Photographing toys (all)(541 words)

I have quite an active Instagram feed (I’ve posted 1600 images and see images from over 1000 other people) and those images have amused, inspired and frustrated me. A lot of the frustration comes from way in which an image has been taken.

I don’t claim to be an expert in photography – and that’s not really what it’s about.  I appreciate that good lighting can make a heck of a difference to the image, but I don’t expect everyone with an image capturing device to know about light levels (and heck, I get that one wrong a few times).  With the rise of smartphones and camera phones, it is now much, much easier to point and click… and then delete and retake without having to wait weeks to get the pictures back from the chemists (yes, I do remember back then..!)

With a good photograph, it is as much about composition as it is about pressing the button. Yes, focus is important, but sometimes a mis-focused image can produce rewarding results! In the image below, the focus is on the child, but a refocus on the adult may have been better especially if the caption “Look mummy, I’m playing with my Wii” is added!

2015-06-07 09.34.13

I see toy photography falling into two main camps; the first is photographing the toy as an inanimate object – so just capturing the image:

IMG_1198 (David Grewcock's conflicted copy 2015-05-11)

The second camp is trying to bring the toy to “life”.  This really comes down to composition of the image.  As an example, in photographing the truck above because we are looking down on it it looks smaller, but at a lower angle…

2015-05-31 13.53.43

we start to look at the toy at closer to the angle of photographing a “real” car and the focus changes.  When I was much, much younger, I realised that laying on the ground when playing with my toys meant I could make the adventures more real – downside was my grandma used to think I was just falling asleep on the floor!  The next three images show how the angle of composition can make all the difference.  And this is what makes toy photography more interesting and fun – you can pose the figure and know that it won’t go wandering off (like Bad Cop’s dad in the Lego Movie!)

2014-11-05 14.49.24-1 2014-11-05 14.49.24-4 2015-06-020

And as a final note to any budding photographers out there, the most “professional” I got taking these images was for the yellow lorry, where I used an A2 sheet to provide the backdrop and my Canon 400D digital camera to take the picture. The picture of the diver was taken with a Vivitar instant camera in a sealed box (because water and electronics don’t work too well together) and all the others where taken on my desk. Everything else was taken with my Samsung S5 phone.  All the lighting is natural (Danbo was taken on a sunny day at about 7 in the morning, hence the long shadows) and cropping, frames and post production was either in Picasa or Picsart on my tablet.  In other words, nothing “posh or fancy”!

I realise that part of the art is knowing what to use to make the image better after, but I think the secret is getting the composition and angle right from the start.


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