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 I thought this was the perfect time to upgrade to a newer version of the LensBaby Composer.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!