Again this week I will be revisiting an older blog post with a few updates: How do you choose the toys you photograph? The topic came up because of a recent DM conversation I had about the differences between LEGO and other action oriented toys. As toy photographers, what we choose to photograph, as much as how we choose to photograph them, define our personal styles. So I want to know, how do you choose the toys you photograph?
January 1, 2017
This past weekend I meet up with some local toy photographers for an afternoon of companionship, conversation and photography. As I was looking around at my friends hard at work, I was struck by the variety of toys they had brought along as subjects. There were dinosaurs, Star Wars action figures, Bratz dolls, LEGO minifigures, custom figures, anime figures, and plenty more I couldn’t identify. Which brings me to my question – How do you choose the toys you photograph?
I’ve always wondered why some photographers are attracted to certain toys and not others. Some photographers swear by anything from a particular universe like Star Wars or Harry Potter, some photographers only use one or a very limited selection of toys creating a unified look, while others use any and every toy that crosses their path to create playful and irreverent images. (Sunny I’m looking at you!)
My own toy photography journey began with the LEGO minifigure and they continue to be the cornerstone of my photographic exploration. Occasionally I find myself attracted to a particular toy, like Danbo, T-Rex, kodamas, Muppets and I add them to my collection. I have fun photographing these other figures and find them a welcome break from the LEGO world.
But no matter how far I stray from the LEGO minifigure, I always come back to them because I haven’t found anything that surpasses them for sheer story telling flexibility. Plus their diminutive size is a real bonus; you can pack an awful lot of minifigures into one travel case.
The Problem with LEGO
Of course the trade off with these particular toys is that you can’t achieve the level of realism that you can with many of the multi articulated action figures that are popular with collectors and photographers alike. Seven points of articulation are no match for 16 (or more!) when it comes to flexibility and pose-ability. You will never confuse a LEGO mini figure photograph with a hyper realistic scene. No matter how cleverly you light the little piece of yellow plastic or how much debris fills the air, it’s still a child toy. In defense of my beloved minifigure, what it can’t achieve in realism it more than makes up for in fun.
So the question I want to know from you is this: what attracts you to the toys that you enjoy photographing the most? Is there a nostalgia element that inspires you? Is there a practical reason that makes one toy more appealing than another? Do you enjoy playing in a previously established story line or world? Does the design of a toy inspire you creatively? Do you like to photograph whats new and hip in the toy world? Maybe it is the uniqueness of custom toy that inspires you? Possibly you like the ultimate challenge which is creating unique images from a toy that is readily available to all?
How do you choose your toys?
There are so many good reasons to photograph toys, but what is it about your favorite toys that inspire you? I’m genuinely curious what motivates you. I’m hoping your answers will help me to understand why I might gravitate to the toys that are my favorites. In the past few years there has been a push in the toy photography community to more and more realistic images. I feel so old fashioned sticking with the humble LEGO minifigure. In fact, I feel like my own reasons for photographing toys are rather old fashioned and quickly becoming irrelevant.
Thank you for reading this and all my other posts! I look forward to reading your answers. 🙂
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