Fitting Toy Photography into the Busy Times of Life

It’s happened before, hasn’t it? Life gets hectic, your schedule is jam-packed, and toy photography drops right out of the bucket. Before you know it, the month is almost over and you’ve posted, what? Two photos? Five?

Listen, I’m not judging. The numbers aren’t the point. Maybe you’re a one-photo-a-month photographer, and that’s okay. But you get my point: You find yourself in a situation where you’re not posting as often as you’d like, whatever the exact numbers happen to be.

It happens to all of us, at one time or another. Today I’m sharing my top three tricks for keeping toy photography going strong when life gets crazy.

1. Keep a toy in your pocket (or bag) and use your phone camera

This may be easier for LEGO toy photographers than action figure photographers, but if you want to fit a photo into the small windows of opportunity during your day, you need to have a toy (and camera) with you. Use your phone camera if you can’t manage carrying around your usual photography kit.

If you don’t like using your phone camera, push yourself a little to try something new. Explore the limits of your phone’s settings, find the best light possible, use a plain background or make sure the background is further away if your phone has poor control over depth-of-field (if it doesn’t blur out the background very well).

Exhibit A: Ant-Man

I keep Ant-Man in my purse, because he works really well in everyday situations. I can take photos of him in an environment like a workplace, a retail store, a city sidewalk, or a mall, and he fits right in because he’s supposed to be a small figure in a larger world.

Exhibit B: LEGO minifigures

Most phone cameras handle LEGO minifigures pretty well, and I have carried Ray Tenny, my “Krash Custom” (a custom figure created by @krash_override) around for a long time.

Exhibit C: Playing with scale & forced perspective

Another fun toy photography trick especially suited to phone cameras is holding an action figure (it works for LEGO minifigures, too, actually) and fitting them into the surroundings as if they are life-sized. I often use my Spider-Man figure for this one (because he’s my favorite superhero and it makes me smile to imagine him wandering around in his Spidey suit), although I have also done this trick quite a bit with Kanan from Star Wars Rebels, Captain Kirk from Star Trek, and many others.

2. Use quiet moments (however brief) to plan your toy photography shot

For me, half (or more) of the challenge of toy photography is thinking up what I want to shoot. When life gets busy and I don’t even spare a thought for the hobby, then I’m usually not ready even if I do get a free chunk of time to take photos. So if you’re feeling the lack of photography in your life and wondering how to fit it in, begin with making the choice to think about it when you can: during your commute, while you eat a meal, waiting in line at the grocery store, in those moments before you fall asleep at night.

Some suggestions for your thinking time:

  • What do you love about toy photography? What sort of shot would make you smile and be worth your time?
  • Which figure(s) do you want to shoot? Are they ready at hand, or do you need to dig them out?
  • What environment do you need for your shot?
  • Are there obstacles to taking the shot you want? How could you work around those obstacles?
  • If there are obstacles you cannot reasonably overcome (maybe you want a sunset shot but you’re at work during that time), what are some alternative strategies (maybe you could use an orange or yellow light to simulate the sunset)?
  • How much time do you need? What would you need to have with you to achieve the shot?

3. Create your toy photography scene one step at a time

Sometimes you know exactly what you want to shoot, you know what you need in order to achieve it, but you just don’t have the amount of time necessary to set it all up. Your to-do list starts to feel overwhelming:

  • Look through five boxes of toy storage to find the figure(s) and accessories you need.
  • Wash the dirt off the figure that you used in the mud last time.
  • Boil water to heat the figure’s leg that got bent during the summer heat, straighten it, and cool it down in the right position so it’s straight again. Do the same for the lightsaber and that blaster barrel that looks wonky.
  • Find some red construction paper for the background. Or find the right photo to put on your TV screen for the background.
  • Charge the batteries for your lights.
  • Get the figures in the right pose (10-30 minutes—ha ha ha ha, I’m not crying, you’re crying…).
  • Clean your camera lens, because last time you puffed too much dust for that action shot and now it’s blurry.

Okay, seriously, you probably don’t have all that to deal with. (Confession: Some of the items on this list are very fresh and real to me!) But, however short or long your list is, tackle one piece of it the next time you have a moment.

Just remember: If you don’t even know what you need to take the shot, then it won’t be fresh in your mind the next time you have a few minutes to take the next step. If necessary, write your list in a phone app or on a scrap of paper.

Then tackle it bit by bit. One day you find the figures. Another day you clear the work area for an indoor shot, or you pack the bag for an outdoor image. Remove obstacles one at a time. You’d be amazed what can be accomplished even when your life is totally booked if you are determined and take it one step at a time.

Share your tips for sticking with toy photography during busy times!

The feeling that you’re “not posting enough” toy photos has been discussed on this blog before (and sometimes we talk about being okay with “not posting enough,” especially when the things distracting us from posting are still toy photography related!). Sometimes it’s good to stop and ponder why you pursue this hobby and rediscover the joy of it.

But if you’ve gone through times when you wanted to be doing more toy photography and “haven’t had time,” please share in the comments how you handled it. Did you find creative ways to fit your hobby into a crazy schedule? Inquiring toy photography minds want to know!

12 Comments

  1. Reiterlied

    I have to say, I’m a bit uncomfortable with how you use interchangeably “not posting enough” and “not taking enough photos”. To me, it’s two different things. And there’s something that screams “WARNING! WARNING!”, particularly after Shelly’s post on taking back control from social media.

    I think if posting 5 times a month is not enough, then rather than finding time to take more photos, the problem might be a matter of reconsidering the place of social media. I can’t stress how unhealthy using social media as pressure for taking photos sounds like. That seems like the perfect way for eventually burning out.

    For the “not taking enough photos” problem, I think it depends what toy photography represents. In my case, toy photography isn’t just “a hobby”. It’s my main hobby. It’s what brings balance in this crazy world. It’s my creative outlet, it’s what brings some fulfillment in my life. As it’s so important, I can understand the problem of not taking enough photos. But I’m sorry, lacking time is a lame excuse for not taking photos.

    We all have time. We all have 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The difference is a matter of priorities and choices. It’s so common for people who aren’t making a living of photography to pretend they don’t have enough time to take photos. If photography isn’t that important, I think it’s unhealthy to worry about how much photos are made (or worse posted) in a month. But if it’s important, then it’s a matter of redefining priorities. If once in a while life gets in a way, then my “tip” is “it’s fine, don’t stress yourself”. I also like your tip number 2. Making photos is not only about being in front of a camera. Simply thinking while doing something else is also part of being creative.

    But if it happens regularly, then my tip is simple: “make place for it in your life”.

    • Excellent contribution, Reiterlied. I hadn’t thought about the implications of the phrasing, and you’re right: there’s a difference between missing the photography itself and missing the social media expression of it. Everybody has different motivators, and the pressure to post on social media can definitely take a negative turn at times.

      Whatever one’s reasons for wanting to keep toy photography in one’s life… I love both your tips. Don’t stress. And make the time.

  2. Matthew Wyjad

    My tip to keep up the photography during busy times is just to think less. Stop worrying about how much you post, stop worrying about if the shot is going to play well to the masses, stop thinking so much and just spend ten minutes taking some shots. You can easily take 50 shots of a figure in 10 mins… play with angles do a couple poses… something cool usually comes out. If you aren’t crazy about the results… meh, it probably felt good to shoot a few frames. And it’s not a big deal if you aren’t crazy about the results. When i shoot a wedding i NEVER have the time i want to get the photos i want and to go to the places i want. Just work with what’s in front of you and trust that if you stop worrying about getting everything perfect and just shoot a few photos, you will be amazed how many wonderful things pop out. I shoot 3000 frames in a day at a wedding… thats 300 per hour or 50 in 10 mins. I end up with 500 i might keep for complete coverage, and 50 that are really good, and maybe 5 that are awesome. So about 2 percent of what you shoot is really good, and a week of 10 minute shoots could yield something awesome. That’s at a frantic pace…. slow that down a bit a lnd your percentages increase. So…. do time consuming elaborate set ups if you have time and energy…. otherwise, take ten minutes and just shoot loke a mad snot… somethung cool will happen.

    • Great advice, Matthew! Hearing a “real world example” from your wedding photography really puts things into perspective. Definitely letting go of all the worries (will people like it? will it turn out well? etc) makes a huge difference for me. Just get out some toys and take some shots, already! Heh-heh. I’ve started taking photos without pressuring myself to “make sure it’s good enough” for anyone else. Just playing with the camera and seeing what happens. Like you said, sometimes it turns into something great.

  3. Frog_101

    For me, exhibit A and B are key… and for many of my evening runs I carry a figure in a running pouch for that moment when I spot an opportunity (technical excuse for gasping for air!).

  4. Tony Tulloch

    A great discussion starter Teddi.

    My work is very busy and I don’t really have the opportunity to shoot to/from/during work. That’s where my home studio really comes in handy. I have a small setup that only takes up 2’x2′ and can be quickly put together, and away. I try to keep my shots simple too. It probably shows in my photography, but it does keep me active.

    Another thing I find helpful: is to keep my range of toy photography limited to certain themes. I find hashtags handy for this. I tend to stick to three hashtags covering robots, dinosaurs, and spooky stuff. I have all three themes on display and don’t have to go hunting for muses when I get an idea.

    • Oooh, great tip, Tony. Self-imposed constraints can be a powerful tool for creativity and productivity. It makes me think of poetry forms. Some people hate writing poetry to a form (haiku, sonnet, etc) because they want freedom to wander and write any which way. But when I was writing in college, I found the form incredibly helpful. They gave me a container into which to pour my wild imagination, and my poetry was stronger in a form than without one. More to your point, though, it saves time because some choices are already made for you.

      I think that’s why toy photography themes and challenges can be so inspiring. They give us something specific to channel our creativity through.

  5. Mary Wardell

    I almost always have a few minifigs in my purse. I can go for weeks without pulling even one out then there are many days in a row where I give something a try. I tend to keep my shots very simple and are generally spur of the moment. I like to post them because I want to share them with others.

  6. Kelceys_lego

    I have a little zippered round pouch that I think came with a makeup compact. The top zips almost completely open and is home to my sigfig, CMF Lloyd, and all the accessories I could want. I always have it with me! Currently an adorable egg attack sandtrooper has also been my constant companion!

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