My First Foray Into Indoor Toy Photography Using GTP’s Space Walls or How to Make the Transition From an Outdoor Toy Photographer to an Indoor Toy Photographer
Hey toy photographers, Matt Heywood here, or as some may know me on Instagram, @heywoodpop. In my latest exclusive piece for the Exclu Collective I intend to recap my first foray into indoor toy photography, specifically shooting Star Wars Black Series 6-inch figures with Galactic Trading Post’s Space Walls diorama kit.
Up until a few weeks ago I’ve been an outdoor toy photographer exclusively, as I find it to provide the best lighting around, as well as the various environmental landscapes the great outdoors can offer. Honestly, I was intimated by taking this new hobby of mine indoors due to a severe lack of knowledge on how to properly light an indoor shoot, as well as what types of backgrounds I could use to bring more life to the figures I was shooting. Thanks to the stellar IG community of toy photographers I decided to go all in with an indoor studio, so I ordered the Space Walls starter kit from Galactic Trading Post and dove headfirst into the world of indoor toy photography.
After my first few attempts at shooting indoors I can now say it’s an amazing extension to my hobby, and one I now plan to utilize more, thanks to the level of control one has with lighting and staging. To get started I needed a few key items, which are listed below:
- Key Light
- Photo tent (optional)
- Fill Light
- Reflective surface
- Studio Lights
- Space Walls
- Sticky Tack
- Plenty of imagination
- Even more patience
I can’t stress how important the last two items are, as the others simply require some money and meddling with to create a properly lit scene to shoot figures in. Imagination is everything in toy photography, be it indoors or out, because without one your shots will look mundane and feel lifeless. Patience is even more of a virtue, because getting 6-inch action figures to adhere to your vision is one of the most difficult aspects of toy photography, so if you don’t deal with frustration well, or little a-hole Black Series figures falling over all the time, then you will not enjoy this particular hobby one bit.
With your gear, imagination, and patience in tow shooting toys indoors is as simple as staging the shot and properly lighting it, which you can see with the behind-the-scenes images and video below.
For this shot I first came up with the idea of having Phasma talking with her troops in some sort of First Order structure/ship. From there I had to create the Space Walls structure, pose the figures to make them look like they’re alive rather than inanimate objects, and then get them all to stand up straight so I could snap the shutter.
In terms of the Space Walls staging I highly recommend using the included clips to bond them together, as well as bonding them to your reflective base. This just prevents more frustration from the falling over and causing a dominoes style reaction from your carefully placed and posed figures. You also should play with perspective by using sections of the walls that aren’t clipped together to create a variety of environments with just nine space wall panels.
Once the walls and the figures are posed the next step is staging the lights. This part can be tricky, but as long as you have a key light and a fill light you should be able to get some perfectly lit shots of your figures. When I want more of a true-to-film look I’ll also use two studio lights, which are repurposed from an old green screen kit I had. With these you get a much more evenly lit shot that also feels more like the films than an artistic take on its characters. With that being said I highly recommend playing with your light setup by turning some off and taking a shot, then turning others on and taking additional shots, because you never know the types of gems your lens may capture even with the slightest changes to your lighting setup.
That’s really all it takes to bring your action figures to life indoors, but again, I can’t stress the importance of your own creativity in this process, as it is the key to coming away with amazing shots for the world of toy photographers to enjoy. You can take your imagination once step further during post editing using great apps like Enlight, PicsArt (free), or Pixelmator, which all have tools to bring even more life to your shots, as well as adding a bit of an artistic flair.
If you’ve predominantly been an outdoors toy photographer I hope this piece can help you break out of your comfort zone and try something new with your hobby. Trust me, if I can sorta figure this stuff out, so can you as I’ve only been at the hobby for less than a year. Study your favorite photographers on Instagram and try to reach out for them for tips. I can’t stress enough how important it is to network and share and gain ideas from like minded individuals, so if you see something I did that you like and want to know more, please reach out. I’ll do my best to share the knowledge I’ve gained, as well as pointing you towards the toy photographers who have inspired me to try new methods of capturing our little plastic friends.
– Matt Heywood