My name is Shaliza Erna and I’m a toy photographer from Malaysia. When I’m not behind the camera, I don my chef’s hat and create delicious culinary delights in the kitchen. I’m a chef and I also run my family restaurant business here in my hometown, Kuala Lipis. The art of food and the art of toy photography have a lot in common. They’re both about creating something beautiful and evoking emotions. I’m lucky that I get to express myself in both realms.

I’ve been passionately involved in toy photography for nearly 4 years now. As a toy collector, this hobby has become my main attraction. I was initially attracted to hobby because I’m able to create magical and imaginative scenes through the use of toys. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for toys and their ability to transport us to different worlds. Toy photography allows me to bring these worlds to life and capture them in a visually exciting way.

Where my ideas originate

I find inspiration for my toy photography in several different ways. Sometimes, ideas come to me spontaneously, triggered by a particular toy or a unique prop. Other times, I draw inspiration from movies, animation series comics, or even everyday life situations. I also find inspiration in nature and different landscapes. Exploring outdoor locations helps me envision how toys can interact with their surroundings and tells stories within a variety of different environments.

My process

My process for creating my photos is similar to many other toy photographers. Ive broken down the steps into a simplified version of this process:

  • Idea: I start with a concept or theme (when I take part in collaboration) that I want to capture in a photo.
  • Planning: I gather the toys, props, and backgrounds needed to bring the concept to life.
  • Set-up: I arrange everything in the scene, paying attention to details and creating the desired atmosphere.
  • Capture: I take photos with my Sony A6000 from different angles and experiment with lighting to find the best composition.
  • Editing: I enhance the colors and make minor adjustments to the photo using Lightroom Mobile and also Snapseed application.
  • Final touches: I review the edited image and make any necessary final adjustments.
  • Sharing: I share the finished photo on social media or within toy photography communities for feedback and engagement.

My equipment

 As I mentioned above, I use a Sony A6000 mirrroless camera body. I combine this with a macro lens by 7Artisans. This combination allows me to capture intricate details and produce high-quality images. I mount my camera on a tripod which ensures stability and sharpness. I often us a combination of natural and artificial lighting. This helps me achieve the desired mood and atmosphere that I’m looking for. I always have on hand a variety of props and accessories. This allows me to create diverse and engaging compositions.

This equipment set-up is my favorite because it provides me with the versatility and control I’m looking for to bring my creative vision to life.

Indoor vs Outdoors?

I enjoy creating images in both indoor and outdoor environments. Each has its benefits. Indoors, I have control over lighting and can create intricate setups using artificial lights and props. It also allows me to create imaginative scenes and protect the toys from weather elements. Outdoors, I have access to natural backdrops and lighting conditions that add realism to my photos. I can use landscapes like forests, beaches, or cities to create dynamic scenes that interact with the toys.

In simple terms, indoor environments give me control and creativity, while outdoor environments provide natural beauty and authenticity. I enjoy using both to capture captivating toy photography images.

Connecting with my audience

When my audience sees my photos I want them to feels a sense of joy, nostalgia, and wonder. I want to bring a smile to their faces and evoke positive emotions. I hope my toy photography sparks their imagination and creates a sense of delight. I also value the conversations and connections that arise from my work, fostering a sense of community. Ultimately, I want my viewers to feel happy and inspired by my images.

Why toys?

I’m not attracted to all toys. I’m attracted to toys that resonate with me on a personal level. This attraction can be attributed to a fondness for a particular character, franchise, or childhood memories. Kamen Rider, is an example of this positive association. When I have a personal connection to the subject, this fuels my creativity and helps me tell stories that are meaningful to me.

I also love the versatility of toys. When choosing a particular toy I look for a high degree of posing and articulation. Having a well articulated toy allows me to create dynamic and expressive compositions which will bring the toy to life through different scenarios and poses.

My influences

My two greatest influences are Caleb Yee (Malaysia local toys photographer) and Mitchell Wu from the USA.

Caleb is one of my greatest influences in toy photography. His dynamic scenes with toys inspire me to create exciting and engaging images. I appreciate his attention to detail, composition, and use of lighting. Caleb’s work encourages me to experiment and improve my own photography. Mitchel Wu is an incredibly talented toy photographer who creates whimsical and imaginative scenes using toys. His ability to tell stories and evoke emotions through his images is inspiring to me.


I think it’s very important to experiment and try out different ideas and techniques. Don’t be afraid to experiment and explore different techniques. It’s important to enjoy the process of learning and exploring.

Exploring various lighting setups, compositions, and angles to find one’s own unique style and voice as important as a toy photographer. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity and to keep pushing boundaries to evolve as a toy photographer.

Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes because they help you grow as an artist. Trust your instincts and let your creativity shine through. Just keep capturing the magic of toys and expressing yourself through your images. Your journey in toy photography is just beginning, so embrace it with joy and curiosity. And don’t forget to have fun!

Shaliza Erna

Please check out more of Shaliza’s fabulous toy images on Instagram at @shalizaerna