Greetings everyone! My name is Saravanan Kumaran, a 39 year old dude hailing from Malaysia, the land of heavenly food. Which is why most of us Asians are fat!. 😆 I was a former Production Supervisor right till the pandemic. Ever since then I have been working part time from home. Hence the perks of flexibility of shooting whenever I wish to. Believe it or not my background in photography is still at a rookie phase. Mostly self-taught, trials and errors and of course, YouTube! Yes, you can learn so much from there! My kudos to Miss Oksana of easyexposure. Her lessons on basics of Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speed, DOF are so easy to grasp!
I have been in this hobby casually since 2012, but only since the pandemic, I found myself shooting more. What attracted me to this hobby is not only the fact you are able to create a story, but also the ability to turn a play thing into a form of art which can be satisfyingly great! Who knew a lump of plastic could look so good in a picture?? I have always loved toys as they were my sole companion especially during my quiet childhood days. However, the dear parents or the majority of adults never seem to understand the joy of toys as it was always deemed “immature”. Henceforth via Toy Photography, I took the liberty of showing the world there’s more to toys than meets the eye.
I get my best photography ideas from various sources. Some of my favorites are movies, cartoons, pop culture elements, fan arts, healthy conversations with fellow geeks, Devianart, Pinterest, you name it. But sometimes my best ideas pops-up while I’m jogging! Maybe because that’s the only time I’m so fired up? Perhaps
Once I get the general idea of what I want to shoot, sometimes I draft on a piece of paper. I plan out the poses by first checking the flexibility of articulations (this is especially important if you do not want your poses to look stiff or weird). Then I check for suitable locations, backdrops or props, as well as the weather (depending on the scenario of the idea). For example, if you were to shoot outdoors at, say, a recreational park, it’s important to check what you have packed, and double check again. There have been times when I have set up halfway and forgotten a key tool. For instance: my Vape for smoke/mist effect! Or even my tripod! And there goes my project! So, be sure to double & triple check.
Once everything has been set up, I will take a couple of shots. Sometimes I even shoot from different angles. There are times when a different approach of angles will look better than the original idea, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Also, don’t just stop at one location/spot! Normally I will shoot as many as 10 – 15 shots per scene. This may be too much, but it is just to be sure I have multitudes of options. You wouldn’t want to go home, open up your images on a bigger screen and realize something is wrong or funny. By then it will be too late. My go to editing software is Photoshop for basic colour correction, glow effects or mainly removing figure stands, and voila! Final step would be uploading my post on social media and await viewer’s reactions with excitement!
Gear & Essential Tools
Frankly, I have a low-end gear for my photography. Nothing fancy. My trusty decade old Nikon D5100 with basic kit lens 18-55mm and Tamron 18-200mm lens. Yup, that’s it. As far as lighting goes, I use various lightings from cheap DIY/fairy lights to Ulanzis. Ulanzi lighting comes in all sizes with various features, are durable and are a lot more affordable than Lume Cubes! Highly recommendable!
Currently, my favorite environment is my balcony! I am blessed with a cityscape view from the 15th floor. The opportunities and ideas are almost endless be it day or night, so yeah, making full use of it!
I’m definitely hoping viewers will be intrigued, curious, mesmerized, or probably even baffled, especially when they realize the subjects are toys! It’s amazing and sometimes even funny when I get to see my viewers reacting with a bewildered look, jaws open and saying “wait, what??”
Most importantly I hope some of my visuals can evoke a sense of nostalgia and happiness. For example; when I look at a particular photo, say, a: Batman The Animated Series theme, I find myself traveling back in time, cherishing the good moments. Moments like sitting down on a pleasant Saturday morning, eyes glued to the TV with good old cartoons in the air, while my dad is on the lazy chair reading newspapers while the kitchen is filled with the aromatic fragrance of dear mum’s cooking. This memory lane may sound simple, but to me personally, it was the best moments being a child.
Do I have a piece of treasured feedback or experience I would like to share? I most certainly do! And, since I have the opportunity here, my shout-out and kudos to my Filipino brother and fellow Toy Photographer, Geejay Plamenco who always inspires and motivates me since my early days of depression era and Toy Photography! Thanks to you, I have never stopped!
I’m a big fan of The Predator and I wanted to capture him doing what he does best, being stealthy. I had this idea of submerging him in the lake but the recreational park and public places had been closed temporarily during the pandemic. I had to improvise by making a miniaturized makeshift pool.
To further enhance the theme of “stealth” realistically, I added a Laser Pointer to replicate the “Aid Target Acquisition” from The Predator’s Biomask along with Portable Mist Devices for a misty atmospheric look, which also in turn increased the laser’s visibility. The end results were thoroughly satisfying. I have enjoyed the process of creating this photo, and it has been a favourite to date!
Tips for Beginners
Tips I would share would be to always do it for the passion. That comes first. Likes, comments & constructive criticism will soon follow. Have the patience. If likes are the priority, you will find yourself discouraged, unmotivated, frustrated or worse, give up. If you have picked up a camera and a toy, and started shooting, it means you are passionate and talented! So don’t let it go to a waste!
Never ever compare yourself to others! Everyone has their own personal distinctive style. And so do YOU!
Never be offended with constructive criticism. There are tons of Toy Photographers out there who are willing to guide you, but it’s you who must be willing to accept any sort of critique. Sugar coated words are not going to get you anywhere further.
Keep trying from all angles. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you wish to dip your toy in the water, go ahead! But of course do some homework, take some precautions before/after to prevent damage and you’ll be amazed with the end results. Oh believe me, some of my toys have gone through fire, water and mud! For me, it’s the quality of work I try to achieve. Sometimes along the way, my toy may sustain damage, but if my photo comes out really well, featured on A.C.B.A. (Articulated Comic Book Art) or won a contest, not only I will be super proud of my accomplishment, my toy will have its very own backstory each time I look at it. Reminiscence.
Try to engage your passion with someone new or with a fellow Toy Photographer. Together you can enjoy the process of creating art by brainstorming for ideas, overcoming challenges, giving a hand with say a reflector or a plunger to create effects, and most of all: HAVING FUN! Conclusion: The more brains combined, the more creative your shots will be.
You can check out more of Saravanan’s amazing work at Instagram: saravanan.kumaran.84
And don’t forget to check out other wonderful photographers who’ve already participated in our Feature Friday showcase
Saravanan…..I live your images….considering you started serious photography with toys in 2012…..you have achieved success. very quickly….I particularly like the Predator shot and how you did the water set etc…..superb in every way….your lighting on all your shots is also very good….well done with all your pictures on here today…..Richard Dixon TPD STUDIOS UK .
Awesome bro. Great article dude.
I really like your style, Saravanan! It’s nice to learn more about you and your shooting techniques.