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  • Writer's picturemitchelwu

Behind the Scenes: Toy Photography In Taiwan and Japan

Updated: Jun 11, 2021

Based in Los Angeles, I take my toy photography on the road to Taiwan and Japan. As you can imagine, the environment and conditions, as well as the culture, greatly differ on opposite sides of the planet - that's what makes this so fun and interesting. In Los Angeles I typically shoot around my home and in my studio, whereas when traveling I shoot entirely outside and on location, wherever my travels take me. Many toy photographers struggle with shooting toys in public, afraid and self-conscious that they’ll look strange or weird pursuing this amazing art form. This is natural - and the only way to get rid of that fear is to embrace it and shoot in public more. I have no such fears or discomfort and am happy to shoot in crowded, public locations. I think having photographed weddings for years was great training for this, as I often worked in front of hundreds of people. Most people are genuinely curious to see me shooting toys, so I see it as an opportunity to educate them on this cool, creative pursuit.

For this particular trip I wanted to travel lighter and focus less on creating stories with effects and instead let the environments and characters tell the story. I wanted to explore my surroundings without a plan and let the locations speak to me. I purchased a new mirrorless camera for this trip, which is very small in comparison to my Canon 5D Mark III. That purchase was driven entirely by my wanting to travel lighter. However, after using the new camera for a bit I decided the smaller body and controls of that particular mirrorless camera were actually a detriment to my style of photography. I instead decided to bring my trusty Canon 5D Mark III. So glad I did! If you follow my work you also may know that I almost always shoot with the Canon 135mm f2L, a fantastic, sharp lens that lets me shoot a safe distance away from my setups, where dirt and splashing liquids often occur. I instead opted for the Canon 35mm f1.4L - a substantially smaller lens and one that encourages me to see things in a slightly different manner. And since I wouldn't be including any messy practical effects in these images, being a safe distance from my setups wasn't a requirement. The only other critical piece of equipment I chose to bring with me (besides extra batteries and memory cards) was my Spiderholster Pro Holster. The holster was such a valuable piece of equipment when I photographed weddings years ago, and I find it even more valuable as a toy photographer. Being able to keep my camera on my waist while exploring, or setting up my shots, is much more preferable to laying it on the ground where it might be damaged or even stolen. And of course keeping the camera on my waist takes all the strain off my neck and shoulders, where it used to be when I used the traditional neck strap. This is by far the most comfortable, effortless and intuitive way I've found to carry a camera.

Lastly, taking yourself out of your usual shooting habits and comfort zone forces you to see things in a different way and to think differently. And you don't have to travel to different countries to benefit from this, it can be as simple as just forcing yourself outside of your usual box. If you shoot primarily indoors take your toys outside into some different environments. Take them into the city, or into the country. Ultimately you'll begin to see things both environmentally and compositionally and how they can relate to different shots. It's a wonderful way to train your eye.

Thanks to my sponsor and partner, SpiderHolster. Visit their website at and use promo code SPIDERGEAR20 for 20% off your purchase.


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