Is Toy Photography Going Mainstream?

Call me crazy, but I think our little corner of the internet – the fun corner where all the cool kids hang out with their cameras and their toys – is starting to draw some attention from, dare I say it… the “mainstream.”

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed a lot of toy photography come from sources I wasn’t quite expecting. At the risk of tooting our own horn, I suspect that this awesome community, and most importantly the work of the people in it, have something to do with it!

I first noticed this on Twitter. A few celebrities I follow have been tweeting out toy photography, not for any apparent promotion, but simply because the photos are of characters that they play in popular films. Take Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) for example:

Or Mark Ruffalo, of Avengers fame, who will soon play the Incredible Hulk again in this fall’s Thor: Ragnarok:

This newfound mainstream popularity goes beyond celebrities simply reposting photos taken by toy photographers; brands have jumped on the bandwagon as well!

Target hired a photographer to show off some of their Star Wars toys to celebrate the release of Rogue One, Hasbro enlisted the help of toy photographers (many of whom are part of this very community and have written for this blog!) to recreate scenes from A New Hope to celebrate the film’s 40th anniversary, Google+ not only helped us with our blockbuster photo challenge last month, but the San Francisco Toy Photo Safari as well.

LEGO has not only increasingly shared and reposted shots from toy photographers on social media, but they’ve begun taking their own pics too! Take this recent shot to tie into the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales for instance:

Adventure is building! #PiratesoftheCaribbean ☠️🌊@Disney

A post shared by LEGO (@lego) on

Rather than to resorting to their usual corporate-looking, computer-generated shots of LEGO minifigures, the folks at LEGO sent a photographer out to snap a real pic instead. If you told me that this was taken by someone in our community, I’d believe you! It looks just like something that would grace the #toy_photographers tag on Instagram, or have been included in last month’s #TinyToysBigScreen challenge. Stylistically, it’s uncanny.

What does it all mean?

I’m honestly not sure what this all means, if anything. Perhaps I’m seeing more toy photography because I’m looking for more toy photography. That’s entirely possible.

Regardless, I like to think that there has to be some correlation between the steady rise of toy photography and its popularity in more mainstream sources.

We’ve often mused about where toy photography “belongs” in the art world. Perhaps, before too long, we won’t have to ask ourselves that anymore. Time will tell…

Hipster Guy liked toy photography before it was cool

Have you noticed toy photography going mainstream? If so, where? If not, keep an eye out for it!


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  1. Great post and I love seeing celebrities enjoying and sharing. I was just thinking about this a couple days ago. The past few months I’ve seems tons of articles about Mitchel Wu’s photos and just yesterday I stumbled on an article by fstoppers- a popular photo blog, from a year ago ago with bts toy photo shots by Steven Price. Toy photography does seem to be steadily becoming more main stream. I have to wonder what doors this will open.

  2. James this is a very interesting post! Like you I don’t know if we’re seeng more toy photography or if we only WANT to see more toy photography. There is no doubt that Mattel is on the toy photography band wagon. Its nice to see LEGO move away from their animated mini figures and move towards ‘reality’. That is a nice change of pace!

    As far as hollywood stars filling there social media accounts.. its nice to get a boost from there large followings. But aren’t they simply guilty of trying to find unique content to fill their own social media obligations? Do these photographers get any kind of bump? Obviously HRJoe is at least tagged, but the other photo has no link to the artist. I find that frustrating for so many reasons.

    Thanks again for the great post!

  3. I’m obviously late to this party, but I’ll chime in and give my 2 cents… While I do love the idea of getting a boost to the cause from celebrities, if they don’t give credit it is just seen by most as a stunt by Hollywood to promote something -not a photography movement with real faces behind the creations.

    Speaking to Jennifer’s point about Mitchel Wu- he definitely works really hard at his craft and promoting what he does and in-turn what we do… I remember a couple years ago when Ming Na Wen of Agents of SHIELD fame ( gave Mitchel a shout out— I thought that was one of the coolest things I have ever seen (and it had nothing to do with promoting her or the show).

    Brett Wilson recently shared with me that he was followed by the band @DrColossus on IG and they left an awesome comment on one (maybe more) of his posts. I have seen other such stories as well. Always kinda cool to get kudos from the people that inspired us to create something.

    Last Christmas there was also the use of a Skeletor figure in a Honda car commercial that was pretty cool…

    So hopefully the trend continues and maybe the rising tide of popularity with raise all ships… and everyone can see a little recognition in various ways in the future.

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