A New Perspective

“The world sure seems different from down here, doesn’t it, Scott?”

-Hank Pym, Ant-Man (2015)

I tend to spend a great bit of time and energy hunting new sources of inspiration for my photography. I do this by looking at other people’s photos, getting feedback from and interacting with my peers, or participating in challenges.

The easiest way to find inspiration is to simply add a new LEGO set, minifigure, or accessory to my collection. This usually leads to at least one new photo, or I get lucky and it opens up a whole new series for me to dive into.

That’s exactly what happened when I got my hands on Ant-Man.

I liked the Ant-Man film that came out in 2015, but not enough to buy its licensed tie-in LEGO set upon release. It wasn’t until our friends @Krash_Override and @DoctorNvrmore launched the #jANTMANuary contest on Instagram earlier this year that I finally felt compelled to add the bite-sized Avenger to my collection, and boy am I glad that I did!

Since January, Ant-Man has quickly become one of my favorite LEGO minifigures, and has actually opened my mind to a whole new perspective for my photography.

lego-ant-man
Not only is he fun to photograph, but Ant-Man is super helpful in finding change between my couch cushions!

Part of the fun of taking toy photos is that you get to play around with scale. I spend a lot of time looking at the world more closely and imagining how normal, everyday objects might look next to my 4-centimeter subjects.

Ant-Man makes me think outside the box, because his scale is inherently different than his fellow Avengers. Ant-Man is supposed to look small, which means that I’m not necessarily trying to skew the objects around him or play around with forced perspective. Because of who he is as a character, that part’s already done for me!

I’m simply placing him in the real world and seeing what kind of adventures the little guy can go on.

This has been incredibly freeing, and has allowed me to shoot on the fly if need be. Rather than build sets and backgrounds to complete my photographs or scale things down to fit my needs, I can lean on a shrinking superhero instead and utilize the real world around me as-is. Now I’m looking at the world, and at my photography, from a new angle.

lego-ant-man

Has a particular photographic subject allowed you to approach your photography in a new way? Let us know in the comments! 

James

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Making Toys for Toy Photography

There are various way to approach the creation of new photos. Personally, I like to think of an idea then figure out what toys and other props would be best to make that vision a reality.

Sometimes I look through my collection, other times I’ll browse online or in shops, and sometimes I’ll make my own objects. I don’t typically make the precise, detail oriented, gorgeous work you’ll see of miniaturists or customizers, but I do make simplistic models that fit my end goal. I like to think of the camera lens as a tool of transformation. Through it, I can make my simple sets come to life.

Is it still a toy if I make it myself?

Well, I’ll leave that up to you in the end. But I’d like to think a small trinket posed with other toy or toy-like items still falls into the range of toy photography.

When I say I make my own toys, here’s what I mean.

First up, I’m sure this is something we all do from time to time, building sets using paper, cardboard, foam core etc.

My other standard supplies include polymer and air dry clay, glue, and odds and ends found around the house.

Then, more technologically, I sometimes design and/or source 3D models to print and paint.

And most recently, I’ve been creating molds for play-doh and hot glue lego mini figures. For years I’ve had the idea of creating an image that shows a figure crumbling. A metaphor of the mind, shown visibly. I never quite figured out a way to do this, and then I thought of play-doh and how it gets all crumbly when it dries. I liked the symbolism of a lego figure rather than a more realistic human for this, an icon of an icon of sorts. As I started the molding process, other ideas came to life for this type of ‘toy.’ And so a short series of images began.

I’m not quite sure this is my end all be all crumbling image, but it’s a start. And the best way I knew how to make it was by making the toy I needed for it.

“With any means available, [tableau photographers] create photographs intended to convey their philosophic and moral views of the world and themselves.”

– Fabrications by Anne H. Hoy

Long story short, I find what I need to make the photo I’m envisioning, and sometimes that comes in the form of creating my own toys.

~ Jennifer Nichole Wells

Do you ever make your own toys or other photo props? Why and how? 

Feasting on Feedback

Sometimes you wanna go…

It’s been over a month since I pulled back on Instagram posting. And while I’ve been away, I’ve been feasting on feedback and gorging myself on inspiration in a new town.

Apart from pushing my posts here, the G+ monthly challenge, joining in the Raptor Pack day and #brickstameet, I haven’t posted any photos that weren’t either in support of an event or to promote another platform. Instead I’ve focussed on the blog and the G+ Toy Photographers community.

Quality or quantity
Quality or quantity
Quality or quantity a choice you have to make
Bad Religion – Quality or Quantity

And whilst on this self-imposed sabbatical, it’s dawned on me what I’d been craving. I‘ve been missing a sense of belonging, meaningful rapport, a sense of community. This is what I find in the G+ community; the clue’s in the title! Continue reading Feasting on Feedback

Recovering From Your “Best” Photo

Earlier this week, Brett discussed what it’s like to chase after your “White Whale” shot, that one perfect photo that’s been floating around in your head for a while and sometimes feels completely unattainable. It’s something I resonated with deeply, as it’s a struggle I face all the time in my own photography. Then it got me thinking…

What happens when you finally take that shot? How do you recover from your “best” photo?

Photography is, of course, subjective, so how you define your “best” shot may vary. For me, my “best” photo is the one I take and think, “Wow! This came out exactly how I wanted it to, and might just be the best picture I’ve ever taken!” Continue reading Recovering From Your “Best” Photo

Attention to Detail

Attention to detail is what you do to avoid excessive amounts of post production and as much future image chasing as possible. While working on a macro scale, paying attention to the little details can make or break a photo. While I enjoy spend my photo adventures chasing “that” shot, occasionally, I do like to succeed. Usually I’m forced to ‘chase’ a photo not because I’m seeking the perfect light or location, but because I missed something important. I wasn’t paying attention to the details.

Sometimes I miss flotsam in the water or a bit of tack showing under a mini figures foot. At other times a leaf or blade of grass is a distraction in the frame. And that is just a few of the details that can escape the eye when photographing in the great outdoors. It is these little details that I need to be hyper aware of when setting up my scene. If I’m successful, I can save myself hours of post production work.

Continue reading Attention to Detail

Chasing “that” shot

For forever and a day I shall chase that White Whale

We’ve all spent time searching for that shot; the elusive White Whale, the Holy Grail that thwarts us. Chasing that shot is a fruitless, all-consuming quest. Or is it?

Drown like Captain Ahab
Trying to slay that Great White Whale
So tied up in their own rules
People jump ship and they fail
Jello Biafra with the Melvins – Lessons in What Not to Become

I’ve got a handful of shots in my mind that I’ve wanted to capture for some time now. Some of these have haunted me for years, taunting me with their imagined exactness.

Many of them come out with me in search for their ideal locale, more times than not returning empty-handed. They scoff at the bland parodies of their imagined precision. Their jeers at my bids to replicate them follow me to every fresh attempt.

Thwarted by their lofty expectations and demands, I usually sit before yet another lacking Lightroom import. Continue reading Chasing “that” shot

Shooting someone’s shtick

When it comes to shooting someone’s creation or the subject they are known for, the challenge morphs into an exercise of respect. The outcome, after all, is a homage to their shtick.

shtick
/ʃtɪk/

noun informal
1. a style of performance, etc. associated with a particular person

2. a person’s special talent, interest, or area of activity

Last week I was given a gift and a challenge resulting in a couple of predicaments. I was sent a #krashes_kustom from the recent San Francisco Toy Safari. I was also challenged by Shelly to shoot Chima after using one for my last post. Continue reading Shooting someone’s shtick

The Great Indoors

It’s now officially summer (at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), and like Brett and Shelly before me, I’ve been inspired by the change of the season. However, the sunshine has taken me somewhere I wasn’t expecting it to…

Back into my studio.

That’s right. While the rain clouds that cover most of the Pacific Northwest have subsided and the world is in full bloom, I’ve actually opted to stay indoors to take my first summer photos, thanks to a new find on Amazon: fake grass! Continue reading The Great Indoors

Toy Photography Starter Set

Recently The LEGO Group offered a free toy photography starter set with a minimum purchase. Why am I calling it a toy photography starter set? Because this cute little set has everything the budding toy photographer needs to take fun photos while on vacation!

This set resembles an older set (LEGO #7567, The Traveler) and might be confused for a simple update. It wouldn’t be the first time The LEGO Group has updated an older set. But, if you’re a toy photographer, you will see this set for what it really is: a toy photography starter kit! If there was any doubt that the LEGO Group wants to support and encourage our crazy little hobby, this should erase all doubts. Continue reading Toy Photography Starter Set