Ok, so right of the bat, I have to say that I AM (not “consider myself,” AM) an amateur when it comes to toy photography. I would love to do it professionally, but I would need to spend way more money on this (like buying a fish-eye lens or more material to do a big frame for mounted diffusor so the light wouldn´t be too hard), but this entry right here is just to show people that pretty much everybody can do it if they have the heart for it. You don´t need much. I honestly believe that, especially since, for people of our age, “playing with our toys” actually is posing the figures professionally, honoring the effort that went into it, and being happy with how amazing the character looks in the selected pose.
Continuing where I left off: I started out with a small compartment in my Expedit shelf (later discontinued by IKEA, but kind of re-instated as Kallax) after I had gotten myself a Nikon D3100 with a Tamron AF 18-200 Macro lens. I took the already installed Osram LED STIXX as the lighting and (most of the time) used the Autobot insignia that from the ‘Covenant Of Primus’ book as the background (of course I don´t only photograph Autobots, so I needed a Decepticon insignia too…I ended up building both, but that´s a subject for another time). It worked very well, as you might see on these following examples:
Pictured: Takara Tomy – Transformers Masterpiece – MP10: Optimus Prime
Pictured: Takara Tomy – Transformers Masterpiece – MP27: Ironhide
But I soon ran into space problems. Ultra Magnus was the first culprit (he’s huge). So what did I do? I tried shooting him with my lights in front of my black TV. This…was a major set-back. I was not satisfied:
Pictured: Takara Tomy – Transformers Masterpiece – MP22: Ultra Magnus
I knew I needed a proper background. Not a photobox though, since I wanted to maintain my open space for bigger pieces (I was working on my Combiner Wars Devastator custom at the time), but all these interim steps didn’t give me what I had pictured in my mind. First, I tried a chromed, foil-like background, but I didn't think this through:
Pictured: Mastermind Creations R-17 Carnifex (3rd Party IDW Comics Re-imagined Generation 1 Overlord)
The next step was the most logical: Cloth. I got a blue, little goldish gleaming cloth as background, hung it over my TV, and the lighting duties were taken over by rechargeable LED lights with different, rising luminosity settings (which also utilized a clamp. I still use these; I highly recommend them and you can get similar ones on Amazon).
The pictures turned out something like this. It was ok, but still not where I wanted to go:
But soon the space there started to diminish too! I switched to my kitchen table and added 2 plywood panels and background clamps. Still not the set up I was hoping for as the pictures turned out to have somewhat of a yellow gleam to it (due to the kitchen’s headlight) as can be seen here:
Pictured: Hot Toys - MMS237 D06 - Iron Man 2 - Whiplash Mark 2
I finally got the idea to buy myself a little table, enlarge the surface with one of the panels, and add a new background. Those who follow me know I bought a metallic, kind of gunmetal grey fabric (which has a glorious gleam to it), and I was able to utilize a big acrylic plate which you might spot in the lower left of the picture to the right. So most of my pictures looked similar to this:
Pictured: Bandai - Tamashi - Soul Of Chogokin: Spec XS-04: Evangelion Unit 00 from the Movie ‘Evangelion: 1.11 – You Are (Not) Alone, also EVA-01 & EVA-02
Over the next few months, I added Bandai Tamashii Nations Stage Act 4 as action stands (I rarely use them in photos now, but this will change) and a professional tripod for my camera. My current set up now looks like this:
Pictured: My attic photo space & Floodlight
Also I finally got to read further into settings of my camera, now utilizing the aperture, or even manual mode. Nowadays, I only shoot my figures in ISO100 and let the aperture do its own thing. Due to the tripod and self-timer, I seldom have a shaky picture (it only really happens if the position was unstable and utilizing the tripod wasn´t possible). I want to take the opportunity to shout out fellow photographers Ryan Fogg (@series209 on Instagram) in the ROC and Kevin Clarkson (@kclarkson78 on IG) from the Sixth Scale Photography Facebook group. Awesome people, please give them a follow. If you need help with settings, write them a message; they absolutely won´t bite. Last but not least, I still wasn´t satisfied with the lighting so I just upgraded to construction floodlights with 10W power, and I also have 3 new backgrounds in the pipeline. Soon I will start my reviews of the remaining 4 TransForm Mission Stunticons Revolt, Overturn, Carnage and Disorder, their combined form (Havoc), and also Generation Toy´s OP.EX, and I can´t wait to use all of it.
So whatever you get out of this post, I can only tell you that you will probably be your own worst critic. I know this from experience. Many of the pictures I do tend to turn out “bad,” so I redo them plenty of times. But let me give you some advice: Play with your camera settings, try new things, or even try some simple techniques. Mounting something on a card box helps, it doesn´t HAVE to be fully professional. You may not have a lot of money, but you’ve got a camera and as long as you don´t have 2 left hands (or maybe even if you do), you´ll make it work. I know it. Check your workplace, is there something that can be utilized? Ask if you can have it, or who knows? Maybe your coworkers have ideas. Like mine, who put me on the tracks to buy the floodlights.
You just need a start. You want to do it…get to it.
Peace out and thx for reading
The Mad German