Toy Photography Blues

The year is off to an inauspicious start. Between the wet weather, a new dog (total distraction on four legs!) and an upgrade to my camera equipment I’m singing the toy photography blues. You’re probably thinking: “What! That makes no sense! New equipment, like new toys, should inspire a burst of creativity!” But alas, in this case, my new lens is making me sing the toy photography blues.

Two steps forward

This past year I was in a nice grove with my photography. Even though I didn’t get as much as I would have liked, I never failed to return with my photo. My routine was so set that I always new what lens to use, where to place my toys and even where to place my knee pad without even thinking about it. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I was on auto pilot for many of my photos.

When you’ve completely bonded with your camera and you have a firm grasp on how to use your lenses, you’re freeded up to concentrate on your photos. This is where I was at the end of 2018. Even the gift of an Olympus Zuiko lens didn’t throw me off my game. And maybe this is what inspired my easy arrogance about changing my kit up and adding a new lens.

One step back

While many toy photographers like to use the seasonal holidays to expand their toy collection, I prefer to expand my lens selection. I thought this was the perfect time to upgrade to a newer version of the LensBaby Composer. I assumed I would be streamlining my kit by ditching the manual aperture rings and the lens adaptor I currently use. Oh how wrong I was! Now I’m singing the toy photography blues.

Earlier this week the rain stopped long enough to head to my favorite park for some photography fun. I was anticipating capturing some wonderful photos as I picked my way through the mud to get to my favorite puddle. Rather than the well rehearsed routine of plopping down and getting a few photos, I was met with endless frustration. I couldn’t get the figures in focus, I couldn’t get low enough in the mud to see through the view finder (yes, I know, Im old school) and I couldn’t figure out which macro ring to use with this new Composer Sweet 50 lens.


  • I turned a box of toys out into the mud
  • Somehow I dropped my new Sweet 50 lens into a puddle
  • I lost my 8 mm macro ring
  • I discovered the focus peaking on my Sony doesn’t work with this version of the Composer
  • The light sucked

I’m fact my little photo expedition went so badly I’m more than a little discouraged. If you ever thought that somehow I had my shit together, then let me dissuade you immediately of that impression. I’m grateful no one was around to watch me fumble on the edge of the muddy puddle trying to capture just one decent image.

Oh sky, why do you have to be so grey??

Practice, practice, practice

What the heck did I expect? Whenever you change up your kit, be it with a lens or a new camera body, it takes time to bond with the new equipment. I realize this first real world test of the new lens didn’t go as well as I had hoped. (No, lets face it, it went so badly I’m thinking of reverting to my old lens!) But before I throw in the towel completely, I will give this new lens a few months of serious play before I make any rash decisions.

Practice, practice, practice is my new mantra. I remember when I first purchased my original Lensbaby Composer. I gave it a few spins at the time and then put it away as cute, but with limited application potential. It wasn’t until I picked it up again a few years later that I discovered how much I enjoyed the effects. I like how this lens makes me feel. When I look at images of toys I’ve taken with a Lensbaby I feel as if I’m looking into another world. The world that I like to call The Secret World of Toys. I’m not willing to give up on this effect so easily. While I’m waiting to find my groove again, I will simply have to practice, practice, practice.

Exploring my inner Tom Milton.

In conclusion

Did you know that photography can be frustrating? Sometimes I forget this. Because I often resist stepping outside of my comfort zone I’ve insulated myself from this fact. I still balk at setting up studio shots and I refuse to use a tripod even though it would help me create better ‘flying’ photos. I like it in my comfort zone.

So, if you have a hard time learning new skills, know you’re not alone. Photography can be frustrating! Even though I’m currently singing the toy photography blues, I’m going to persevere and see if I can master this new lens. But before I can do that I need to stop by the camera store and pick up a new set of macro rings.


~ Shelly

Did you receive any fun new camera gear for Christmas? Have you had a similar experience with new photography equipment? Have you ever experienced other examples of the Toy Photography Blues? 


Toy Photographers Meet-up 2019 Update

If you’re thinking about joining this years United States toy photographers meet-up, we’ve had a shift of locations from my earlier post. Instead of meeting in Moab, UT we will be meeting near St. George, UT. We’ve made the change to one large private house rather than everyone scattered around one city. Think MTV Real World toy photographers style. The dates remain the same, April 11th – 14th, and all the activities that make these events so fun, remain in place. If you’re interested in participating this year, please let me know your level of interest by DM’ing me via Instagram or MeWe or you can sign up here.

Because everyone will be in one home, we’re limiting the number of participants this year. We already have verbal commitments from over 12 photographers so I’m pretty sure this will be a sell out. If you want to hang out with some of the coolest folks I know, you know what you have to do: sign up today!


  1. I totally feel you Shelly. I got several new cameras last year which worked well but none of them felt as familiar and comfortable as my Olympus. That being said – I really do want to push the envelope with my photography and I think the smaller sensor size is a bit hampering. So I am looking to get the Sony a7r and upgrade to a full frame setup. I will hang on to my Olympus though because I cannot bring myself to part with my Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 glass. It’s such a perfect lens for toy photography.

    As for the meetup being moved to St. George – I am super stoked! That’s my stomping grounds! I was looking forward to Moab but am glad the venue has moved. Zions, Bryce, Grand Canyon, and tons of state parks (red cliffs, sand hollow, snow canyon), plus outdoor desert locations galore are right there too.
    I think we will need to make a quick trip to the glitter pit!

    • Joseph – why would you need to drop your favorite lens if you upgrade to the Sony? Im using an adaptor with the Zuiko and it works like a dream! The reason I switched to the Sony was to have more options with my lenses. I think you can have your cake and eat it too!

      Im glad we have our official tour guide for Utah! I will be in touch and we can talk about trips to offer people as options. I think this will be a ‘choose your own adventure’ style of meet-up since we will all see each other in the evenings. Glitter pit for the win!!

  2. Well, now, let’s see. I got a new lens just a little over two months ago, my last photo was shot about a month ago, last post two weeks ago (of a photo shot two weeks earlier). Do I sing the blues? Damn right I do!

    I liked your post. Not because I’d enjoy your misery but because it hit home so hard. So hard!

    Some day soon, I’ll get back to the saddle and I’ll tame this sucker. Tally-ho!

  3. “I turned a box of toys out into the mud
    Somehow I dropped my new Sweet 50 lens into a puddle
    I lost my 8 mm macro ring
    I discovered the focus peaking on my Sony doesn’t work with this version of the Composer
    The light sucked”

    Some days just suck. I can imagine your frustration. Pretty sure you will get use to the camera and work that magic. Looking forward to your studio shots and flying figures! No pressure!

  4. Tony Tulloch

    You have your shit together, just not all the time. In reply to your Composer woes, I have two (rather cheeky) words: Sol 45

    (well, it’s a word and a number, but you know what I mean).

  5. I don’t think there is any toy-photographer out there who’s never been frustrated and was (on the verge of) throwing the camera in the bin!

    It’s the combination of wanting to grow and learn so badly, and not quite being there yet… … … or it’s just one of ‘those’ days… again! Haha. seeing the image in your mind and just not getting it right within the camera.

    Just hang in there Shelly…. but you already know that 🙂 I’m looking forward to what you’ll be coming up with next.

    PS. Get a viewscreen…. I remember the days that I put my neck and body in all kinds of unnatural position for too lang just to get a short peak through the viewfinder… afterwards having a few hours/ sometimes days of pain in my neck.

    • Thanks for your vote of confidence! We all have those days…some last longer than others 😀

      I do have a view screen but my eyes (even with glasses), I cant see the focus worth a damn! If there was focus peaking on the view screen I might have a good work around, but right now I sort of guess and hope for the best. Luckily that method is working pretty good. Oh well, I have another chance oat getting it right tomorrow when we head out for some snow shoeing fun with toys!

  6. Mary Wardell

    I did get a new lens for Christmas but since it’s a wide angle, it’s not that helpful for toy photography. My main woes have been the gray days and a lack of inspiration although I’ve had a few moments. And sadly I’ce had to bow out of the meet-up because of date conflicts. Ah well – there’s always another time. And the sun came out today! 🙂

  7. Oh Shelly. So much of that sucks. Goodness. I love your clear, insightful, vulnerable and humorous writing about it. Hopefully that was cathartic. I appreciate knowing themst even my guru has bad days. I have too many – in self doubt and in reality. 😩🤪😂

    Hang in there. You shall rise again. Onward to the glitter pits!

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