Hello my name is Eric and I live in Seattle Washington. I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s which was a really fun time to have been into toys, cartoons, comics and pop culture. If you look at my photos, you can probably see the influence. My day job puts me in the world of lighting projects; lots of details to keep track of, but I get to use my creativity and it can be fun. As for any background in photography, I always liked taking pictures when I was a kid. My mom bought me this point-and-shoot camera when I was 8 or 9 (Google “110 camera”) and I shot everything with it: cars, buildings—anything I saw in lower Queen Anne. Nothing good but I was into it. Years later, I’d shoot ballparks, concerts, and now it’s wrapped into my love of toys.

How long have you been a toy photographer?

I’ve been doing toy photography since 2014. It’s something that’s still fun for me, still gets me excited when the right idea hits. Toys keep evolving, but I like how a lot of “what’s old” is new again. Star Wars, Marvel, He-Man, the list can go on and on—all of these brands are the ones I loved as a kid. Now they pose better, they look like they popped out of whatever media made me fall in love with them all those years ago, and they hit that part of me that thinks, “Whoa, cool!” just like the classics did. I also love seeing new brands that put their own IPs into toy form. Things like Mezco or the Four Horsemen; It’s art, it’s creativity, and all that “new” puts more energy into the toy world.

Where do you get your best photography ideas from?

I’d say at least half of my ideas come from how I remember a moment in a cartoon or a certain storyline from an old comic book I read when I was a kid. I’ll reread an old comic or I’ll try watching an old episode of something like the Thundercats and I’ll be like, “that was cool when I was a kid.. what happened?” I find that my memory of those things from my childhood is better than the reality, but those memories constantly feed my imagination. I guess the cartoon in my head is still going strong after all these years. Music is another source of inspiration. What song gets you pumped up or fills you with emotion, any emotion? Music that hits a certain way can always help me out of a creative rut. The other source of inspiration for me comes from circumstance. Out of nowhere it hits and I have to take that shot! Grab the toy, go to the setting that’s in my head, and let it happen. All of those things keep it fun for me.

Tell us about your process; from original idea to final image.

The process… Anyone who has hung out with me and taken toy shots with me will tell you that I kinda stand around, deep in thought. That’s usually followed by me setting up a scene and then verbally abusing an action figure. Although there’s a lot of truth to that, I usually take the shot I have in my head and rotate it. What does it look like from this angle?What about in reverse? Should I switch the characters or add another one? Does this make sense? After that, it’s posing the figure. If your posing is off in your shot, what’s the point? I hate seeing a weirdly posed wrist or a face that’s looking into nowhere; it can really derail a shot. After that, it’s trial and error; moving figures around, making sure the power or dynamic movement is still in the shot, and of course focus. I usually know where I want my focal point to be and the subjects of the shot revolve around that. Don’t forget the cussing and muttering to myself.

What has been your most treasured feedback?

“Create for yourself”. This is something that I heard in conversation with friends in the community back in 2016, and I think it’s phenomenal. There’s all this emphasis on interaction and popularity within our community and with that, people are chasing the fame and really grinding (or cheating) for more followers. It’s a shame. Numbers honestly don’t mean anything, but people put so much value on it. Yeah, I’d like more interaction, more followers, I can’t say that I don’t, BUT I’m not going to compromise my style or who I am because an algorithm doesn’t notice me. I’m not going to buy followers so some company will send me stuff. The community has grown so much over the last seven years. Seeing people come and go, some people drop out of it, wouldn’t it be so much cooler if we all grew together but in our own unique way? The greats have done that and I think there’s immense value in that.

There are a lot of toys out there, tell us about your favorites.

I think my favorite toy line at the moment is the Super 7 Ultimates line, specifically Thundercats, Silverhawks and Masters of the Universe. I’m a sucker for that nostalgia and I love the sculpts that the figures have. The articulation may be lacking, but the figures look like they popped out of the cartoon, or mini-comics in the case of Masters. Mezco’s Rumble Society line is pretty impressive. I briefly mentioned them above, but the soft goods on figures of their own design is something I really enjoy. I had no interest in anything Mezco put out until the Pink Skulls Chaos Club came out. They had me hooked instantly. 

What is your favorite toy photography related memory?

Toy photography has brought me a lot of joy and fond memories. I’ve met so many people through this hobby and I’ve made a lot of friends, some have become close. I can point to any of the Toy Photographer meet-ups as a favorite memory. Some of these memories involve photographing toys but some are just sitting around, listening to friends talk about their lives. Connections, relationships, community; all of the important stuff. I urge anyone who reads this to reach out to other toy photographers in their area and get to know them. It’s been a lot of fun to meet others in the community and I would say pounce on that opportunity.

What are some common mistakes you see when it comes to lighting or setups?

Geez.. this is tough because I’m my own harshest critic and I know my work is far from perfect. Lighting, posing, and composition are important on every shot. As my work evolves, I see how I would have taken some of my older shots differently if I were to create them now. Maybe I was going for a darker tone/mood in a shot, but if I took it now, the lighting would have been better and I would would have better conveyed my intention. Same with posing. Before I pose my figure, I’ll pose myself to see how natural it feels. Creating a dynamic pose isn’t as easy as it sounds if you’re not paying attention to natural movement. When you walk, pay attention to how your body moves: your arms are moving in tandem yet opposite of your legs. What are your hips doing? Are you leaned forward or back? What’s your head doing? Now translate this to your toy posing. Composition on people’s shots can drive me nuts because I’ll see a beautifully lit shot that someone ran through Photoshop and really put effort into their work, but the subject is out of the frame a bit or it’s off center for no reason. Don’t rush your work: It’s your art and you’re not a machine.

What is your greatest toy photography achievement?

Becoming friends with Shelly Corbett. Beyond that? There is an awesome convention in Washington State called the Washington Summer Con and I’m their toy photographer. Meaning that I produce shots for their various shows that highlight any guests that are attending. It’s an honor to be asked to do this and it’s so much fun. I produced a shot when Billy Dee Williams was a guest and a few people showed me his signature on prints that I made for that show. Billy Dee Williams signed my work because it had a toy of him in the photo. He liked it enough to sign it and the people liked my photo enough to want it signed. That’s pretty rad.

Eric Ronnebeck

Thank you, Eric, for taking the time to share a little about yourself and your process with the Toy Photographers community. You can find more of Eric’s work on Instagram at @intagabiledandy.