Lightness: A Photo Challenge

Our most recent photo challenge in the Toy Photographers G+ Community is Lightness. We want to see how you can express a word with many meanings through your toy photography.  Because the month is nearly half over; its time to get serious about the competition. For this reason I want to talk about the idea of Lightness and what it means to me. I believe a single word can inspire creativity.

Here are a few meanings for the word Lightness and my own interpretations:

the state or quality of being light in weight

Flying shots are a staple of many toy photographers. The ability to create the illusion of flight, motion, swinging is important if your toys fly through the air, either on wings or by the use of webs.


Rarely do I create images where my toys fly through the air. I’m far to impatient to erect elaborate set ups. Set ups that include toys suspended by wires or strings to simulate flight. But thanks to the influence of amazing photographers like Avanaut and Tom Milton, I’m inspired to try my hand at the ‘flying shot’.  My chosen muse is the X-Wing from the Star Wars franchise. There is something compelling about the design of this ship that inspires me to try my hand at creating believable motion within a still image.

lack of seriousness, levity in actions, thoughts or speech

Toy Photography and humor go together like a hand and glove. Toys (especially LEGO) are designed to be fun! Play can be an important stress reliever. In a world that seems to be getting more complicated by the day, playing with toys becomes even more important. Who cant use a good laugh? I wonder if this doesn’t explain the popularity of the character Benni from the LEGO Movie? His infectious attitude, his wide smile, bring a sense of levity to any situation.

That moment when you realize that Benni is laughing AT you and not WITH you.

Nothing makes me happier than when I make myself laugh. If I can chuckle at my own set-up, I know I’m on the right track.

the state or quality of being light or illuminated

How you choose to illuminate your images will effect how your viewer will respond to your story. I enjoy photographing outdoors where the sun often shines bright and I have limited control over this light. Because of this, I use additional lighting and reflectors to bounce the available light onto my figures. My biggest struggle is making sure my subjects are not cast in shadow. While I prefer a bright image, the quality of the illumination of your subject can create an emotional response from your viewer. Both Jennifer and Tobias use light to evoke an emotional response. Their images are often filled with shadows and pools of light that add another layer to the story. When you’re viewing or creating images, are you aware of the light and how it’s being used to create a reaction?

thin or pale coloration

When I think of the idea of lightness, my thoughts move towards ‘high key’ photography. Kristina Alexanderson has created an entire style of toy photography based on the concept of high key photography. By using this technique you can separate the image from the background. This separation helps to focus the viewers attention on the subject. There is little distraction from the subject of your image.

the relative degree to which an object reflects light

There is no doubt that I love to photograph reflections; I love to photograph in and around water. When I recently travelled to Chicago I knew I wanted to photograph on the famous sculpture: Cloud Gate.  My newly acquired chrome spaceman seemed an appropriate choice for the subject of this image. My idea was to create a feeling of exploring a world that doesn’t quit make sense. I liked how the curve of the sculpture twisted the lines of the building.

Reflections and reflective surfaces are a continuing source of inspiration for many photographers because of the implied metaphor; reflection as a stand in for personal introspection.

These are only a few of my ideas on Lightness. G+ Community members have already contributed ideas that include: reflectors, impossible yoga positions, playing with fire, and sun rays. I have a few images in my head involving color and more reflections that I hope to get to before the month is out.

But more importantly, how would you interpret the idea of Lightness? 

Did I mention the winner receives Lego poly bag 5004929?


To enter this contest simply join our Toy Photography community and post your image in the Photo Challenge section. If you have any questions, we have moderators on hand to assist you. 

Have you signed up for our weekly round-up of blog posts?


  1. What a surprise, Shelly! Thanks for kindly mentioning us… While I am still pondering the concept of lightness – I keep imagining feathers when I read the word – I would like to say that I love your pictures. I am especially fond of the astronaut, the reflection is superb, as is the overall atmosphere. I imagine he just left the safety of his ship to go out and explore. As for flight, actually, there is something I have been contemplating – but though I am confident I can make the plane ‘fly,’ I did not yet figure out to make its propeller rotate (without heavy post-production). We’ll see…

    • Tobias, Thank you for your kind words about my images. They are much appreciated. 🙂

      What I love about this challenge is its open ended nature. It can be interpreted so many different ways. I realized half way through writing my post that my images we very ‘bright’ but that is only one way to look at light. I admire how the light of your images has its own part to play in the story being told. I can only imagine what you will be able convey with this challenge. I look forward to seeing ‘lightness’ in a new way.

      Thank you for being a part of the community and the extended conversation!

      • Shelly, truth be told, I am up to my neck in projects (the last sequence for Noir still has to be produced), and so bent on experimenting with darkness that I did not really think I would participate. But with your extra nudge … I just remembered I still have one (yet) unpublished picture that might meet the challenge. [Thouhgtfully rubbing chin.]

  2. Great post Shelly, and thanks for the mention (nice efforts with the motion shot).

    I love how you’ve been able to find such variety in your photos for this challenge. It’s a testament to the diversity of your work, a quality often overlooked in an age of having to have a consistent and easy to follow social media profile.

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