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Toy Photographers by Dave Debaeremaeker - 1d ago

Over the past month I have had the privilege to receive a couple significant awards for my photography. Despite being pretty cool from a personal perspective, I think they have significance for toy photographers being seen as a legitimate art form.

But first, let me go over the awards.

Guru Awards

The Guru awards are presented at the Photoshop World conference. They are described as:

“The Guru Awards were created to honor and recognize the design, photography, retouching, and creativity of our attendees. Since their humble beginnings in 1999, the Guru Awards have now become the most prestigious and coveted awards in the international digital imaging industry.” – photoshopworld.com

I had two images nominated for this years competition in Orlando’s Photoshop World. The first, in the Photoshop Artistry category, was this one:

The second image, which is not toy based, was the winning image in the composting category.

Scavenger Hunt Overall Winner

The second award was being declared the overall winner for the 25th round of the Photography Scavenger Hunt. The Hunt has been hugely influential in my journey as an artist. I made my first toy photography for the 8th round of the hunt. For the last 10 rounds or so I have mostly submitted toy photos for the hunt.

The competition is stiff, and includes many pro photographers, and even a few previous Guru award winners. It means a whole heck of a lot to be named the winner of the Hunt.

Legitimizing Toy Photography

I don’t know about you, but I consider my work an art form. However I have always harboured suspicions that the public at large doesn’t share that opinion. I suspected it was hard for folks to see past the toys.

I will admit that I have low self esteem, and a healthy case of imposter syndrome. So I may be more pessimistic than some. This may colour my impressions of things, but I always assumed folks didn’t take toy photography that seriously. Compliments came my way, but they often came from fellow toy photogs, or people who knew me. Basically people who had a vested interest in my personal feelings. I always silently added … for a photo of a toy” to the compliment. Ya know what I mean?

However these awards, especially the Guru awards, came from people who are neither toy photographers, nor people who know me. The judges saw my work in the same way they saw everyone else’s work, but still liked it enough to give me nominations and awards.

To me that is irrefutable proof that toy photography can be an art form. Proof I can’t ignore or excuse away with my own self doubt. Having a trophy on my mantel is a wonderful thing. However having confirmation that toy photography is a legit art form is the best reward I could ask for.

Tho, let’s face it, the trophy is cool too.

[dave]

Want more toy photography goodness? Subscribe to our weekly email round up so that you never miss a post.  You can also listen to episodes of the podcast

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One of the joys of doing this podcast is connecting with artists whose work I admire. Alan Rappa is one such photographer.

I’m a big fan of Alan’s cinematic style and crisp macro work that brings you right into the scene. I love the way he can recreate scenes from films like The LEGO Movie 2 or Avengers: Infinity War, without losing his own artistic voice in the process.

As a fellow indoor studio photographer, I wanted to ask about his studio setup and creative process, particularly when it comes to experimenting with lighting and practical effects. We also chat about how he went from photographing Disney parks to toys, collecting, and more!

Thanks to Alan for the great conversation. Make sure you follow him on Instagram and Flickr, and check out his blog posts here!

-James

Don’t miss out on all the things happening at Toy Photographers by  Subscribing to our weekly email round up the podcast! Then continue the discussion in our awesome communities on MeWe and Flickr

Duke Kaboom! by Alan Rappa
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You will have to forgive this non-toy focused post today! Instead of a review, or a how-to, I wanted to spend a little time talking about our weekly(ish) email newsletter!

Sent to almost 300 people each week, our newsletter contains all the latest posts and news from the Toy Photographers blog.

Each week we share the latest posts, link to the new podcast episode, as well as share other interesting things we think you might like. This varies from newsletter to newsletter so you will have to check each week to see what’s there!

TV heads need the latest news at all times, even when out exploring.

Some weeks we might share links from around the web that may or may not be toy related (but will always be inspiring and hopefully of interest!)

For example, we might share links to:

We have also just introduced a new feature to the newsletter – ‘10 seconds with…’

This feature is designed to introduce you to toy photographers around the world! We’re starting with some profiles of the team behind Toy Photographers but are also looking for our readers to get involved!

We need your help!

So, here’s the deal. If you are interested in being featured, then simply fill in this quick Google form. I’ll try to add you into the newsletter in the order of submission, so get your responses in if you’d like to get your profile out there! In addition, if you know someone who you want to be featured so you can find out more about them, then let me know in the comments!

Finally, we would like to know what you think of the newsletter in general!What would you like to see in it? Let us know in the comments! We’re always looking for ways to make improvements to it so your input is encouraged!

A priority for all of the resistance – the Toy Photographers newsletter Sign up now!

Of course, if you’ve read all this and realised that you have never signed up to the newsletter, or have stopped getting it for any reason, you might like this handy sign up link! It’s quick and relatively painless to do, so what are you waiting for?

Sign up now!

~ Lizzi (your friendly newsletter writer)

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Toy Photographers by Miss__feklista - 1w ago

Do you know why the wizards hide their abilities? They’re sure that the non-magical people don’t understand what they see. Listen to my story as a perfect proof of what I say.

Being of Japanese origin, I studied in British school full of ancient magical traditions. This place is so rich in secrets, even if many of them are revealed by a trick…

I didn’t want to stay in Great Britain because its calm was contrary to my spirit of adventure. So magic, travels and mysteries were united in my new profession: treasure-hunter! I visited the old castles and broke dangerous spells that the wizards had used to lock their personal museums. Don’t get me wrong, I brought this gold to the bank…

Our team consisted of very different persons. Interesting persons. We were enjoying the fact that the non-magical society didn’t know about all these secret places. It seems that we forgot some rules of our profession (especially extreme care) and decided to travel in style. And we chose a sailing ship. This idea still makes me laugh.

We saw them soon… The simple fishermen looked at our faces and huge cases with gold. These guys called us “pirates” and we didn’t have alternative. Our team had to use magical wands. Fear made the non-wizards attack. They took these metal pipes… are they called ‘signal pistols’?

The fire started aboard. I didn’t have time to save all our cases – that’s a pity! – but we all disappeared from the ship by magic. The news about the ‘sea mirage’ ran like lightning, that’s why I left the city and said goodbye to my brilliant work.

They say I’m a dark wizard. I don’t think so. Anyway, they will be forced to know us better. One day they will see that all incredible is evident. And this day is coming…

Thanks for your attention! This time I wrote my own story and photographed it, using the light painting for magical spells, and studied the ship construction.

Ann @Miss_Feklista

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Toy Photographers by Brett_wilson - 1w ago

Grab a big red pen. Go to your calendar. Thumb the pages to October. Place a great, whopping circle around Saturday the 19th. There you go. You’ve just saved the date for the next Melbourne Toy Photographers meetup!

“But it’s only June. Why am I circling dates on my calendar this early?”

“Good question!”

The next Melbourne Toy Photographers meetup will be a special one. October will see us joined by two international guests! I’m super excited to announce that as well as all the usual Melbourne Toy photographers meetup fun, we will be joined by Shelly!

This is not only a chance for me to repay Shelly for a the wonderful times she showed me in Seattle and at the Oregon Toy Photo Safari, it’s also a chance for us Australian Toy Photographers to show her a good time!

As well as Shelly joining us for in Melbourne for the meetup, we will also be joined by Sunny! It’s super exciting to hear that Sunny is making the trip over from Singapore to be joining us.

allies & mentors

Aren’t you glad I asked you to circle the date in you calendar now?

Over the next couple of months we’ll be giving out more details about what we’ve got planned for the night before, the day, and the evening. So stay tuned for more announcements!

– Brett

Want to stay update with everything that happens on Toy Photographers? Subscribe to our weekly email round up so that you never miss a post. While you’re subscribing, do the same for the podcast! And be sure to check in on our communities on MeWe and Flickr

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One of my favorite parts of being a toy photographer is the toy photo community itself, and the wonderful people from around the world who share in this hobby. One such person is Doug Gary, a LEGO photographer from the Bay Area who I met at the Oregon Meetup in 2018.

Doug’s beautiful and creative photography is a reflection of his personality and positive energy. Like past podcast guests Dave DeBaermaeker and Jax Navarro, I knew after talking with him at the meetup that I just had to have him on the podcast.

Fatherhood & Toy Photography

When Doug came to the meetup, he brought his family with him. It was particularly fun to see his son, Tye, take part in the action setting up shots, holding bounce cards, and critiquing camera angles.

With Father’s Day happening in the U.S. this past weekend, I thought it would be fun to have a segment featuring Tye to get his perspective on having a dad who does toy photography. I also wanted to ask Doug how parenthood might have changed or shaped his artwork.

Doug and I also chatted about the recent Utah meetup, his theater background, moving from shooting on an iPhone to a DSLR, and the toy photo community. I had a great time, and can’t wait for you to hear it for yourself.

Thanks to Tye for being brave enough to come onto the show and answer some questions, and to Doug for the wonderful conversation!

-James

Follow Doug’s amazing work on Instagram, and read his guest blog posts here.

Stay in the loop with all things Toy Photographers by  Subscribing to our weekly email round up so that you never miss a post, and to the podcast! You can also continue the discussion in our awesome communities on MeWe and Flickr

By Doug Gary
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If there’s one thing I could point to that makes the Star Wars aesthetic so unique is its gritty, lived-in quality. So, as a photographer of Star Wars toys, it should come as no surprise that I’ve started to experiment with achieving that look myself.

I’m certainly not the only photographer to weather my toys. So this isn’t anything new – just new to me. As a collector, a bit of a purist, and someone with a touch of anxiety and OCD, I used to shudder at the thought of scuffing up my action figures, especially permanently! Sure, it could help with a particular photo, but what if I don’t want that same look next time? Did I just “ruin” my figure?

I’ll admit that I haven’t conquered this anxiety completely, but I have finally started giving a choice few of my toys that gritty Star Wars look. My first test subjects: The fantastic line of Star Wars spaceships from Hotwheels that I recently wrote about.

While I think they’re a great way to achieve good starship photography, their major limitation is their lack of detail, despite a pretty good sculpt. Since I was attempting photorealism, I found it difficult to light and shoot them in a satisfactory way. 

Not quite the “hunk of junk” we’re used to…

I’d heard that shoe polish can be effective for weathering toys, and that it wasn’t as permanent as something like paint. Two birds, one stone.

Method 1: Shoe Polish Paste
  • Before
  • After

I tried two types of shoe polish, both found at the grocery store for less than $5 a piece. The first was a paste, which typically comes in a little round tin can. I found this a bit tiresome to use; it was a bit flaky and it left a thin residue, coating the ship rather than staining it. On the plus side, this actually helped it settle into the various crevices, bringing out the details.

Method 2: Liquid Shoe Polish
  • Before
  • After
  • Don’t forget the Astromech!

The second method I tried, and the one I preferred most, was liquid shoe polish. I used an old makeup brush to “paint” it onto the ship, then wiped away the excess. I then used a blue Sharpie to paint in the blue dome of an Astromech droid.

I tried paying special attention to certain areas, like around the engines and guns, and on the wings. The X-Wing was my first test subject, and I went a bit heavier than I intended, but I’m extremely happy with the result, especially once I got the ship in front of my lens!

In the end, I was so happy with the results that I weathered all of the ships currently in my collection. In addition to the X-Wing, my favorite result was the Millennium Falcon, which absolutely needs that gritty Star Wars look.

  • Before
  • The liquid polish comes with a sponge, making for easy application
  • I found the best results when applying liquid to the whole ship…
  • Then wiping away the excess with a paper towel
  • It was fun paying closer attention to specific areas, bringing out more of the details
“Punch it!”

All in all, I’m extremely happy with how this experiment went, and have already begun trying it out on other toys, like some of my Black Series Star Wars figures. I think I’ll still be anxious about doing permanent alterations, but this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Have you ever weathered your toys? What method did you use, and what were the results? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

-James

Stay in the loop with all things Toy Photographers by Subscribing to our weekly email round up so that you never miss a post, and to the podcast! You can also continue the discussion in our awesome communities on MeWe and Flickr

Weathered and ready for action!
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All the artists have their favorite methods, colors, words, but before everything else, they have their own visions. I decided to focus on the community as a collective of Storytellers and organized an experiment.

Our friend Tomek was kind to take part in the project. Making mystical and cybernetic images, he’s always ready to study his genre on many sides. My gallery is the reflection of my characters’ adventures: they’ll tell you their stories and secrets in different colors.

The originality of the project consists in the fact that the photographers won’t change their genre or leave the technical comfort zone. Both artists will use the same theme and try to make an unusual interpretation. It will be an exchange of their visions!

Childhood

“This is my first ever LEGO set. I’m pretty sure we spent much great time together when I was a child. I made the set incomplete for the photo, just as my memories of it are fragmentary”. (c) Tomek

“Somebody left Childhood here and didn’t come back for it”. (c) Feklista

Fantasy

“Meet Una the Unicorn, the bravest and cutest of her tribe. In Autumn of 2018 [it was 30th of Dark Season of 1981 in her Realm] she began a long journey to find the source of cutensess of her kind. And now she feels she’s so close. She feels the air, soaking with the atmosphere of big mystery”. (c) Tomek

“… and then Corvus saw a monster. The Steely Skull was advancing towards him like a storm. It wasn’t a simple ghost and Corvus knew that these horns will leave their mark on him. The red eyes of the Steely Skull flashed fire, and tornado flew from its giant mouth…” (c) Feklista

Genius

“I really loved the idea of straw-filled Scarecrow, who was the wisest man in Oz. It beautifully illustrates the saying that genius lies in simplicity”. (c) Tomek

“Genius has many faces and some of them are only masks”. (c) Feklista

Results and Impressions

So it was a fascinating creative experience! I really enjoyed working with the unusual interpretation of 3 global themes. For example, it was rather challenging to show the nostalgic side of such a bright theme as ‘Childhood’ or create the anxious atmosphere of 2 other scenes. As for Tomek, his light and dark natural tones became the palette of harmony and his collection puts positive thoughts into the spectator’s head. Thanks for joining the fun, Tomek!

The art of contrasts has its special magic: the opposite meanings always have the common aspect. Black and White are colors, you and me – we are Photographers. We all paint the reality in different colors but with the same aim to study and enrich it.

Ann @Miss_Feklista

Hope you enjoyed this experiment! If you want to try the ‘Exchange of Visions’, please let us know: it would be great to see your results and hear some impressions about this project! Let’s try something special!

 Do you enjoy exploring the Toy Photographers’ creative world? Subscribe to our weekly email round up so that you never miss a post. You can continue the conversation in our communities on MeWe and Flickr.

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Toy Photographers by Tobias M. Schiel - 1w ago

This portrait session with Catwoman just happened. I had set up for something entirely different, and when that picture did not quite work out, I just started toying with this action figure. While trying different poses and arranging the light, I had a couple of thoughts I would like to share with you.

The Figure

Why Catwoman? The first 1/12 scale action figure I got was K-2SO. Shortly after his arrival, I started fooling around with him and a Schleich cat. I liked the cat theme. But I wanted a female companion for him, someone dressed in the same colour he mainly sported. So my search narrowed down to Catwoman pretty quickly. Different universes? I did not bother.

What I thought I needed for my pictures was a well articulated figure, and she should look as realistic as possible; no exaggerated features for me, please! Also, I wanted a figure sporting a neutral facial expression because I think that’s most versatile. After all, I never had in mind to re-enact scenes from the Batman narrative.

The figure from DC Collectibles / DB Entertainment, sculpted by Gentle Giant Studios, offers all that. As for her neutral expression, I actually think it can change within a certain (limited) range. Depending on perspective and lighting, it can be tough, melancholy, or daring. The pictures in this post may not offer anything but a glimpse at that aspect since I had focussed on posing and lighting.

While photographing this figure I found I had to pay attention to some issues:

Her hair can get in the way: While I think her hair adds a lot to her coolness, it almost always casts a shadow on her left eye. Lighting has to account for that. Lighting her left side only you easily drown both her eyes in darkness. So I cast the main light on her right side (her right being the left side of the picture).

The plastic is basically translucent: This tends to show at her nose. Knowing that, just do not shine a light through it.

Paint: As much as I like the fact that this figure appears to be hand painted, paint seems to be everywhere. Click on the picture above to see how it looked before editing. Little spots and pieces of paint everywhere! But it’s nothing that cannot be retouched.

Also, they painted a light reflection into her eyes which almost never sits right, and at times it is barely visible – which I found to be the better option in this case.

The Pose

I do not remember where I first heard or read this, but it might have been my wife coming back from a professional portrait session and telling me about the photographers advice: Turn you body away from the camera and then just turn your head to look at it. Studying portraits I realized that this almost always works to the subject’s advantage so I tried to take this ‘rule’ to heart when I positioned Catwoman.

I think this works fine with the action figure as well; the way I see it, posing her like this is also good for close up pictures of the face.

The Light

One thing that always fascinated me was Rembrandt lighting. The basic idea would be lighting one half of the face and letting a triangle of light fall on the other cheek. Wikipedia basically describes this as a setup with two light sources; a one-light setup is described here.

I tried to achieve it with one light. Using my desk lamp, I set the light to illuminate half her face plus a triangle under her left eye. I think you can see it in the two close-ups and in the picture right above this paragraph. I like the way this light setup underlines the shape of her face. Along with the hair falling over her eye, it adds something mysterious.

To sum things up: I always enjoy trying things I learned in other contexts than toy photography, be they recommendations for portraiture or construction ideas for buildings. It’s a good idea to study pictures – from the Dutch Masters to Surrealism and beyond … but that’s another story.

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A while ago, I started a hash tag #supersdayoff

It was a series that I started and am currently building on. The basic premise is to explore what the mighty heroes of our world do when they have a little downtime… Here is what I have so far… Enjoy!

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