First off I’d like to thank Exclu Collective for giving me this incredible opportunity of partnering with them. I am Shahzad Bhiwandiwala, a 24 year old HR Professional by day and toy photographer in my free time….
Prior to taking up Toy Photography, my only experience with photography was Landscape Photography which I only practiced while on vacation. My primary outlet for creativity was through performing in Musical Theatre. I had always assumed that Musical Theatre was to be my career; I had performed in massive Broadway adaptations of famous musicals such as Sound of Music and Grease. But alas, all of that came to an end when reality hit. I realised that Musical Theatre wasn’t something I could support myself with. The enormous time commitment with minimal pay was just too skewered to be taken up as a profession in India.
A few months after I finished performing in Grease, were spent moping around feeling I would be stuck in a 9 to 7 job with no real creative outlet for the rest of my life. I figured I couldn’t go on like that so I picked up my camera and started using it while not on vacation. I dabbled in various types of photography but nothing seemed to have the “oomph” factor and the kick that I got out of musical theatre. I decided to give it a long and hard thought of what would be the best style of photography for me because I sure did love photography. I just needed to figure out that one particular type.
After hundreds of “meh” feeling photographs across genres such as Portrait, Architecture and Event Photography I stumbled across the massive toy community on Instagram. I knew I struck gold the moment I saw incredibly detailed Lego Star Wars photographs. I have always loved toys and I’m a huge fan of movies; Star Wars and over the top action movies in particular. Ever since I was a child, my dad and I would watch 1-2 movies a week in the theatre. We’d always make it a point to catch the latest flick in theatres no matter how empty or bad the reviews for the movie was. Combine that with the massive Lego and action figure collections I had as a child, and toy photography was a match made in heaven. I dusted off the remnants of my old toy collection and started taking photographs hoping for the best. My initial results were pretty underwhelming, but I knew that this is what I wanted so I persevered. I combined my knowledge of positioning and lighting of “characters” from theatre with my love of movies. I truly felt this was the best way to combine these two important aspects of me.
I watched tons of YouTube photography and photo retouching tutorials to teach myself about this art form. I initially started off with posting to my Flickr account but decided to switch to Instagram. I revisited classic movies such as the original Star Wars trilogy, Die Hard, Black Hawk Down, Blade Runner, Alien, Terminator to view them from a technical standpoint and was absolutely blown away with the amount of detail and learning that I could gather.
In addition, the toy photography community on Instagram is extremely helpful and approachable, which made the entire process of learning a constant and enjoyable one.
My style of photography is one where I have a written idea of what I want to do and then I work to bring it to life. I accomplish this through either practical effects or through minor manipulation in Photoshop. One of the most important lessons I learned was to get on the level of the toy you want to photograph. Always let the lens be at the toy’s eye level and fill the frame with the toy. The lesser the dead space in the picture, the more life like your photograph seems.
It’s not uncommon for me to be told by practicing photographers to pick a better or more traditional style of photography. On explaining what goes into creating a single image photographers very often come around to realise that Toy Photography is no child’s play and they do end up appreciating it. What was initially indifference is slowly turning to appreciation and even interest.
My want to excel is driven by my drive to push the boundaries of my own creativity by dabbling in new methods of lighting, practical effects and posing. I do hope to inspire other budding toy photographers just as the wonderful Instagram toy community inspired me. One of my personal highlights at present is the attention my work is getting from collectibles companies that have been kind enough to send me their products to photograph. It’s truly something that shows, I am doing something right that’s making heads turn and that in itself is a major accomplishment for me.
I have something to tell every aspiring artist out there, one I’ve said in nearly every interview I’ve given, Do Not Give Up. It might take some time to see the results you want but always keep yourself motivated. There is no end; everyday there is something new to learn. Maybe the next image you create will be your new masterpiece.
If you wish to see more of my work, check out my page on Instagram and Facebook: @sbphotographs1.
Here’s the link to my page: https://www.instagram.com/sbphotographs1/?hl=en
Most importantly all of this would not have been possible without the massive support I get from my family and girlfriend who have played a huge part in helping me push my limits and achieving all that I have. Once again a big thank you to Exclu Collective for giving me this incredible opportunity and thank you to all my followers and the Toy Photography Community for all the support and love you’ll have shown towards my work.
I do hope all of you will enjoy reading this post enjoyed it as much as I did writing it. Do let us know if there is anything in particular you’ll would like to read about. Until next time.
May the force be with you.