Life In Plastic: How To Take Good Toy Photos (Without spending any money!)

SkeletorStokesTheFlames

Havoc Staff

Skeletor stokes the flames.

So, you say, “Hey Rid, you’re awesome and super cool and I want to have your babies.”  Wait, no.  Nobody says that.  let’s start over.

So, you say, “Hey, Rid, I like Figure Photo of the Day.  How do you take really awesome pictures like that?”

And then, the moment you hear things like “F-Stop” or “White Balance” or “Photoshop,” your eyes glaze over and you fall down the stairs.  Or maybe you just don’t have enough money for an uber-expensive super camera.  So, you know what?  Let’s talk toy photography on the cheap.  How do you take good toy photos with:

A: A point-and-shoot camera

B: No fancy software like Photoshop. In fact, no cheap software.  Just Paint.  MSPaint.

Believe it or not, it’s possible!  In fact… I do that.  I have a fairly cheap camera, and I make a weird point of not using image editing software as kind of an odd personal challenge.  You won’t take anything Matthew K-worthy with these pointers, but here are some tips on how to make halfway-decent pictures:

The First Picture Taken With My New Camera!

The first picture taken with my current camera.

1. CAMERA

Okay, so you’re going for a cheap camera.  That’s cool, just understand what “Cheap” is.  A Sony Cybershot will cost you anywhere in the neighborhood of $100-$300.  That’s cheap.  It’s also good for toy photography, though you may find your other stuff to be a little poor.  Canon also has some good, cheap cameras, but we’ll stick with Sony, because…gasp…that’s actually the uber-cheap camera I use!  But basically, you want your camera to have the following, AT MINIMUM:

-A macro function, or at least the ability to focus on small things.

-Options that let you change the White Balance.  In uber-layman’s terms, that means, “You can change how things look so they match the lighting.”  Ever notice how normal house lights make everything look yellow in a camera?  There should be an option to fix that.

-The ability to hold down the shutter and take several photos in a row.  Trust me on this one.

-A tripod, or at least something to rest the camera on sometimes.

Anything else is gravy. You want gravy, though.  Gravy is good.  Mmmmm, gravy.  But seriously, you can take good pictures without anything else, but you WANT other settings – trust me, they can be fun, and can really help you take better photos.

A Paladin in Hell

Lit by a pen light and a bright monitor.

2. LIGHTING

This is the biggie.  Lighting will make or break your photo.  You will want your studio to be in a place with:

-Easy access to sunlight, but not sunlight that you can’t block if you want.  Normal curtains can actually handle this.

-GOOD indoor lights.  Normal incandescents aren’t always very good.  Have some of those if you want, but try to get some bright, white lights, too.

-A bright desk lamp.  Sometimes you want things to be even brighter.

-A smaller spotlight – something strong, but not large.  Use things like this for added mood emphasis, such as a night shot with only one character illuminated.  You can usually find cheap LEDs that accomplish this role.  if you have an iPhone, the flashlight is actually PERFECT.  Keep in mind that you will likely want to direct and move this light to different locations.

-A small light that’s not quite as bright as the spotlight. A gain, mood lighting, and sometimes it can balance the spotlight.

-Colored lights.  This is another time when cell phones are useful – you need a bright light with changeable colors, as sometimes you will want some red, orange, or blue influencing your picture.

Hecatoncheir - The Hundred-Armed Eidolon

Black dropcloth, no terrain.

3. STUDIO

By “Photo Studio,” I mean, “the place where you set stuff up.”  There are several ways to do this.  The guys at OAFE use a gray t-shirt draped over the floor and wall to form one even, unbroken background.  Lots of people use black dropcloths (or t-shirts) for similar effect.  You can also try to construct a lightbox, but… well, look that one up on the internet and DIY.  You want this space to be large enough to accomodate your toys.  Look for the biggest thing you want to photograph, and plan it around that.  Try to make sure you can take a good photo backed a little bit away from the subject, without any of the “Real world” showing.  That’s really all you need – toys are still life, after all.

Spider-Sense Tingling (updated)

Focus, Spidey. FOCUS.

4. FOCUS

Focus, focus, focus!  Since you’re dealing with tiny-sized still life, learn exactly how your camera focuses on things, and work with it.  Likely, it will want to focus on one particular part of a figure – mess with your camera angle if you have to.  Back uyp and take it from afar.  Or even “Cheat” it – focus on one thing, then move the camera to try to encompass other parts in the focus field.  Do what works, and do not rest until you FOCUS properly on your given toy. Remember, your focus tells people where to look.

Dr. Gero

The terrain here is from: A statue, a Star Wars figure, a japanese model, a board game, a Mexican bootleg, and another toy.

5. BACKDROPS

So, you don’t want your toy drifting in the black void of t-shirtness?  Well, then!  What will you put them on?  For this, I don’t really have a hard and fast answer, since it’s waaaay up to personal preference.  But look at it this way:

The Cannibal Ghost

Terrain supplied by three toy lines.

-Terrain that comes with other toys. This can be anything – big bases, small stands, little walls, or even just junk if arranged correctly.  Learn how to situate unrelated stuff near each other so they look like one piece of unbroken terrain.  Learn how to conceal things like foot pegs (I don’t even do this all the time).  Learn how to take tiny pieces and fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle.  A toy came with fake fire?  Good!  Now your toys have fire!  Another one comes with part of a back alley?  nice!  Combine it with some other bricks, and you have a street!  Be creative.  Pay attention to scale, but don’t let it dominate you.

-Or you can build your own terrain from scratch.  Have fun with that.

Atlantis's Victory

See the reflection? YOU CAN SEE ME

-A picture, photo, drawing, or painting.  If it’s a photo, PLEASE watch the gloss.  Light shines off glossy stuff, and that can ruin the immersion of your photo very quickly.  Mess with your lighting until it works.

Talos

Backdrop supplied by Dell

-A picture on a screen or computer monitor.  This… is difficult.  You will be constrained by a few things – your monitor size, taskbars or other things, the border of the screen, and your keyboard are things that you wil have to deal with.  The shot’s angle will also become insanely important, otherwise the background will look distorted.  You can’t position your subject too closely to the monitor, or you will be able to see the pixels in your photo.  But you can’t pull it too far away, either.  And finally, a computer monitor is backlit – you will have to light up your figure, or it will look wrong.  That spotlight I mentioned is good for this, but you must aim carefully to keep it from reflecting on the monitor itself.

Of course, you could always shoot outdoors…

The Lost Predator

Forest not to scale.

6. OUTDOOR TOY PHOTOGRAPHY

If you are taking a toy photograph outside, it’s a little different from the interior of your enclosed, safe studio (or coffee table, or tv tray, or whatever).  Choose a time of day with the correct lighting to match what you want – that could mean noon, evening, or the middle of the night.  Try to find a way to keep the teeny-tiny scale of a toy from being obvious – keep it far from normal-sized foliage, for example.  use forced perspective if you can.  Or if you’re really lucky, find some small stuff that looks big.  That’s really all there is to it, it just takes awareness of your surroundings.

Predator

This didn’t take any creepiness at all!

And a complete lack of shame.  “Hi, neighbor!  Oh, why am I crouching under the bushes in the middle of the night?  Just taking pictures of this Predator!”

Mammon

No foot pegs here!

7. DEALING WITH KIBBLE

Kibble!  Foot pegs.  Foot pegs on figures.  Stands.  Labels.  Buttons.  Levers.  Do whatever you can to conceal them, but don’t make it too obvious – remember Mammon (photo of the day!)?  He had little foot pegs underneath his treasure chest (meant to plug into a base).  I concealed those for a reason.  Again, there’s no hard and fast rule, just be aware of things that make toys look like toys.

Hulk Vs Hulk

Balancing act provided by hanging on to the bars.

8. POSING YOUR TOYS

Don’t be afraid to cheat.  Balance your toys, have them secretly hold onto things, or even hold parts of them just off-frame.  Do whatever it takes to hold the pose that you need, without making the “how” part obvious.  Also, feel free to mess with camera nagles to give the illusion of certain poses or action scenes.

The Last Inmate of Cassandra Prison

The product of patience and about 112 photos.

9. TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS

See that piece of advice?  That’s most of it right there.  Aside from practice (PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE), you might find that it takes a hundred photos to get one good one – but that good one will be AWESOME.

Aboard the Predator's Ship

Picture taken at front door window

10. BE AN OPPORTUNIST

If you see a good photo opportunity, go for it!  Sometimes that means crouching by a yellow window for the fifteen minutes in the day that the sun shines perfectly through it, and pretending it’s a Predator ship.

SCREAM

Lens flare = fog!

11. DO THINGS WRONG

See my advice?  Break it sometimes.  Use funky lighting.  Use weird angles.  Mess with stuff.  Stick with a plain black dropcloth.  Take a photo of stuff on a desk or in the kitchen.  Angle your spotlight toward the lens until it produces a flare, and go with it.  Do whatever looks best for each toy.

That’s really it – a lot of practice, and seeing what works.  You just have to keep trying until you find a method that produces good photos.  These pictures are only as good as the photographer – there are limits if you have a poor camera, but they might not be as restrictive as you thought.  In fact, I guarantee they aren’t.  Keep trying, have fun, and I hope to see your submissions soon!

Nite-Lik

No, I did not take him into outer space.

Advertisements

14 responses to “Life In Plastic: How To Take Good Toy Photos (Without spending any money!)

  1. Pingback: Sofa Frog·

  2. Hey, really want to thank you for taking the time and going in to such detail about how to get better pictures of our figures. This is a great article. I like how you spoke about combining things to build and creat a scene. Many thanks…

  3. Pingback: Life In Plastic: A Typical Photo | Nerditis·

  4. I would like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this website.
    I’m hoping to check out the same high-grade blog posts
    by you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has
    motivated me to get my own, personal blog now 😉

  5. Cool website. I am starting out on this cute little hobby of photographing all my son’s toy figurines like lego minifigs, starwars and ben10. I am using a Olympus XZ-1..

    • They’re all fine. Any camera with a good macro works. As far as SOny Cybershot goes, I like the DSC-W690 because the “toy camera” filter has a nice spotlight effect.

  6. Pingback: Post-build information: Part 1 Photography – MESSYWORKS·

  7. If it sounds too great to be true, it probably is – everybody has actually heard this
    olden proverb prior to. One “Chattanooga Times Free Press” columnist, nevertheless, found just just how much water the saying still holds when his community recently sustained hail damage.

    You should not have much issue in composing contents when you discover the topic title to compose on. One of the key things to compose quick articles is
    not to believe while composing. If you are talking to your buddy,
    simply put in all the info you compose and have as.
    Due to the fact that you are not going to get any benefit if you spend 1 hour in writing only 1 post, this is.
    To use post marketing method effectively you need to have the ability
    to compose minimum 5 posts in an hour.

    Rather than try to find a low price webhosting you must first
    specify your requirements and after that try to find choices that can meet them
    and also satisfy your spending plan. Then, attempt to verify the dependability and
    client support claims of your shortlist.
    Cell phones are fast ending up being a need instead of a luxury.
    A big majority of the population over the age of 15 has one and most children old enough to have pals
    believe they require one. The cell phone market has actually experienced a sensational development,
    you have a devices that is replaced in less than a year most of the times, and with an updated design the majority of the time.
    This indicates that previously really much longer,
    the audience of anybody marketing with cellular phone will realistically be the
    majority of the world broad population.
    Let your sale be understood. advertising has constantly been the
    utmost device for devices awareness. Time has actually
    proven its efficiency. However, when you promote, do not
    adhere to one medium. It is best that you utilize everything offered, particularly when it is totally free.
    Circulate text, market on online classified advertisements, send e-mails, post signs and lots of others.
    Comprehensive advertising enables you to send your message to your possible
    purchasers; no matter what part of the country they are in.
    The other thing is don’t can be found in internet marketing gang busters !!
    Do not try to prove yourself and get too ecstatic about
    showing everyone your knowledge etc. Relax and construct.
    Develop your knowledge in addition to your credibility.

    Gone are the bubble days when you could expect a bidding war on your piece of home.

    Today, anticipate extreme haggling and a lot of compromise.
    A domestic property specialist can help direct you through
    the procedure to assist you reach a sensible offer. So when you do set the price for
    your home, be prepared for it to drop substantially.

    The crooks at these stock investing robotic web pages attempt to pass this “software” off as being deserving of $28,000 per license.
    I beg to vary. In fact, my buddy about at Trainee Trader investigated the coding of an individual
    of these programs and discovered it had not been a plan at
    all. The system in question just fetched a preloaded pick
    from a server the moment a day, acting to do carry out along the way.

  8. Pingback: 15 Amazing Ahsoka Tano Black Series Figure Photo Shoots – Team Ahsoka·

  9. Hi admin, i must say you have high quality articles here.

    Your page should go viral. You need initial traffic boost
    only. How to get it? Search for: Mertiso’s tips go
    viral

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s