Finding beauty in toy photography

This week as part of my G+ Mentorship I’ve been thinking about beauty, the concept of beauty, what is beautiful, looking for beauty in unexpected places and of course thinking about how this all somehow relates to the photography of LEGO mini figures.

Our prompts this week were:

  • What do you love to see?
  • Where do your eyes linger?
  • Where do you see beauty?

In an age when realism reigns in toy photography – photos that look like they could be movie stills, photos where in camera action is the norm – the simple beauty of the LEGO mini figure is often overlooked. In our quest to acquire the hottest, newest toy, master an amazing technique, post our latest  photo to some social media site, it’s easy to forget to slow down and enjoy the photographic moment.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” –  Confucius

There are many reasons I enjoy taking photos of LEGO, the story telling, the challenge of macro photography, the whimsical nature of the toys and of course the fellowship of the toy photography community. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beauty of the mini figure. Many of my favorite mini figures are incredibly detailed and have a beauty about them I find hard to put into words. I want to capture that beauty with my camera and lens.


A large part of capturing the beauty of the mini figure is also capturing the beauty of light. I find I’m often ‘chasing light’.  I’m not looking for a particular scene, I’m looking for how the light effects the environment.

Recently I was up in the woods enjoying a late summer afternoon  with my family on a hike / toy photography adventure. On the way back to the car my son and I spotted a scree of rocks and some sun poking through the trees beckoning us. We scampered off the trail and up the rocks and discovered a scene that was incredible: moss covered rocks, trees with leaves just beginning to turn golden, sun rays at a low angle bathing the whole scene in a magical glow. There was no camera I had on me that could capture the incredible beauty that we discovered, but I did capture this image of Groot that begins to express how I felt at that moment in time.


It may seem strange that a grown women is playing with and photographing little bits of plastic, but honestly, I find many of the collectible mini figures to be incredibly beautiful.  The first mini figure to capture my imagination was the series #4 Kimono Girl. The delicate flower pattern of her kimono, the cherry blossoms in her hair, the red of her lips…all were unlike anything I’d seen before or had even associated with the LEGO brand. Were where the yellow head and hands I was familiar with? The orange vest of the city worker? Or the broken helmet of the Classic Space man? When I found the Samurai Warrior soon after I purchased the Kimono Girl, I was officially hooked.

When I’m out taking photos, I’m consciously looking for a beauty that will compliment or contrast whatever figures I have with me. These moments of beauty can be as simple as a shaft of light illuminating a tree, a bit of moss in an etherial shade of green, an unusually patterned rock or a glint of sunlight on a shard of glass. Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places; like this photo shot on my porch in a small pond I set up. I was surprised to find some beautiful pink flowers still in bloom in my backyard and I used them as my backdrop for this quick photo.


If you’ve been following my photography for any length of time you probably know I have a fascination with skeletons. I have ‘upgraded’ the traditional skeleton with a more realistic head I found at I enjoy photographing this macabre little figure, he reminds me that beauty is every where and that my time on this earth is finite.

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” –  Marcus Aurelius


There is a simplicity and beauty in this figure. He is a constant in my toy box and I look forward to finding  new ways to express the beauty that is so often present in death, just as it is in life.

Long after this mentorship has concluded I’m sure I’ll still be looking for beauty through the lens of toy photography. I enjoy this little world I stumbled up and the creative community of like minded geeks that has welcomed me. I’m continuously amazed at the beauty that is ever-present when you look at the world from the view point of small plastic figures that are only 4 cm tall.

I want to encourage you to take a moment and enjoy the beauty of your own plastic muses. Take a moment to slow down and appreciate all that you’ve created and while you’re at it celebrate the beauty that is so often found in toy photography.

~ Shelly

How would you answer the prompts that were given to me for this weeks challenge? Where do you see beauty?


  1. Shelly,

    Thank you for this article. I have found that toy photography for me helps me to stop and ponder the little things. Even things that have nothing to do with toys and Lego, i find myself taking more time to enjoy little moments. Little moments with my kiddos. Seeing them scour the red rocks as I watch and take in the incredible stillness that surrounds me. Sometimes I take out a Lego minifigure and try to express those feeling in the picture. Sometimes it works and other times I’m left with a lot of pictures that don’t really convey what I wanted so I end up not posting them. I guess toy photography has just really helped me to take more notice of things that may have just slipped past me in the past. Your article really got me thinking – Thanks!

    • Awe Joe, Your comment makes writing this blog worth it! Thank you!

      I can understand your frustration of trying to capture the beauty that is southern Utah. The wide open spaces, the stillness, the incredible light are not really conducive to the world of macro photography. But the colors, the shadows, the light of your photographs always remind me of all the beautiful moments I’ve had there so you must be doing something right!

      Keep it up and keep on enjoying the little things. Be well my friend! 🙂

  2. Dear Shelly,
    I like your post so much, thank you for your wonderful thoughts and inspiration!
    It’s so great that grown persons love toys! Toys help us see the aesthetic side of the world and enrich us from the inside. 🙂
    Great posts about different vision of toy photography! Can’t wait to read more about your creativity!
    Kind Regards,

  3. Wow, this post just blows me away! All those things you state you try to capture in images… you DO! The detail, the light, the beauty, it comes streaming through in very photograph you produce.

    Toy photography for me has mostly been about fun and community. I love the detail in the minifigures and some of the sets I’ve come across and get caught up the trends of legography when I do manage to shoot. Ah, but the beauty I seek in the world around me, I find that in most of your images. I need to stop and re-examine what I’m really thinking when I’m shooting… because sun rays really make my heart flutter! Maybe that is why I’ve been finding it very hard to shoot at all, I not sure what I’m looking for.

    • Margaret, Thank you so much of your kind words. Its reactions like this that encourage me to keep writing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

      Like you I started in the lego community simply as a fun way to share a quick photo, cause someone to smile and connect with like minded people. I’m not sure when it changed. Maybe when we put that first exhibition together back in March of 2015? When I had to choose images that had some meaning beyond IG it made me think about the whole concept of photography. Then Kristina and I did the series of challenges and it helped me think about photography and the meaning of our work beyond simply that quick portrait. Somewhere in there I came to the realization that I do this for me and it can be whatever I want it to be, including a photograph that celebrates beauty.

      If you don’t know where to start I might suggest taking on one of the past challenges we posted on the blog. Make it Seem was my favorite. Also check out Seeker and see where that leads you. Photography is a wonderful form of self expression and I truly hope you find your way back to it. Let me know if I can be of any more support. 😀

  4. fubiken/Stefan.K

    Thank you for this post
    The first think that comes into my mind is sunrays and shadows. I do like the play between light and shadows. Other then that is ofcourse nature and flowers. Got the bee-minifig for my macrophotos 😉
    And once again you have made me think about myself taking pictures, thank you my friend!

    • Stefan, thank you for your comment, I’m sending you a few big hugs to Malmo! There is nothing as beautiful as the play of light and shadow. Your flower shots are always so lovely. Embrace the beauty where you see it, life is too short for anything else. xo

      • fubiken/Stefan.K

        Thank you Shelly, thank you! You bring tears to my eyes with your kind words!
        And yes, sometimes it is all about the shadows. What you show and what you hint in the shadows.

  5. Jan

    This idea is new to me. I guess I typically think of photography being of people and landscapes. Thanks for opening up my eyes to a new way of seeing. There truly is beauty everywhere if we have eyes to see it.

    • Thank you Jan for joining the conversation, your comment is very much appreciated. I hope you can look around you and see beauty and interesting subjects everywhere! We live in the ‘golden age’ of photography and its a beautiful thing!

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