The next web feature to make up part of SW40th Week comes from Jude Forde of @amateurtoys fame who has taken a really varied approach to his exclusive shoot by shooting Lego minifigs right through to Micro-Machine AT-AT’s which in a nutshell shows the Star Wars brand existence across every possible Toy format.
An Exclusive Photoshoot for SW40th Week
by Jude Forde
My name is Jude Forde, I’m a student, based in Ireland and like many in this vast community I am a self-taught (toy) photographer. I first picked up my Dad’s camera and a couple of Lego stormtroopers 7 months ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. I work with any and every figure line I can get my hands on, but mainly Star Wars and Lego as I find the scale perfect for pictures.
I shoot in my back garden with my trusty Nikon D5100. As I am the most indecisive person in existence, I bring every single figure I own in a small box (my back aches!) to each shoot. The process in which I take photos is a little more professional…but that isn’t saying much. I usually shoot in either my back garden or I cycle down to another location equipped only with my camera, figures and an aching back. I walk around and survey the area finding somewhere where the land and scale are proportional to the figures I’m working with. I aim for the figures to look like they are somewhere else entirely. In my opinion the art of toy photography is the art of mimicking life, this comes down to a few things;
- scale with the surroundings
- showing emotion and personality
- being able to tell a telling story
All of these are essential in creating a good photo.
Finding an interesting location that is to scale with your surroundings is key, as it takes your character to a place you may not be able to go or that may not even exist in reality, for instance an alien planet, a war zone, a jungle or Outer Mongolia!! By finding an interesting location that you can better tell the story you want to tell and by having it to scale you can make it look more convincing.
As for lighting, it is fairly self-explanatory as to whether it is bright, dark, sunset, sunrise. It all contributes to the general atmosphere and feel of the shot you want to get. Whilst I would encourage experimenting with different ways of lighting your shoots, nothing beats an outdoor sunset shot. Being able to convey emotion and personality in your shoots is all about the little details. For example, in the above shot, the way they hold their weapons coveys their personality and the way their heads are tilted shows how they feel and may prompt the viewer to try to understand what they are thinking. If you want to have your character tell a story then simply look to his posing. Also, a quick way to make your character look like he’s been through hell is by adding dirt and muck to their feet and armour. If they are in close proximity to an explosion then add dirt to their upper body also. Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty and remember how you tell your story is completely up to you, see how creative you can get!
I like to work with Star Wars characters, as there is so much freedom in trying to recreate the planets and environments from across the galaxy. The challenge is in getting the toy character to seem real and part of the scene, whether it’s an action shot with explosions or a moody, atmospheric portrait of a clonetrooper on the hunt.
When it comes to FX either go real or go home (unless of course you like to take your shots at home, in which case this is a poor metaphor). In all seriousness, I feel practical FX provide the best results where as special FX would be seen as complimentary additions and used sparingly. For the shot above of the clone trooper I set a piece of newspaper on fire and once it went out I repositioned the figure in the direction of where the smoke was blowing, then in post production I darkened the background to create an “isolated” look.
One thing you may find interesting is that all of these shots are taken in the EXACT same spot as eachother – if this doesn’t prove adding little bits of random debris can make an environment look completely different then I don’t know what does! Planning your shots in this way, by adding sticks, rocks, dirt etc. are all key environment-building tools and help to give a little more control over your shot. For example, with this pop vinyl Darth Vader shot I took small pieces of orange paper and put them in the background covered in dirt. This helps create a warm autumn feel and with a log placed in the back left to act as tree, it now looks like a forest.
Last, but not least, is a simple pic of me getting a shot while lying in the dirt. My favourite way of getting photos is getting down and personal with the figures. This often leads to some uncomfortable poses, but if it means the best shot possible, then what’s muddy knees and awkward angles anyway?!
The best (and most cliché way) to sign off is by saying something inspirational, so I guess all I have left to say is – always push and test the boundaries. Do not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and get dirty. Break the limits and always experiment with new methods and ways of one-upping yourself, but most importantly, just have fun 🙂
A massive thank you to Jude for taking the time to compile his really varied shoot so be sure to head over to @amateurtoys on Instagram to catch much more content like this and leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts!