Its always gratifying and rewarding to see people putting into practise the lessons learnt via our behind the scenes features and that’s precisely what photographer Matt Heywood has done by using our recent Digirama Tutorial series by Jason Yang as the basis for this shoot.
Lessons From the Exclu Collective – How Jason Yang Got Me Into Using Digiramas
A behind the scenes look with Matt Heywood @heywoodpop
I’ve been blown away by the Toy Photography Community since throwing my hat in with it nearly a year ago, namely due to how kind everyone is, but also for the willingness of the community to help each other out. Before diving headfirst into this hobby I had never done anything with photography outside of taking shots on my iPhone. I always loved the medium, but never found subject material to convince me to go all in and grab a big boy DSLR camera. That all changed when I saw what could be done with some of my favorite lines of collectibles, such as Funko Pops and the Star Wars Black Series lines.
Once I plunked down some serious cash for a Canon 80D I was off to the races and never looked back. I predominantly photographed Funko Pops in outdoor settings at first, which was more than enough to keep me busy, as well as garnering a decent following on Instagram. After seeing other photographers post amazing Black Series shots I decided to give them a go using the same outdoor shooting methods I had become familiar with while shooting Pops. While I’ll always love outdoor shoots, they do present challenges for a toy photographer, because while they provide some amazing backdrops, at times they may not fit for a character from a galaxy that is oh so far, far away.
These cases call for a bit more legwork and setup, as well as the confines of an indoor studio, so this past Winter I took a leap into the world of indoor toy photography. At first I was content using the immaculate looking space walls from GTP Toys, which provide for amazing Star Wars diorama-style scenes, but again they limit what you can do with your subject’s backdrop. This led me to wanting a better way to get varied backgrounds without having to go outside, or spend money on expensive diorama props. I found my answer on the pages of this very site, thanks to an article by Jason Yang on the concept of digirama shooting techniques.
Jason has mastered this art form, so he was kind enough to do a behind-the-scenes series for the Exclu Collective to detail how he crafted some of his out-of-this-world looking Star Wars shots. I found his tips to be easy to understand, and in the first part of his series he peeled enough layers back from the process to give me enough to go on to try a digirama shoot myself. I just really appreciated his explanations behind his workflow, as well as the images he provided to show off how he sets up a digirama shoot. This article and imagery went a long way in giving me the confidence I needed to try my hand at the medium, so I linked up with another digirama guru who goes by Rebel_Jawa on IG to tap into his stockpile of Star Wars digital backgrounds.
From there it was all about mastering lighting, which I’ve found to be a science for indoor toy photography. I propped up a glossy baseplate on some old boxes in front of my iMac and then let my creativity dream up a scene to shoot. For this piece I’m showing off one shot I did using the digirama style, which is of two Stormtroopers walking the halls of the Death Star. I just pulled up the image, dialed in the key and fill lights, while also using an overhead light to serve as back lighting. I took shots at different angles and distances, and ultimately decided on the shot you can see in this post as the winner.
The shot to me is meant to be lighthearted, and as I set it up I envisioned a conversation taking place between the two troopers about how one drew desert duty on Tatooine and was none too happy about it. For any style of toy shot you have to have an imagination to cook up the theme of it, so with the endless amount of backdrops to use with digirama-style shots your own creativity is your only limitation.
If it weren’t for this amazing community of toy photographers, who knows what my shots would look like today. If I were a betting man I’d say they’d be much more plain Jane looking than they are now, as well as locked into outdoor settings only. It’s because of toy photographers like Jason Yang and Daniel Sparkes who are willing to share tips and experiences with the community that make being a part of it so rewarding and educational. This is also why this publication is so important to newbies like me, because it offers so many great toy photographers to learn from that I have no doubt that the Exclu Collective will someday mold me into a semi-competent toy photographer who actually looks like he knows what the hell he’s doing.
Its fantastic to see how a simple set up can lead to such results and we’re really proud to have a great team of photographers working with us every day to ensure that lessons and skills are passed on to the wider community so that everyone can try their hand at new styles such as Matt has done here. Check out all of Matts growing portfolio of work over on Instagram @heywoodpop.