“You find me at work; excuse the dust on my blouse. I sculpt my marble myself.”

-Camille Claudel

Oh, dust. How I loathe thee.

As I’m sure is the case not only for many toy photographers, but macro photographers as well, dust can be a formidable opponent, and can even ruin otherwise perfect photos. One missed spec on a minifigure’s shoulder runs the risk of distracting the viewer and drawing unwanted attention.

Of course, the level of dust frustration will vary depending on the photographer and on the viewer. For me, it’s often a deal breaker, causing me to either spend an exorbitant amount of time spot-cleaning the dust in Photoshop or Lightroom, or simply scrapping the initial photos and trying the whole setup again.

Over the years I’ve become better about checking for dust before taking any photos. However, I’ve found that, with something like LEGO as a subject, it can often be hard to get all of the dust I want. Those little plastic minifigures have more nook and crannies than an English Muffin!


The Dust Bunny cleaning up before her shoot

I never found much success with feather dusters, and while something like a microfiber cloth can help remove unwanted dust from my surface or some larger pieces, I needed something that would be versatile enough to get into all the little corners I needed. Plus, I didn’t want to spend too much time dusting. When creativity hits, you have to strike while the iron is hot! Dusting for too long can become frustrating and kill the mood.

That’s when my wife came to the rescue.

My wife is a makeup enthusiast, and had the brilliant idea of using makeup brushes to solve my dust problem! Luckily for me, she had a few that she thought would best fit my needs. I’m sure there are a wide variety of makeup brushes out there that will do the trick, but these are the three that she recommended.


New additions to my photography toolkit

Pictured above, from left to right:

  1. The E.L.F. small stipple brush has bristles that are long, but not too dense, meaning I can cover wide areas without running the risk of knocking pieces over.
  2. The Morphe E40 Eyelash Fan does wonders in the little spaces where a minifigure’s arms connect to the torso or where the hands click into the arms. Its bristles are small, but dense, giving you a lot of power in a small package.
  3. The Morphe E23 Deluxe Blender brush is my favorite of the three. I find that it’s good for all-around dust removal, and has a nice thickness that allows it to pick up a lot of dust easily.

The makeup brushes are easy to throw in a camera bag if you’re on the go, don’t require much maintenance (I like to rinse them off after each shoot, to avoid dust buildup), and are perfectly sized for LEGO minifigures or toys! And best of all, they’re super affordable. The most expensive of the three (the E23) was $7.

If you or your loved one have some makeup brushes lying around, give them a try, and keep those pesky little dust piles away from your meticulously staged toy photos.


The artist and his tools

How do you feel about dust in toy photos? Is it a problem you’ve struggled with or something that distracts you? What methods have you found to help solve the problem? 

– James

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