – purely a result of my day-to-day experience with their wonderful products.  Each plays a role in my being able to create thought-provoking imagery and engaging stories.

Bags – I use a few different Lowepro backpacks, but my day-to-day bag is this Lowepro Fastback 250 AW II.  It’s the perfect size for hauling my Canon 5D3 with a few lenses and all my toy gadgetry.  It offers great gear protection, customizable compartments, and a rain jacket that’s always on the ready should I encounter really bad weather or wet conditions, like ocean spray on a gusty day.  The construction and materials used are what I consider “bulletproof,” which is critical for the environments I shoot in.  I don’t scrimp when it comes to my camera bags – these bags will last for years.

Lenses – The lens that is usually attached to my camera is the Canon 135 f2/L – I use this combo for 99% of my photos.  But I also carry the Canon 50 f1.2L and the Canon 24-70 f2.8/L – each has unique strengths and excel in situations where my 135mm might be too long.  For example, I often will use the 24-70mm when I need a wider shot, like a Storm Trooper perched on the edge of a cliff looking at a vast alien landscape.  24mm will get you that.  And with the ability to shoot at f1.2, I can basically use my 50mm to shoot in nearly complete darkness using what available light there is.  Amazing.

Tripods – when working in the field I always have two Manfrotto tripods with me.  The super compact and lightweight Manfrotto MK393-PD as well as the Manfrotto Pixi Evo 2.  Both work well with my full-sized camera body and range of lenses, although I’m probably close to the weight limits of both tripods.  I have another heavier, built-like-a-tank tripod (not shown) I use in the studio, the Slik Pro 700DX.


The Manfrotto MK3930-PD tripod sees use whenever my toy(s) are off the ground a bit, like on a rocky ledge, in a tree, etc.

The Manfrotto Pixi Evo 2 tripod is used when the toys are sitting on the ground and I need my camera at or near ground level.

Gizmos and Gadgets – As you photograph more and more toys you start to learn what works and what doesn’t, and what can make things easier.  As a result, some of the things that always venture out into the field with me is wire in varying lengths and strengths for supporting and suspending toys in whatever poses I need them in.  Also putty and wax for holding and attaching things, tape, extra camera batteries, a wireless remote shutter release, and dust blowers (manual as well as compressed air).  Not shown is a small emergency whistle in case I find myself in a remote location needing emergency assistance.

One of my most used tools, in the field as well as in the studio, is my SOG Powerplay Multi-tool.  From cutting, crimping and shaping wire supports in the field, to quick repairs of toys and gear, to MacGyvering whatever needs MacGyvering… a good multi-tool can handle it all and is an essential part of my process.  If you’re not familiar with multi-tools, they’re basically a Swiss Army knife on steroids.

Also accompanying me in the field is one of my SOG knives.  A good blade can be really handy for whittling, carving, and of course as protection against crazed chipmunk attacks!

Unlike a LEGO photographer who can carry a day’s worth of toys in a snack baggie, I need a larger bag to carry an assortment of 6-8″ action figures.  Not to mention the occasional 17″ long Rancor!  There are a million options for this, but I’ve ended up using a fantastic shoulder bag made for carrying fishing tackle.  It has adjustable compartments and a bunch of different pockets for smaller figs and gadgets.  It is lightweight and very durable.  And at around $25.00 it doesn’t break the bank!

When I’ve gotten to an area I plan to shoot, I’ll remove my camera from the backpack and keep it on my body for the duration of the shoot.  In my personal experience, the SpiderPro Holster is the best way to carry an easily accessible camera safely and securely in rugged terrain like the areas I usually shoot in. The camera stays firmly and securely attached to my hip via the holster, but can be accessed with lightening speed like a six shooter in an old west gunfight.

When my camera is out of its holster it is held securely to my hand with the SpiderPro Hand Strap. Even when traversing demanding terrain, dropping my camera is never a concern with the hand strap, which allows me to focus on maintaining solid footing instead.

In the end it’s all about finding what works for you.  Which backpack, camera carrying system and tools one uses are all very personal decisions one has to make based on their style of shooting, equipment, body type, etc. What works for one person may not work for another.  There was a lot of trial and error (and money spent) on my journey to finding what works for me, and my studio is littered with products that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another.  If you have any questions on what’s in my bag just leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer!

Mitch Wu

Why? – The Origin story by Ballou34

Have you ever asked yourself why you were doing the things you do, the things that you like, the things that motivate you?

That is the question Shelly asked me. And to be honest, it is not an easy task.

It’s like asking Bruce Wayne why he became Batman or Anakin Skywalker why he became Darth Vader…

Origin stories

What is my origin story?

Maybe let’s start with some information about me. My name is Julien, I am 28 and I work in aeronautics, as an engineer, in France. So nothing directly related to photography or toys, for that matter.

I have been a big fan of Lego since my younger age and I came back to the brick a few years ago, collecting minifigures, mainly from the Star Wars and the Super Heroes universes.

At the same time, I have always enjoyed taking pictures, especially during my trips or during air shows. So I have a lot of pictures of aircraft, architecture and landscapes (some still available on my Flickr account). For me, photography is a way to escape from the daily world and flee all my problems. When I am taking pictures, I am focusing on the moment and nothing else matter.

What about Lego photography?

Well, I had been a follower of several of you for some time before I launched myself and I really enjoyed your pictures. And one day, it clicked. Why not make myself a picture with Lego? I have a camera and I have minifigures.

I started taking pictures at home, in my living room and after posting them online the feedback was so positive, it motivated me to continue. Quickly after my first pictures, I launched my first photo project, the #100_shadows project. With a goal of 100 pictures, it gave me purpose.

#100_Shadows (a small extract)

I also figured out that It could help me improve my technique as a photographer.

One thing you should know about me is that I am a self-taught photographer and I have always learned everything by myself (Photoshop, Lightroom, photography techniques…) and when I find something that motivates me (a project of some sort), I push myself beyond my limits to reach that goal.

So, to improve my Lego pictures, I started taking pictures manually (now I don’t use the Automatic mode of my camera anymore). I bought some gear (tripod, light, reflectors,..) and quickly learned how to use it.

I hate to push to the world pictures that I don’t like. I am very critical over my own work and I have difficulties to upload a picture when I am not a 100% satisfied but seeing the feedback and discussions we can have on social media, I may be too difficult with myself… If I were only listening to myself, you would not see a lot of my pictures. But with those exchanges and reading about other photographer troubles, I am learning a lot. That is something I found really interesting with this community. You can talk about your problems and learn something new everyday.

After learning to create a small studio with lighting, I decided to go further, to harvest the power of the sun and I left the comfort of my house to explore the world and take pictures outside. New challenges, new goals, new experiences.

Why?!

Back to the Why?

Legography, as a project, liberated me. In my daily life, I am someone who is really shy. But, since I started taking pictures of Lego, I don’t mind lying on the ground in the middle of a crowd to get my shot. People are looking at me, people are talking to me, but I don’t mind (a little bit at first…). I have even crossed borders to meet some of you during the last Stuck in Plastic toy Safari. This was such a great moment. I can’t wait to renew the experience.

Legography is also a way to tell story and share emotions. It is often easier for me to transpire my feelings through the medium of photography rather than in person (my shy side, once again). I can create characters and have them evolve in a unique environment. You don’t see the world with the same eyes when you spend so much time on the ground.

Legography, and toy photography in general is a medicine and every one can use it. Its good for you, either as a maker or a follower/watcher. When I make pictures or when I look at your creations, it quickly brings a smile on my face. I have some pictures from our toy safari picture exchange hanging on the wall in my office. When I have a bad day at work, I spend some time looking at them, remembering the good moments and I immediately feel better. And same as HerrSM, I believe that photography helps me not turning insane but he tells it much better than I can, in his own words.

Legography can also be a disease (but a good one – if you can consider a disease can be good) which can change people. I have seen photographers completely opening themselves through toy photography, and I am an example of that. Now, I have also friends and colleagues who carry toys with them and take pictures of them during their trips.

The picture maker

Toy photography being a cure, it is also contagious. “You”, the community, gave me the disease, and since then, I have myself spread it around. Let’s continue the contagion.

~ Julien / Ballou34

PS: Thank you Shelly for this opportunity to write once again for the  blog. It is always a pleasure to write for this wonderful community.

Whats In My Studio – Isaac Renteria

Originally this topic was called ” What`s in my bag” but because I rarely do outdoor photography; I will show you the gear I use the most in my studio. I’m not a fan of fancy photography gear so I think I have only what I really need. 

Continue reading Whats In My Studio – Isaac Renteria

Suppaduppa’s TOP 5 Favorite Figures (Ever)

I want to choose only five figures; my favorite top 5 figures ever. This makes me ask myself something before making this list. Before I started photographing toys I only bought them because I liked them. Now I buy them thinking if they will look good in front of my lens. I don’t know if it matters, but I never thought of it before. Or did I?

Never mind, Let’s make that list! Continue reading Suppaduppa’s TOP 5 Favorite Figures (Ever)

My First Toy Photo – Pulup

I stepped into toy photography a couple of years after I bought my first DSLR camera. Back in those days, I was walking around at least once a week, taking my own concept-photo trips in the city, though mostly taking shots of cats, graffiti and beer on the streets of Istanbul (no surprise here). After I bought my first iPhone, I became addicted to Hipstamatic and Instagram, and frankly I started to use my DSLR less often. After a while I started to buy Lego to add color to my photos, which became a big hobby of mine with almost thousand mini figures and more than three thousand Lego photos to date. Continue reading My First Toy Photo – Pulup

My First Toy Photo(s) – by Ann @Miss__Feklista

I’d like to start my new story with thanking dear Shelly for this great fest of unity and creativity that she brings to us.

The more I tell about my hobby the better I know what the Time Travel is. After showing my Five Favorite Figures to you I had the impression that this adventure still lived in Present… And when I tried to reflect on the Past I was totally excited to realize that all my little heroes had the real Ancestors.

“Turning back the clock”, I see another autumn – a sweet coincidence that can reward the most audacious time traveller. There is no doubt that I found my first toy photo. This 3 years-old shot was made when I was telling the story which happened 300 million years ago.

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In my opinion, even the atmosphere of this picture is a little “ancient”. It shows the Prince Adam who lived in the Era of wonderful dinosaurs and mysterious tribes. Being a little child, I was in love with this breath-catching legend with dark secrets and brave heroes – brilliant plot of a very old video game “Lost Eden”. The world of the Past was like an opened book that I studied to the last detail and explored it with my good friends.

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Prince Adam and his beautiful friend Dina. Customs and Dinosaurs are created by me.

Years later, I decided to recreate the great tale using my Lego hobby and bring it to the Present. Have a look at the white mirror on the shot below: it can become a window to some events or secret places. Like this magical object, the Toy Photography was my instrument of Showing and was based on my drawing and sculpture.

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The Old Monk keeps the Ancestors’ Memories

My hobby gave me the possibility to lead my family and friends through the mysterious caves, shining oceans and ancient continents. My Mother, the main Kindred Spirit in my life and enormously Creative Person, shares my interests and we invented all these fantastic constructions together!

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The Guard of the Prison

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Adam’s sister is a brave Warrior Queen

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With the Gold Sword you will open the secret door

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The guard of the Maze keeps working through the years…

I’m going to illustrate this awesome story from the beginning to the end. As you can see, it is symbolic in every sense. One day I will invite you to explore this ancient universe with me. But now its time to return to the Present!

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The way is open

Ann @Miss__Feklista

My first toy photo(s)

I’m not quite sure when I first started calling myself a toy photographer but it certainly wasn’t when I took my first toy photos on Christmas Eve, 2008.

I borrowed some of my little brother’s Stormtroopers and had them re-enact a ‘we three kings’ moment around my childhood baby Jesus.

Continue reading My first toy photo(s)