Revisiting Five Words to Define a Year

One year ago, I wrote a post called Five Words to Define a Year. Now, one year later, I want to spend some time revisiting five words that defined 2019 and see how we did. Were we able to challenge you, inspire you creatively or help you learn a new technique?


My personal challenge was to take better photos; to slow down and really practice my craft. Unlike James Garcia who appears to be playing toy photography Jazz, my results were mixed. While I did manage to slow down and really take a deep dive into lenses, I never got the traction I was looking for in my own work. Maybe 2020 will be better? 

I really enjoyed reading about Lizzi exploring the boundaries of blur (not everything needs to be in focus) and did you know that for Podcast 65, Kristina made her toy fly for the first time ever! Chiara built her first model and is now creating dioramas for people. Way to push yourselves, my friends! 

Image by Chiara (@skizzoph)

I love to see my fellow toy photographers challenge themselves. Their successes, and even their failures, inspire me to keep pushing my own boundaries. 


There is no shortage of creativity in our community. With every post, we’re treated to images designed to inspire you, our dear readers. In fact, we present such a steady stream of fun ideas, tips and tricks that our biggest complaint is that the blog is too much to keep up with. Ha!

If you want to try playing with real fire, check out this post by James Gibbs.

A few highlights:

If you’re feeling short on creativity, why don’t you browse the Ideas About Creativity category? I would be shocked if you didn’t find a post that inspires you.


We’re toy photographers, not brain surgeons. If our posts and images aren’t filled with humor and its close cousin, sarcasm, then who would we be? Honestly, we would simply be macro photographers, and how much fun is that? Not much… :/

A little Six Image Narrative fun from Dennis Carvajal

In fact, humor is such a big part of toy photography that Kristina and I talked about humor on one our off-season podcasts. I learned a lot about how sometimes humor doesn’t translate across cultures. Oops. 

I always look forward to new six-image narratives. For me, this is where the playfulness of the toy photography community really shines. I still snicker when I think of the punch line in Krash Override’s series: Cat’s Meow. Marco Zanconi showed us we should never jump to conclusions in his clever series called Appearances.

Everyone needs a foil—even humor. I love the juxtaposition of posts like The Zone, Blue Lies and Tunnel’s End from Tobias Schiel. This is a beautiful series that feels a little too close to home. A gentle reminder that there is more to life than toys and a quick laugh.

Self development

Who doesn’t love a challenge! Between our monthly MeWe and Podcast challenges there’s more than enough challenging you to take your work to the next level. The popularity of our MeWe Two Shot Challenge shows me we need to create more photo-based challenges for our community members. Plus, the podcast’s monthly challenges are gaining a steady following. It seems like every month more and more photographers join the fun and create images for these challenges. 

Our Two Shot winner for August was this sweet image by Janan Lee

We have a very talented pool of contributors here on the blog. There is so much talent that it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by my creative colleagues. But I don’t think there is anyone on this blog that exemplifies self-development more than James Garcia. His monthly podcast challenges with Kristina have helped him to push his own photography to the next level. Way to go, James! You’re an inspiration to us all! 

Red Five, standing by! by James Garcia


A big part of the mission of the Toy Photographers Blog is to create an all-inclusive platform for photographers of all levels to learn from each other. While there are different hurdles to be overcome, depending on the scale of the toy, we all have a similar goal: create inspiring photos.

I think on the whole we do this pretty well. Sure, we feature a lot of LEGO toys, but that is a natural outcome of our status as a Tier 2 LEGO Recognized Fan Media site. To combat this bounty of plastic blocks from The LEGO Group we actively solicit other toys and the viewpoints from a variety of photographers. This might help explain why when I listened to Podcast 54 there was metaphorical smoke coming out of my ears in frustration. 

If you haven’t listened to this episode, I encourage you to take a moment and then read the comments section. There has always been a little rift in the toy photography community between the LEGO folks and the action figure folks. In fact, this division is what inspired the start of BrickCentral all those years ago. It was disheartening for me to see the same tired stereotypes trotted out as a substitute for a meaningful discussion. What was supposed to be a lighthearted conversation highlighting these stereotypes and showing them to be simply a matter of opinion, ended up further dividing our community.  

There is plenty of room in this community for both action figures and LEGO minifigures. As Sunny said in his comment on the post:

This feels like a PC vs Mac thing. And just like my views on computer platforms is to use whatever suits your needs, use whatever figures that will serve the story. Never say never to any kind of toy, cause they each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Sunny Ang (aka ZeekZachZoom)

I hope that in 2020 we can revisit this issue and talk about toy photography while respecting all photographers and their toys of choice. As my friend Alice often tells me: We can do better. 

This is image is from James Gibbs’ inspiring post: The Toys that bind us. Where all things are possible…

What will 2020 bring?

Thank you for going on this journey with me as I spent some time revisiting five words that defined 2019. I hope you found this look back as useful and interesting as I did.

As I look forward to 2020, I wonder what the new year, and decade, will bring to our little community. Here at Toy Photographers Blog we have an excellent team in place to guide us through the new year. There will be plenty of challenges to help you grow as a photographer. We will continue to write posts to help you learn new techniques and to inspire you creatively. Along the way, we will even give away a few LEGO sets! 

I think the words chosen to guide us in 2019 work just as well for 2020. Challenge, Creativity, Humor (we’re going to need it!), Self-Development and, of course, Respect will continue to be excellent words to guide us as we explore the wonderful world of toy photography. 

See you in 2020, my friends!


What was your favorite post of 2019? What do you want to see more of in 2020?


  1. Matthew Wyjad

    Holy hurt feelings batman! That podcast 54 was before my time here. I will check it out before forming any opinions…. but that comments section… wow. Didn’t know there was such a schism between different branches of toy photography. I think this calles for a personal photo challenge. A three image narrative. 1 photo from the perspective of an action figure, 1 photo from the perspective of a minifig, and a 3rd that ties them all together with both types.

    You know… i get sidways looks when i say i do toy photography if any type. Basically, i feel like other photographers (and many of the public) sometimes think it’s all a little cheesey. We are really all in the same boat when viewed feom the outside. Why the H is there such divisions within what is a pretty niche group already?

    • Matthew I couldn’t agree more! Why does their need to be the a schism? Why do photographers look down on some toys and revere others? Is it a price thing? I spent more so its cooler? I have no idea! But like you I think we are all playing on societies margins and wouldn’t it be nice if we all supported each other? I’ve always felt that all toys, styles and cameras are welcome here on the blog. We are all on our own individual journeys and I refuse to judge someone else’s creative path. I hope that in 2020 we can do better. Let me know what you think after you listen to the podcast – I know some people felt I over reacted, and maybe I did. I will let you be the judge.

  2. James Gibbs

    As always Shelly, beautifully written. I was not aware of the headed debate from podcast 54… will give it a listen, but coming from the standpoint of an action figure photographer and then taking photos of Lego, I have such a respect for Lego photographers. Action figures give us the luxury to do pretty much anything without much effort where as Lego pushes your limitations and boundaries which a great way to get the creative synapses firing like I mentioned in my post

    Happy New Years my friend and here’s to a great 2020. I’ll be back to full strength soon soon


  3. Janan

    What a brilliant summary of the year that has been and I must add that a great leader is able to acknowledge the efforts and/or successes of the members, which is what you do so well at Shelly.

    I never knew that we are a Tier 2 LEGO club (or what benefit it entails) but it sure sounds like something good. Haha.

    I like the image you chose for the header as it shows a magical moment when plastics of different lines of origin gather, almost an analogy of the unity within the community with individuals from different cultures, backgrounds and countries. Also, the image takes me back to the fun time we had shooting up and down the alleyways of Melbourne!

  4. What a great recap to ground us in how you kicked things off a year ago. I remember that post and so appreciate you taking this reflection time a year-ish later. I’m vaguely aware of the silly competition among different toy fetishists, and will check out #54gate. I’m with Sunny on his view. In fact, a challenge for me was to try to play a bit with LEGO-free toys in recent months and see what the camera does. That started with the fun close-up challenge and it continues with some great holiday gifts I got. The new toys are showing up in my feed and I’m not sure how I feel about it — so fun to push outside of the typical, I suppose.

    Looking forward to 2020’s push and surprises from you and the whole community… and even some big changes later in the year (ah-hem). Much love and support!

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