As the old saying goes, there are no original stories. Perhaps that’s true—however, what is new and unique is the way in which a story is told. As toy photographers, we’re also storytellers. The toys might be our characters, but we, the photographers, create and tell these stories through our images, just as authors and narrators might. But the relationship between story and image might be as confounding as the chicken and egg question: Which comes first? Story and then images to match? Or images and a story created to fit? 

In this episode of the Toy Photographers Podcast, I welcomes back Tobias Schiel (check out Episode 81 for another interview with Tobias, “It’s Not About the Toys”) for a conversation about storytelling. If you’re a follower of the Toy Photographers blog, you should be familiar with Tobias’s work and his noir-inspired six-image narratives. Tobias published his first set of images on the blog back in 2017, and in this conversation, we zero in on storytelling and the way Tobias’s stories—and photography—have evolved over the past five years. 

Listen to hear more about:

  • What attracts Tobias to the six-image narrative format (spoiler alert: six isn’t his ideal number of images!)
  • How Tobias moves from one image to three or from four to six, and the power of details to add to the stories
  • How he builds and plans each story
  • Where inspiration for the story and images comes from
  • How he sees himself, the photographer, in the stories: Is he a minor character? An omniscient narrator? The hero?
  • How Tobias sees building sets, designing lighting and bringing the photographic vision to life make up his creative and artistic process
  • What it means to focus on “picture first”
  • Tobias’s style and how he feels it has changed from the start of his artistic journey
  • The role of rules (e.g., Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling or Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey archetype) in developing one’s own style
  • Tobias’s advice for anyone interested in diving into six-image narratives (spoiler alert 2: if you’re thinking you need to do a lot of planning, prewriting and storyboarding, think again!)

Recommendations from Tobias

Are you looking for a little storytelling inspiration? Then look no further than these recommendations from Tobias. Ranging from how-to books, to amazing graphic novelists—you will find something for every taste on these lists. Feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments. We want to know what inspires you!


Comic Artists

Inspiring Authors

Resources mentioned in the episode:

I’d love to hear your thoughts after listening to my chat with Tobias: What does your approach to storytelling through your photography look like? Where do you find inspiration? Do you have an ideal number of images when you think about your own storytelling arc? Leave a comment below or join our communities on MeWe, Facebook, or Instagram!