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The photography of toys is something that both the little ones like and those of us who are already a certain age. Possibly because of how showy the results can be, because of the exercise of creativity that it involves. In addition, for the little ones it is like giving life to their favorite toys and for us like going back to childhood. So let’s talk about toy photography and its secrets .
Toy photography and the world of practical effects
Toy photography is a discipline that is always very attractive for both children and adults . The former are attracted to seeing their favorite characters in situations so real that they seem to have a life of their own, and the latter are attracted to the idea of being able to travel to the past and bring out that child within them while doing an exercise in creativity.
However, although it may seem simple, there is a lot of work behind these types of images. It is not just taking a toy, placing it on a table and taking pictures of it. At least that is not what you have to do if you want images to have dynamism, life, the ability to tell stories.
Therefore, if there is an important secret when taking toy photography, it is undoubtedly the use of practical effects. This type of practical or mechanical effects are nothing more than a series of physical effects that take place during filming or when the corresponding snapshot is captured.
For example, practical effects are controlled explosions, moving the earth through the use of fans or a simple bottle of compressed air, simulating that it is raining, snowing, etc. That is, any kind of trick or way of recreating something that is not happening naturally at that precise moment.
Well, these effects in toy photography are what can make the difference between one photo or another. The expertise of the photographer in applying them and how he does it is something that is trained, but when you are able to master them, the photos go up a level and that can mean being able to earn a living doing what you like the most: photographing toys.
How to take a toy photograph
Toy photography does not differ from the rest of the photos that you can take in your day to day, although you do have to take into account some considerations depending on the type of image you want to obtain. Therefore, here are some guidelines to follow if you want to get started in this discipline.
The first and most important thing in the process of taking good pictures of toys is to be clear that you have to plan. Taking a sheet of paper or any digital support that allows you to sketch what the scene you want to achieve would be is vital.
Once you have it, you have to place the toys and since they are photographs, the ideal thing is that they are already in the final position. That implies that if you want them to appear as if they were jumping or flying through the air, you will have to resort to transparent nylon rope or wires that you will later eliminate with your image editor to be able to hang or raise them.
With that first step already done, now it’s time to illuminate. Daylight can be fine for you, but if you need to take several photos, try not to make it a day where it changes suddenly and quickly. Because if so, then later you will have to spend much more time in post-production to match them and thus be able to merge them or copy necessary elements from one to another.
Regarding the camera settings, here as in the rest of photography everything will depend on several factors. The only thing that is usually common is to use manual settings and manual focus as well. Oh, and you must bear in mind that if you want to freeze some elements that you throw at the scene or how water or any other liquid splashes, you will have to adjust a very small shooting speed and that will force you to a larger aperture or a greater need for light natural or artificial.
To finish, the use of a tripod and a remote shutter also become essential. Because they guarantee you keep the camera in the same position, so you can take several identical shots. And since we are talking about taking several captures, a remote trigger also provides advantages and is ideal if you act as a small band.
Finally, once you have all the material, it is time to edit and here an image editor such as Photoshop, Pixelmator or Afinitty Photo are ideal to be able to play with capable, blending methods, cuts, etc.
Logically all these are basic steps when taking toy photography. Then there is an important component which is your own creativity and ingenuity that you may have. Because, as you can see in the video above, sometimes you only need your computer screen to simulate different backgrounds where you can place your toys and get much more realistic captures.
Tells a story
When we first spoke about toy photography, we said that one of the main attractions was the ability it offers to tell stories. So, when you go to take your photos, also try to make them have a meaning, that they tell something. And of course, for this, nothing better than seeking inspiration from the accounts of specialized photographers or directly recreating movie scenes with their characters in toy format.
Here again the ingenuity of each user will make the difference between what will be good photos and great photos. In addition, you can also play with the position of the figures to assimilate the scale of different objects and toys or even between a toy and a person. Not forgetting that to focus even more attention on the important subject, you can resort to very shallow depths of field to further blur the background.
Requirements for toy photography
A simple camera, like the one on your smartphone, is more than enough to get started with toy photography. Well, you need toys, but nowadays it is very easy to find figures of all times at home. They can be the Funkos that you collect, action figures, Legos, etc., or those of your son or daughter.
If you have little ones at home, in addition, this is a discipline with which they will also enjoy and learn useful concepts of photography. Anyway, here are some recommendations if you want to get a little deeper into this type of photography.
The camera and lenses
If your phone’s camera is already valid, a camera with interchangeable lenses is even more so. A DSLR or without mirrors will allow you to use lenses with different focal lengths and that will help when composing the scene. And it is that the macro or zoom objectives help you to close the plane even more, to increase the size of the product and even a greater background blur.
However, while long and macro focal lengths help and are the most common, angles can also be useful for certain compositions. So don’t dismiss them entirely. And no, you don’t need a 2,000 or 3,000 euro camera, although with better features, more options you will have.
As we have said, for toy photography having a tripod is highly recommended . Because if you have to repeat a shot several times where you apply different practical effects that you will then merge in editing, having a tripod guarantees that they will always be from the same position and distance.
There are many types of tripods and they are all valid, but two interesting recommendations would be those that allow the main column to be placed transversely and those that are Gorilla Pod type. With the first you will have the option of more camera shots, such as the zenith; while with the second to the possibility of placing the camera as you want if you take photos outdoors.
As with the tripod, having a remote trigger is also very useful. In the first place, because it allows you to shoot without having to touch the camera and that not only speeds up work a lot, it also avoids blurry photos, especially if you use macro lenses. And then, because it gives you the option of being able to apply practical effects yourself and at the same time shoot when you think the time is right.
Depending on the type of camera you use, you can find different types of options and even control or activate the burst mode from the respective mobile application offered by the manufacturer.
Having the right light for each type of photography is vital, but in the case of toy photography it is very interesting to have RGB lights. Thanks to these you can create environments much more appropriate to your idea or other types of effects if you use techniques such as long exposure photography.
Portable RGB LED spotlights are a great option and are inexpensive at all. Also then you could take advantage of them for a multitude of different uses. So we don’t think you will regret it if you get one.
Threads, wires and other extras
Finally, some basic accessories when taking these types of photographs are then the ones that you will use the most. As, for example, the transparent nylon threads to hang different objects and dolls, the wires that give the option of simulating that the toys are jumping or flying through the air due to an explosion or similar, and the canisters of compressed air and sprays of ambient.
The latter two allow you to create practical effects such as an explosion that lifts the earth, a sandstorm or a foggy day that avoids seeing the dangers that lurk or add drama to the photograph.
Taking into account that they are very cheap products, without a doubt getting them will make it much easier for you to start with toy photography. Although the main thing will always be to have imagination. Because even using an image displayed on your television can help you build a background in the style of the set where The Mandaloria is recorded.
So now you know, if you like photography, give this kind of photos a try. Who knows if over time you make a hobby your way of making a living. You wouldn’t be the first or the last to do it.