Hi, my name is Fernando! I was born in February 1984 in the north of Spain… roughly the same day that the “Masters of the Universe” toy line was launched in Spain. That had to mean something, right?

The Beginnings

Most of my childhood toys were lost in a flood. I was almost 16 at the time and didn’t play with them too much by then, so it really wasn’t that traumatic… But one day, 20 years after that, I walked by a “He-Man” toy in a store. Looked at him and remembered “Hey! I used to have this guy!” I was working now and had money -and a really strong nostalgia for those toys I had lost more than 20 years before- so I started buying back all the figures I remembered having back then… TMNT, Madelman 2050, Saint Seiya, Dinoriders, G.I. Joe, Transformers and -obviously- Masters of the Universe.

Roughly at the same time I had started an Instagram account, so I started posting collection pictures (they’re all there if you’re brave enough to scroll through A LOT of photos). And shortly after that -surprise, surprise- COVID hit. There was not much to do at home during lockdown but working, playing with the kid, and taking photos. That, together with a huge snowstorm that hit Spain shortly after (which provided me with real snow to use in the photos), were the events that really pushed me into the toy photography world.

You could say it snowballed from there.

One of my earliest attempts at toy photography (January 2021)

And Now… What?

I started taking pictures with my phone, and exclusively outdoors. Didn’t have any dioramas or set pieces, and most of my figures were vintage toys with limited articulations and questionable looks. I used my phone to take pictures back then, until I remembered my wife had a nice bridge camera we hadn’t used since our honeymoon.

I started watching tutorials on YouTube about the fundamentals of photography… f-stop, ISO, exposure… all seemed -even today- hocus pocus gibberish. But started practicing and lost the fear to the almighty “manual” camera mode. Understanding the effects each of the parameters had on the photo. By then I had started purchasing a few more modern action figures, since the vintage ones left a lot to be desired -though I still use them today sometimes- and started taking them outside for photo sessions.

People were usually curious about what was an -almost- forty-year-old man doing with those toys while laying still on the grass, but those looks never really bothered me.

I think it’s important to be a proud toy photographer. If you’re new to the hobby “don’t be ashamed, take your figures outside and get into weird poses while trying to get that shot if it makes you happy”.

What bothered me was that my photography wasn’t nowhere near that I was watching in awe on Instagram. And the thing is I had been despising a really important element.

The Dawn of Light

I was only shooting outdoors with the sun light that I had, regardless of the time of the day or weather conditions, and wasn’t until I noticed all the Behind the scenes videos (@sir.dork and @workmoreorless were huge eye openers of course) and “making of” reels that I started noticing additional lights, led panels, reflectors and alike. I was determined to get better and have fun with this hobby, so I got a few lights and equipment and started playing with those.

It made a HUGE difference.

If I had to give only one advice to people starting with this wonderful hobby of ours, would be “play with the light”. Try different setups, different parameters, different colors… each scene is different and can benefit greatly from a specific light setup you might have not thought of.

Back at Home

Shooting outside was becoming a bit tedious. I didn’t want to leave home every time I wanted to enjoy some time with the toys… plus, my kid Mario really enjoyed helping me and I couldn’t take him always with me. So, I slowly switched to a more “indoors” approach. This was a great “aha!” moment for me, since my lack of props, dioramas or scenes made me see the world with different eyes (I’ve written about it here: A Different Light). Anything could be part of a toy pic:  my oven, the wires behind my computer, fridge magnets or home decoration. Everything works, and it allowed me to take my toy photography to a next level.

Another piece of advice I think is important for people starting with this wonderful hobby of ours, would be “wear your toy goggles and see the world around you as an action figure would”.

What Now?

My process has not changed much since I started, though I might have a better understanding of what might or might not work. Sometimes it’s a figure that sparks an idea, sometimes it’s a prop, sometimes a silly joke. But the process is always fun for me. As it should be for you.

Quite often you read about toy photographers being burnt out, trying to please the algorithm for higher visibility and failing to do so and getting frustrated.

I think it’s important for anyone in this wonderful hobby of ours to “do this for YOU and you alone. Have fun, enjoy the process, and take a break if needed”.

It’s been roughly 4 years since I started, and I still learn something new -Toy Photography related- every day. This is a huge and welcoming community. There are literally people from across the globe taking amazing photographs and sharing insights, tips and their awesome work to the rest of us. Amazing and friendly people too.

I would encourage all toy photographers, regardless of their skill level, to “embrace the community, do collaborations and engage with people to learn from everyone”.

Thank you, Fernando, for sharing a little about yourself with our fellow toy photographers. Visit @chava.fernando on Instagram for more amazing photos and BTS videos.