Hi! My name is Cornelius and I’m a 47 year old Irish guy who lives in beautiful Luxembourg. I’ve been into photography for around 15 years on and off. I don’t have any formal training, so I’m self-taught. I’d like to give a shout out to The Strobist blog which was a great resource when starting out.
I’m relatively new to toy photography and started to take proper photos back in 2020. Before that, I used to take snaps of my son’s LEGO when he would build his city scenes on the living room floor. I had no idea that toy photography had such a community at the time. Better late than never.
A lot of my images draw inspiration from movies and tv shows that I watch. If the mood is right, I will shoot some more lighthearted shots that are inspired by everyday life or just some random custom minifigure I put together.
Most of the time, I will rummage inside the minifigure container. Multiple ideas can pop into my head while I’m doing this, and it will usually lead to creating a new minifigure put together from existing ones. I’ll have a pretty good image in my mind for the composition of the photo. From here, I will build on this. For example, does the photo need supporting minifigures to make the scene more interesting. What will be in the background, the foreground, etc. Next, I decide on the scenery; LEGO only scene, digital background (iPad) or do I want to use some natural props. If I go for natural props like gravel, sand, etc., I know this is going to take time to cleanup afterwards, so I tend to opt for that less often! But I’ve honed my cleanup process compared to when I started out haha. Once the scene is set, I’ll adjust the camera position and place the lights. Then I shoot the photo and take a moment to decide if the angle and framing is the best for the shot (higher/lower, closer/further). If it’s good, I take a 45 second behind the scenes video using my iPhone for every photo (sadly, my earlier photos don’t have this). Then it’s onto the editing stage where I do some cleanup or add some special effects.
I manage my photos with Lightroom Classic. This is where I set the final tone of the photo. It’s only until you start shooting with a macro lens that you realize the amount of detail it can pick up. So yes, I spend some time removing the microscopic dust and fibers that land, even after I’ve brushed just before the shot. I think taking this extra step helps create that extra smooth look in the final photo. Or maybe I’m just trying to convince myself it’s time well spent. Lol! Depending on the photo, I will jump into Photoshop to add stuff like rain, snow, fog, sun, glows, etc. Export the photo, create my BTS video with InShot and post to Instagram.
My camera is an old Canon 5D-MkII that I bought 12 years ago. It’s got some dead pixels at this stage, but I’m not going to use that as an excuse to buy a new camera body 🙂 My lens is a Sigma Macro 105mm. The lights I use are are Lume Cube. That’s my current go-to equipment which allows me to stay flexible in my small shooting space. Oh, and to get the sharpest image possible, I use a Manfrotto tripod and a camera shutter release cable to avoid any unwanted movements of the camera.
I have one camera body. I have other lenses like the Canon 50mm (nifty fifty), a Canon 85mm (nice lens for portrait shots) and a recent addition is the Laowa probe lens that I’m still getting to grips with.
I don’t know if these are a surprise but here’s a quick list of stuff I keep nearby to use in my shots:
- Clingfilm (Saran wrap for USA folk) – This is nice way to create the sea
- A4 white paper – I use it mainly to bounce the light for a diffuse effect. But I’ve also used it for icebergs.
- Cotton balls – Useful for clouds or snowbanks (works best if they are part of the foreground/background and slightly out of focus)
- Wire and white tack – This is how you make minifigures fly! Requires some Photoshop of course 🙂
- Scale model railway accessories – These are the rectangular patches of grass in my shots. I have 4 of them for different settings. I also have some woodland dirt, sand, and gravel. There’s also a stone archway that is actually a train tunnel entrance. You can see this in my Pentagram Druid photo.
I’m mainly an indoor shooter. I feel bad for not shooting outside more often, especially as I live in a picturesque, wooded area of Luxembourg. But, I like to have that feeling of control over my environment and I don’t want to feel rushed when setting up my shots. Plus, the introvert in me would die a thousand deaths if a stranger were to stop and ask me what I’m doing (joke!)
Hopefully, my photos raise a smile or inspire people to create great photos.
“So, little toymasher. You know that you don’t have to buy LEGO sets to get minfigures right? Let me show you a website called Bricklink…” 😀
You can check out more of Cornelius’ amazing work at Instagram: @toymasher
And don’t forget to check out other wonderful photographers who’ve already participated in our Feature Friday showcase.