Every photograph you take is a reflection of you.

I wrote that sentence for the first time on April 13, 2016 and honestly, nothing has changed. It doesn’t matter if you’re creating a lot of images or only a few…make it count.

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” ― Ansel Adams



When someone loves me. (color version)

Dig Deep

Let me take a moment to explain this image. Like everyone else in the known world who likes toys, I enjoyed all three Toy Story movies. There is a scene in Toy Story 3 that gets me every time. This scene is a flashback where we see Jessie ‘playing’ with her owner in better times. I think this scene is permanently imprinted on my brain. As a girl who ‘played’ with her toys in much the same way, I can relate. I can relate to the emotion of growing up and leaving your toys behind. It was this image, this feeling, that I was thinking about when I created the above photograph.

When you’re capturing photographs, slow down, think about what you’re doing. Delve deep into yourself and pull out a memory – it doesn’t matter if that memory is good or bad. Take a picture of that memory with your toys as your muse. Make photographs with intention. Make photographs that are a reflection of you and everything that has gone into making you, you.

If you’re going to go to all the trouble of making photography your passion, your main creative outlet, make that effort mean something. Resist the cheap thrills of insta likes and insta friends. Create work that is meaningful to you and a reflection of you.


I think that many of the people who have contributed to this blog over the past two years have this in common. Kristina’s 52 week project featuring Princess Leia comes to mind. While on one level these images can be viewed as simple photos of a princess, but on closer inspection there are so many more layers. Its up to the viewer to dig into these layers and make the connections.  It’s that feeling, the personal connections revealed in these photographs, which in my opinion make them so compelling.

But Kristina isn’t the only one mining her own ideas and feelings to capture compelling images. Tobias Schiel uses toys and dramatic lighting to express his love of the noir genre (both in movies and literature). Christoffer Östberg is another toy photographer who has graced our blog who’s images and poetry is incredibly powerful. When I read his words and look at his images I can almost hear him screaming. I finds his work to be incredibly emotional and powerful. I feel so blessed when Yuri Badiner contributes to the blog. Yuri is a poet at heart and his images are a reflection of his complex inner life.


There are many more examples of incredibly unique stories and images published on the blog. Each of these artists that I’ve mentioned (and so many more) create images that bubble up from their souls. They’re images that reflect all the books they’ve read, the music they’ve heard and the experiences they’ve had. I can feel the richness, a depth of emotion, in these images.

And while you’re busy creating work that reflects all the influences in your life, remember others are doing the same. It’s so easy to forget that there are real people behind those social media posts. I think this might be why certain hashtags like #Withtoysinmind are popular, or why the podcast and our long running series “Why?” are also popular. They give us a glimpse into the mind of the photographer and create a richer viewing experience.

If you want to create powerful images that take your work beyond simple Fan Fiction, then I recommend digging deep and creating images that are a reflection of you…all of you. As my smart-ass teenage son is always telling me “You do you”.

For an old, white guy, Ansel Adams, might have known a thing or two about taking photographs.

~ Shelly

Thank you to everyone who contributed questions about Fair Play and Fair Use as it pertains to toy photography. I have complied your questions and sent them to one of LEGO’s lawyers. She has responded and has assured me she will get back to me. Stay tuned…. 🙂

Thank you everyone for the kind wishes on my recent birthday. And special thanks go to Wiiman and Brett for letting the cat out of the bag. 🙂