Looking back, going forwards

When I decided that this year would be a fallow year for my photography, in terms of not picking up any major projects or forcing anything to happen, I knew I would probably need to spend some time looking back on where I have been over the last five years (holy moley, FIVE years?) in order to move my photography forward.

When I hit my 1000th post on Instagram this week, I knew it was time to start this process.

Whilst I spent a little time navel gazing in January about the year just gone, and whilst I shared My First Toy Photo with you back in 2016, I thought it was time to take a little walk down memory lane at the last five years and see just where I have come from.

To do this, I will look back at my Flickr account to this same week in February and see what photos I took, challenging myself to think about how each year my photography changed.

February 2013

Back in 2013 I had only just bought my first LEGO minifigure. I had just started an iPhone (4s) 365 project and was taking photos of everything around me. I didn’t even have my DSLR at this point! LEGO minifigures started to appear around mid-February.

Fighting the little people – 20/02/2013
Pay attention now! – 23/02/2013

The overwhelming thoughts I have about these pictures is how grainy they are! Obviously the iPhone 4s wasn’t the best camera at the time, and it’s amazing how much phone cameras have improved over the last five years! My style has also changed considerably from taking photos with paper backgrounds (and base plates!) to thinking more about locations for photos. These photos, especially the second one, really make me cringe!

February 2014

By 2014 I was much more into LEGO! I had my sigfig in regular use! This is also the point I started doing more of my photography outside, rather than using paper backgrounds, although I continued that for a lot of my photos. You can see how the rest of 2014 went in my 100 LEGO photo project album over on Flickr.

Sick Sunday – 23/02/2014
Photography mini-me – 27/02/2014

Whilst I do love the ‘snotty Sunday’ photo, the clean blue background bothers me considerably. The second photo is much more consistent with the style I use to shoot most of my photos today. I even still shoot on that same log when I get the chance! Not so many snowdrops this year!

February 2015

In 2015 I did my first toy 365 project, featuring a different figure each month. February was Yeti month!

Yeti-flection! 21/02/2015
Painter – 24/02/2015

The first photo is one that I would take today, although I think I have a better understanding of lighting and post-production tweaks to make this nicer. Bringing the angle down a fraction would also be preferable.

The second photo concept I love, but WHY did I use the board? Probably to make the yeti stay standing, but there are other ways to do this. I may have to repeat this idea and see what I come up with today! Maybe I need to make a mini artists studio as a background. I don’t take many photos like this currently. I tend to keep everything more natural, but maybe I should do some repeat experiments.

February 2016

In 2016, I did a more varied 365 project, which ended up still including a lot of toys! This was the year I started trying to push my photography and really started focusing on toy photography more as art. There was some of that in 2015, but I would say this is when it got much more serious!

Ready to fly – 18/02/2016
Discussion – 21/02/2016

Playing with the light in that first Chima shot was possibly the first time I had tried shooting figures in front of the sun to create flares. It starts to show the soft tones I now prefer, and is of course taken on my apple tree branch! The crop on the photo bothers me a little but overall I still like the photo!

This week in February I also took quite a few shots of my Preiser figures. I really like this one although I think I should have made the crop a little tighter to focus on the figures more.

February 2017

2017 was the year of the epic and most difficult toy photography 365 that I had done. It was also the year that I really started settling into some kind of photographic style and playing with more than just the figures. These two photos were some of the very early ‘series of objects’ photos that I took.

Red bike – 16/02/2017
Stories to tell – 17/02/2017

That bike shot is one of my favourite shots from last year, which is interesting when I think about how early on it was taken. I love the pop of red against the green. I think I might try to play more with primary colours and making contrasts over the next few months. I like the uncluttered feel to it. I also love the simplicity of the books, and the slightly hazy feel to the photo soothes me in an odd way.

February 2018

There’s no point doing a run down memory lane without having a comparison so here are two photos from this weekend’s photo session. This year I’ve definitely been shooting more in portrait and my love for softness is only growing.

Space Cowboy Saturday – 17/02/2018
Jumping for joy – 17/02/2018

These two photos were both taken last Saturday morning whilst the sun was out and I was being chased around the garden by a red robin. The first was taken for #spacecowboysaturday whilst the second was taken to show how happy I was about the Harry Potter set announcements.

In general I’m pretty happy with both these photos, although I found the photoshop touch-up required frustrating. I’m certainly more of a shoot and go kind of person. Lots of post-processing is really not something I’m keen on!

Have you taken a walk down memory lane recently to compare how you toy photography was, to where it is today?

It’s a scary exercise, and a little cringe-worthy at times, but I think a worthwhile one. I can certainly say my photography has come a long way since 2013 and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes now.

– Lizzi
Stepping on Bricks

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  1. Thanks for thos post, Lizzi – so other people do it, too! I’ve certainly been down that lane, and as often as it makes me cringe, I stumble upon a picture I did not much like then and think, mmmh, not that bad…

    But I never tried to see the evolution, like you did – but maybe I’ve not come such a long way… It’s beautiful to see yours!

  2. What a difference, a long way indeed.

    I’ve started 5 years ago too, and look back quite often. Funny thing is that what changes/ improves over the years is my technique… what is still the same is my purpose of trying to tell a story with each photo… yet my story might differ from the viewers. Nevertheless, whenever I shoot a photo I always have a complete story about the scene in my head… how did it come to be that these people are in this place and why.

    Looking at your progress, not only technique improved greatly, but I also feel like there is a change in the purpose of the photos. I can’t really explain it… it’s a feeling.

  3. Lovely post Lizzi. I think its important to look back at where you came from. It is helpful when figuring out where you want to go next. I also have an early image with a mini figure on a plate. I think we all do! What where we thinking? I find it amusing that you’re trying my portrait images. Ive always loved that orientation. But now that I’m selling my images I find landscape to be more useful. What a change it has been!

    The style that you’re evolving into is beautiful. I find your images to be calm, beautiful with a hint of magic. Just the way I like them. I look forward to seeing where you go once you point your ship in a new direction. 🙂

    • Thank you Shelly! The shooting in portrait is absolutely your inspiration (fault! ;)) You totally made me want to try portrait! I’m not a complete convert yet but I’m getting there! And thank you for your lovely comments about my style!

  4. Reiterlied

    This blog post is a good reminder for me to go back through my older photos. I used to go back over all my photos in Lightroom but I don’t do it anymore so often for the oldest photos (i.e. the ones I took before moving to Finland).

    That said, I’ve been following you since I started to look at LEGO photos on Flickr (almost 4 years ago), and I still remember some of your early images. I’m truly amazed how much you’ve evolved photographically!

    • Yes, do it! I found the Flickr camera roll a really quick way to do this, especially as my earlier stuff I never moved into Lightroom!

      Thanks for being a looooong-time follower! Ha! It’s been awesome seeing your photos over the years too!

  5. Hi Lizzi,

    What a wonderful read learning of your toy photography jouney. It reminds me of that saying about “a journey of a thousand miles begin with one.” The first shots may feel cringeworthy to you but what a foray into an incredible skill development/art discovery/evolution you’ve undertaken. I wonder what direction you would take your craft in the next 12 months.

    Personally, my journey with photography started back in 2012 but with toys only July 2017 – I’m keen to do a comparison come July 2018!


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