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Mitchel Wu Toy Photography Behind the Scenes: Toy Story Alien Bedtime Stories


For this image I wanted a story that gave a glimpse into the personalities of the squeeze toy aliens. In the movie they are portrayed as passive, cultish beings waiting for the claw to take them to a better place. So it made sense to me that deep down they would enjoy hearing stories about other aliens that were aggressive and ferocious - something they could aspire to, at least in fantasy.


The setup was pretty straight forward. I wanted to find or create a location that was very colorful, as if taking place in Andy's room among other toys. I ended up creating the scene in my office, in front of some book shelves that were crammed with colorful props and toys. Some time ago I created a very simple adjustable platform that can be raised to different heights for setups like this. It's a piece of wood that screws onto a cheap light stand. Once secured it can be raised or lowered as needed. The shelf full of toys that I wanted as my background is around 4 feet off the ground, so I just raised the platform to that height and was ready to go.


Here's another image showing the complete stand.


Lastly, I needed to create the tiny book that Woody would be reading to the aliens. I did this by designing and drawing the book cover in Photoshop, printing it out to size, and pasting it onto a small random instruction booklet I had lying around (which I cut to a more appropriate size). A big part of my toy photography is problem solving, and it took me a little while to figure out the best way to create this book. Using the instruction booklet was perfect as it had all the pages already - something I felt was critical to making the book believable.


Equipment Used: Canon 5D Mark III with the Canon 135mm f2L lens, shot at f/2. ISO 640, 1/640 sec. That lens is my absolute favorite and is used in 95% of my shots. It's super sharp and creates some of the creamiest bokeh you'll ever see, given the right settings and conditions. My office window faces west and is flooded with light in the afternoon, so natural light was all that was required. Normally I'll need additional lighting for fill though. I require a rock solid base for my camera and use the stellar Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod for literally 100% of my studio work. When my camera is off the tripod I'll have it either strapped to my wrist using the Spider Holster Hand Strap or it'll be in the Spider Holster on my waist. Of course all of my camera gear gets stored or transported in one of my awesome Lowepro camera bags. Final editing is first done in Lightroom, then often finished in Photoshop. I use a Wacom Intuos Pro with the pen tool for much of my editing.