Last year a friend came to me with an amazing opportunity. He was looking to spice up his apartment with some custom art, and asked me to create something for him. I was honoured and completely inspired. Unfortunately, last year seemed determined to thwart my creative efforts. Between a significant career change, and a loss in our family, not nearly enough of my time and energy was spent on art. In the end, I was unable to finish the project for him.
However, the lack of a client hasn't gotten this project out of my mind. The scene has been built and sitting on a shelf in the office for months, waiting not-so-patiently for me to find time for it. When my husband and I instituted no-TV nights this year as a way to focus on personal projects, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to finish this shoot, and to (finally) start honing my toy photography skills.
Toy photography has been an obsession of mine for quite some time now. So much time that I can't really remember exactly when it started. But so far, most of my progress has involved writing some amazingly detailed lists: supplies necessary for building a light tent, new techniques to test to create some potentially awesome effects in camera, toys that I would love to purchase ... the lists go on and on ... but somehow, I never seem to get around to the actual shooting.
Finally getting around to the actual shooting feels pretty awesome, as it turns out.
After years of focussing on lifestyle and natural photography, tabletop toy photography is a whole new challenge, so this first set-up was largely an experiment. Like all proper experiments, this one was a great learning experience.
I learned how hard it is to turn a Lego mini-fig into a puppet. I was reminded how dark a room can be to a camera even if it looks perfectly bright to my eyes. I learned that my auto-focus isn't always great at holding focus on the Lego face in the midst of the forest ... and I learned that I seriously need to improve my manual focusing skills. I also learned that although I don't have the supplies that I want for my fancy mini-studio yet, desk lamps, cardboard and crates can be a passable substitute, and will let me make some art while I perfect my studio design.
I learned (again) to try all of the things! Starting out, I thought I had a pretty clear idea of how I wanted the final image to look. When it proved more difficult than I imagined to make delicate position adjustments to a Lego puppet, I had to revise my plan. By shooting from a multitude of angles and exploring the scene with my camera, I came up with some pretty great alternatives. Really, I should be an expert at this lesson by now, as none of my projects ever seem to turn out exactly as I originally envision them, but somehow I'm always a bit surprised when I find myself improvising ... again.
This is only round 1. I'm not entirely pleased with how the lighting looks here: it's a bit obvious and stage-like, when I was hoping for something a bit more natural. Shooting in the evening with only a desk lamp also forced me to use a higher ISO to get the shutter-speed I needed, and I still ended up taking multiples of each shot to ensure sharpness. Still, it's not a bad warm-up, and I'm excited to see how I can improve on this with some more considered lighting.
In any case, it felt great to spend an evening focussing on art, just for the love of it. And, now that I've started actually photographing toys, instead of just planning, it will be so much easier to justify a fancy pricey ball-jointed doll to use for a model, right?