There’s a plethora of resources out there on evoking emotion and feeling in photography. However, simply adding the word “toy” before photography in a Google search, and the results point to articles of toy photographers that do this, but don’t direct us to tips on how to evoke emotion.
Tips and Hints
Delete “toy” from the search again and recurring tips and suggestions on how to add emotion come up.
Take candid portraits. Give minimal direction and do not intervene. Give your subjects something to do. Capture the mood of your subject. The “eyes” have it. Capture movement. Utilize light & shade. Cropping, chops, and details. Capture your subjects in a familiar environment.
Yep, all wonderful tips. But not all of these can be applied to toy photography. I wish they did. I wish I could take candid, unscripted of my toys. But alas, it doesn’t matter how many birthday candles I blow out, my toys remain motionless on their shelves.
My favourite tip is “the eyes have it”. Often, we’ll read that the eyes are the window to our soul and that if we had to isolate any body part to openly portray emotions, it’s the eyes.
But what about toys that don’t have eyes? Or if they’re eyes are hidden behind a mask or are under a helmet? How can we get a glimpse into their souls when the windows have their curtains drawn? Or they’re boarded up?
Buckets and Helmets
This conundrum is what draws me to toys like Stormtroopers, Scout Troopers, Snowtroopers, etc. I enjoy the challenges those buckets and helmets throw at me, especially when attempting to convey emotions.
To me, there’s an inferred sadness in the design of the Stormtroopers’ buckets.
The Scout troopers’ helmets give me a sense of bewilderment.
And the Imperial cold weather assault Stormtroopers’ breather hoods, as well as recirculating warm air, remove any hint of emotion; a blank canvas, and a challenge.
Sure, a figure with an angry expression is fun to photograph, in a photograph depicting anger. And a LEGO Minifigure with an inquisitive face printed is great for its purpose, in a toy photograph conveying curiosity.
But evoking emotion with an unseen facial expression is a challenge that keeps me grabbing for my Troopers.
How do you convey emotion in your toy photography? Are there any particular toys that evoke emotions in your photography, contrary to their appearance?
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