Toy photographers unite

Why toy photography?

When I got into toy photography, I made a conscious decision not to write about it. As a writer that’s an odd decision, I know. I’m going to try to put it into some context.

I was feeling creatively blocked. Writing short stories is tough, especially when the daily news is so bad. I’d followed some toy photographers on Instagram and one day realized there was no reason I couldn’t try it—y’know under an anonymous account, at first. I wanted to generate ideas outside of writing, distract myself from the news, create something delightful, and open up new avenues. It’s been so much more.

Why not write about it?

Being a writer, I sometimes feel like a tourist. Having been a lot of different kinds of writers (and editors)—music reviewer, reporter, online writer of personal essay-like whatevers, struggling fiction writer, nature writer about weirdo shit, professional copywriter, paperboy—I wanted something separate. Of course, there are stories I’d like to write about the community because it is a very talented and inspiring one, but I wanted to do an artistic thing—and not write about people who do it.

OK. So why toy photography?

One: I like toys. I’d been on the periphery of the collecting community for years and, again, it was about making a commitment.

Two: I like photography. I enjoy taking pictures of tiny things—macrophotography. I also enjoy photographing my family and all sorts of other subjects. I wanted an assignment. A reason to dig in and figure out how digital photography works.

Three: Why not?

So what do you shoot?

My Instagram is focused on Star Wars 3.75 (1/18 scale) figures. That’s your classic action figure size. I love them. What I always loved about 3.75 is that you can mix other lines of toys because 3.75 is the universal scale. I have collected some 6-inch figures, like Star Wars Black Series or Marvel Legends, but they don’t spark the same kind of joy. I like vintage Kenners or Star Wars the Vintage Collection. That’s the good stuff.

How do you work?

I have a Canon Rebel with a macro lens. I use a tripod almost exclusively now because I like to get into the details. For lighting I use LumeCubes or some LED lamps. The hobby began as an excuse to go outside with action figures, which I loved doing as a kid, and to take photographs. I’ve since become more comfortable shooting inside where I can take my time setting up a shot and working out details. I’ll post about the process soon.

Why Star Wars?

Because it’s Star Wars. I was born in ’77. Nothing quite fires my imagination like Star Wars. And Star Wars has a lot of space to fill where you can do side stories that you haven’t seen in the Disney-Lucasfilm convergence. When I started out, I thought I’d bring my kids along with me. Neither were interested. They’re also too young for Star Wars and don’t understand the appeal. For as long as it is possible, I want them to find pleasure in stories that don’t involve guns and punching. So that’s fine, really.

Also, when I started in toy photography, the Star Wars community was very toxic. We’re talking post-Last Jedi times, and I was upset by that. So I wanted to help retake these stories I loved that spoke so clearly to me about being inclusive and taking a stand for what’s right, even if it seems like what’s wrong is popular. At its best, Star Wars is about resistance and rebellion and acceptance and love and inclusivity. The fan community was failing at that. I thought.

So I came into it a little hot and found that there’s still some decency in the corporate monster of Star Wars on social media platforms. The toy photography community, in my opinion, is filled with some of the most creative people I’ve known.

Uh. Right. Yeah. So takeaways then?

Photographing toys should be fun. The purpose is to create delight. If you have the time to take pictures of your toys and post them on Instagram, you should be mindful of what you’re doing. And why.