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  • Writer's picturemitchelwu

Toy Photography: Finding The Story

Updated: Feb 23

More often than not, by the time I'm setting up a shot, I have a very clear picture in my head of the story I want to tell and the image I want to create. This includes which property and characters I'll be using, as well as the environment, composition and practical effects, if any. Yes, there is always fine tuning while I go through the process of setting up my shots, but the story and characters usually remain intact from start to finish. Having said that, I think it can be beneficial when going through the creative process to keep an open mind to change, especially when it's in service to the story. What follows is an example of this.

Image version 1 with Boo

This first image of the Wild Things included Boo from Monsters Inc, which was my original intent for the image. Boo is a wild thing at heart, especially in her adorable monster disguise. It's a cute mashup that made sense to me. But when I got it set up, as you see here, I wasn't really feeling the story, it didn't make me feel anything beyond it was a cute mashup. But maybe that was enough? It may have been an audience pleaser, but is that the primary goal of what we do? When seeing it in front of me, it felt like low hanging fruit.  So I began wondering if switching Boo out with Max would be better, which led to the 2nd image below.

Image version 2 with Max

The issue with including Max in this image is that I've basically created this same image twice before. Do I really need a third? (My favorite version of this photo is currently on the home page of this website, if you want to see it.) I love that image so much, doing one more would be ridiculous. And Max is pretty much locked into that one pose, as are all of the Wild Things figures, limiting what can be done with them. Which led me to the third and final iteration below.

Image version 3 with only the Wild Things

After two different setups I realized that the strongest story didn't include either Boo or Max. The strongest story was the suggestion that the Wild Things see Max approaching, and are filled with anticipation and excitement that the wild rumpus is about to start. I love that this isn't the obvious story and makes the viewer work a little to see and understand it. I fine tuned the image even further by removing Aaron from the back, leaving just the 3 Wild Things. This was a compositional decision more than anything else.

So again, 99% of the time my stories are set and doesn't change from the beginning to the end of my process. But keeping an open mind, and not being locked into one train of thought, can sometimes lead to unexpected outcomes.


Thanks for checking out this post. You can view the equipment I use and some of the toys I photograph here in my Amazon shop.

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