As y’all probably know by now, I love action figures and toys. I’ve always had an action figure in my hand since I was a little kid. I’m a bit of a pop-culture junkie, and when I was in college, I started photographing some of my toys as portraits, and over the years I’ve done a few series’ and lots of individual images.
For Christmas, Sara got me a few figures that had me really excited. One was a Michael Jackson figure dressed in his “Smooth Criminal” video outfit, and the second was a Freddie Mercury figure, both by Japanese toy makers BanDai & Tamashii Nations, who also made the totally awesome Daft Punk figures I got years ago.
I spent a little time with Michael Jackson at the studio one afternoon. It also gave me a chance to try out a can of Atmosphere Aerosol. I’ve been using and having terrible luck with Fog Machines for years. I’ve bought three different brands of fog machine and every time I’ve tried to follow the directions exactly as listed in the manuals and these machines would always bind or gunk up after my very first use. It got so frustrating when these stupid things wouldn’t work any longer.
I was poking around the Interwebz and saw a wedding photographer using this Atmosphere Aerosol for a portrait in a barn. It was small and portable, unlike those big fog machines, and you could use it over and over without it gunking up. Cool.
So I ordered a can from B&H and it arrived and I sat down with Micheal and we started taking some images. For the record, I also had MJ playing on the stereo at the studio. Just ‘cuz.
Michael comes with a bunch of extra hands in different poses, a 2nd face with a different expression, and he also comes with a second torso (seen in the photo above) in his “Michael-Jackson-arms-stretched-straight-up” pose. Totally awesome.
Eventually I got him posed in the image above and the lighting looked good and I set the timer on my camera, locked in focus and then sprayed a few sprays of the aerosol as the shutter clicked – and I was totally in love with the result. The aerosol is so awesome and works amazing with small-scale figures; you hardly need any of the spray at all, and it is so much easier to use and store and have on hand. It’s a tad expensive for a can, but I think it’s worth it in the end for simplicity and it should last me a good amount of time since I’ve only been using it for toy photography.
Here is a behind-the-scenes shot of the image up above:
I had three lights set up: one directly above him, like a stage-light, with a grid on it to control the beam and to create a circle of light at his feet. I had two gridded strobes off to his left and right; gridded yellow and blue, to give some accent colors. I had him standing on a clear piece of plastic with a piece of black backdrop paper underneath that, to make it look like a glossy stage floor. Not shown is the Atmosphere Aerosol, but I just sprayed it directly down from over his head at the right moment.
I like photographing toys because they don’t really take up a ton of space and you can mostly shoot them anywhere. If I ever had to just work out of my house and not have a studio, I could continue to shoot toys with no issues, as long as I had enough space for lighting and grip.
I’ve spent my whole life appreciating figures and little tiny human-being models. It allows me to still connect to my childhood joys while being able to create and totally art-direct the action and situations of the toys – exactly the same way I work with real-life clients; in controlled settings where I’m setting up lights and directing them for the sessions.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! I love sharing the stuff that I’m passionate about.
Toys rule! 😀