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!’

Review: LEGO 76085 Battle of Atlantis

When first planning this week’s review, I set my sights on the new LEGO Ideas 21312 Women of NASA kit. Unfortunately, it’s out of stock both online and at my local LEGO store, so that review will be a bit late. In the meantime, I’ve decided to celebrate the release of Justice League with one of the film’s three tie-in sets!

The set in question is 76085 Battle of Atlantis, featuring DC Comics’ iconic ocean dwelling hero, Aquaman. The kit features a small piece of the lost city of Atlantis, where two Atlantean warriors are watching over a Motherbox, guarding it from a Parademon. It uh… all makes more sense once you see the movie. Continue reading Review: LEGO 76085 Battle of Atlantis

Review: LEGO 40261 Thanksgiving Harvest

November upon us, and the Thanksgiving holiday is just around the corner for those of us in the United States. At the risk of being region-specific, I decided to take this opportunity to review the latest LEGO seasonal kit: 40261 Thanksgiving Harvest.

Like its predecessor, 40260 Halloween Haunt, 40261 is a small vignette with two minifigures, a handful of accessories, and several mini-builds. If you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit, or take some nice autumnal shots, is this the set for you? Continue reading Review: LEGO 40261 Thanksgiving Harvest

Shootin’ in the Rain

Just a few weeks ago, I celebrated the change of season. The color change in the leaves, the crisp autumn breeze in the air, everything around us reminds us of fall. While it’s an invigorating time of year for me, there’s just one thing I forgot about…

Shooting in the rain kinda sucks.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love the rain. Whenever it rains, my wife and I open up all the windows in the house, breathe in the wonderful smell, and listen to it fall. I also love how rain looks in photographs. Actually capturing those photos, however? That’s a different story.

Like Brett, the idea of my camera getting wet terrifies me. In high school, I was shooting a short film and reviewing footage at the bottom floor of a parking garage when suddenly, a gush of water fell on me and destroyed my camera. Someone on the top floor thought it’d be a funny prank! Ever since then, even the smallest water drop on or even near my camera makes me nervous. Continue reading Shootin’ in the Rain

Review: LEGO City Jungle Theme

Each year, the LEGO City theme gets some kind of adventurous line to break up the traditional, run-of-the-mill settings. In the past we’ve seen LEGO City citizens go to outer space, explore the arctic, and even face a volcano! This summer, seven sets took a group of adventurers into the LEGO Jungle.

The wide range of small and large sets included things like alligators, helicopters, a plane crash, waterfalls, secret tombs, Venus fly traps and fantastic new panther, tiger and leopard pieces.

While I admitted a few weeks ago that I tend to skip the LEGO City line as a whole, I couldn’t help but be excited about this Jungle sub-theme. I was first drawn to the aforementioned big cat pieces; you can never have too many LEGO animals to photograph! Once I began looking at the sets at large, my curiosity only continued to grow. I knew that I had to take them for a photographic spin and review them here. Continue reading Review: LEGO City Jungle Theme

Review: LEGO Friends 41305 Emma’s Photo Studio

Inspired by my foray into the LEGO City theme last week, I decided this time to expand my horizons and review a line of LEGO I’ve never purchased or photographed before: LEGO Friends.

The LEGO Friends theme has been controversial since it first launched in 2012, largely for being stereotypical about gender (a problem we’re still facing today even outside the Friends theme). It’s clearly marketed as a “girl’s toy,” with its bright purple boxes, wide range of pink and pastel colors not found in other LEGO lines, “minidolls” in place of traditional minifigures, and scenarios specifically targeted at a female audience. These often include boutiques, cupcake and frozen yogurt shops, and many cute animals (Bunnies, puppies and ponies, oh my). Continue reading Review: LEGO Friends 41305 Emma’s Photo Studio

Review: LEGO 40170 Build My City Accessory Set

This week’s review takes us back to the world of LEGO. This time, we won’t be discussing one of the many licensed sets, but something from LEGO’s long-running and under appreciated original line, LEGO City.

I will admit that I don’t purchase LEGO City sets very often. While I was a big fan of them as a kid (back when the line was called Lego System), the various police, fire or airport kits haven’t caught my interest. I did snag last year’s 60134 Fun in the Park and this summer’s 60153 Fun at the Beach people packs, due to their assortment of minifigures. Continue reading Review: LEGO 40170 Build My City Accessory Set

Posting with Purpose

How do you decide which photos to post? When do, or should you post them? Is there a specific time of day, or a specific reason why you publish a photo online?

I’m constantly asking myself these questions. It stems partly from working in social media marketing, where it’s important to optimize your posting in order to reach the widest audience. I also feel a need to “curate” my output.

I want there to be a method to my madness.

Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t

-Polonius, Hamlet

Perhaps it’s an insecurity, but I tend to overthink when it’s appropriate or “best” to post a particular photo. As a result, I tend to post more often on special occasions, which I’ve found isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Continue reading Posting with Purpose

Review: Funko Rick and Morty 5-inch Figures

For this week’s review we’re stepping away from LEGO, and into the Multiverse for a closer look at Funko’s 5-inch Rick and Morty figures!

These figures have been out for several months now, but with the third season finale airing tonight, I thought this would be the perfect time to highlight them. Can these figures offer photographers their interdimensional adventure fix until season 4 eventually airs? Let’s find out! Continue reading Review: Funko Rick and Morty 5-inch Figures