WHY & HOW Pt.1 – COLLECTING

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A special three-part community piece exploring the reasoning behind Toy Photography curated by Adam Burke (@burkeheadtoys) with guest features.

Why Toy Photography?  Well if you’re here reading this, then you either (A) have your reason because you’re already into it, or (B) wondering why someone would opt to spend time, money and effort on immortalizing a kids toy in a photograph.  I’ve only been doing this a little over a year, and honestly, I was coming from option B. I’ve since learned that this hobby covers a broad spectrum of photography, from a picture of a boxed toy on a store shelf, to jaw dropping art exhibition worthy art.  And while some of the subjects are …ahem… kids’ toys, I’ve also discovered that there’s an entire market of figures/collectibles/etc that are most certainly not marketed for kids.  Or at least, I don’t know anyone spending Hot Toys kind of money on their 5 year old.

And now that I’m sitting here, thinking and writing about this, I’ve decided there is no simple catchall answer.  If you’re looking for a generic cop out answer, then I’ll say sure, it’s fun. But there’s so much more to it. When I spoke with Jack here at ExcluCollective about writing an article on why one chooses to start toy photography, I thought it would be easy.  So I said yes. But after reaching out and getting input from others in the community, a simple article turned into three. Each with its own aspect on what makes this hobby so fun.

After talking with others, it seems to me that a vast majority of people start and stay here for 3 reasons: Collecting, Creativity and Community.  So let’s take a look at the collecting part.

But first, a little background on myself.  Before I started, I already had a budding interest in photography thanks to my wife.  During a photography based trip to Walt Disney World to meet other photographers, I met Alan (@alanrappa), then I saw the amazing photos he was making with LEGOs.  The lighting, the posing and the ideas showed me that this idea of snapping pics of toys can be much more than a novelty.

So, a long while later, I just happened to notice a Star Wars Black Series Stormtrooper Han Solo figure in the clearance aisle at a store.  Immediately a photo jumped into my head, so I grabbed him and headed home. And I posted my first photo:

BH-Han

I then started noticing other figures I liked in the toy aisles, and more and more ideas started popping into my head.  Pretty soon I had a bunch of figures, a large list of shot ideas and no photos (I’m a notorious procrastinator). So I decided to dive right in, created a dedicated Instagram page, and started taking the occasional photo.  So I guess technically, I would be considered a collector first. But unlike the stereotypical collector, I’m not collecting for display purposes or as some sort of investment. I’m collecting ideas. I won’t buy something if I can’t think of a few photo ideas right off the bat.  Now the great part of collecting, for me, is the thrill of the hunt! It’s the joy of finding that figure you wanted at the fourth or fifth store you’ve visited since you set out on your quest. That feeling is so much sweeter than the long lonely drive of disappointment back home empty handed.

Now, I’ve mentioned reaching out to the community.  Their input was so good and diverse, I’ve decided to include it here to share with you all.  I asked them all the same simple question that I asked myself, and also asked them to share their first photo and their current favorite.

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Adam Cavazos
@nostalgicadam

Adam discovered the world of toy photography through his Instagram explorer page.  He saw the great photos being created and after a while, he wanted to take a shot at it himself.

nostalgicadamFirst

Already in possession of nice camera and a bunch of toys, Adam decided to create a dedicated toy account on Instagram and start posting!  Like others in this community, you can see his progression as you go through his gallery. In less than a year, he has created a great gallery with variety of toys: Star Wars, Marvel, LEGOs and who doesn’t love Dinosaurs!  Below is his favorite shot, a great photo of a trooper in the midst of combat.

nostalgicadamFav

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HorrorByNature
@horrorByNature

I’m sure there are many photographers who got into this hobby for the same reason as HorrorByNature, existing toy collections plus Instagram.  When you have both long enough, they will naturally collide. He has quite the Funko Pop collection and saw others posting photos of Pops in the wild, and thought he could do that too.

horrorbynatureFirst

His Instagram gallery has evolved over time and is a mixture of Pops and figures of various scales, and of course … Horror!  And he does it quite well. As a horror fan myself, I’m constantly amazed with what he produces. His ability to capture details combined with great lighting produce captivating photos, like the one below:

horrorbynatureFav

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Justin G
@radnoski

Hailing from Australia, Justin is a self described toy nerd.  He spends his weekends toy hunting with friends for vintage (80’s and 90’s (…I feel old…)) toys.  His passion for these toys, combined with his enthusiasm for photography, results in most of his Instagram posts being toy photography related.

radnoskiFirst

Since posting his first toy photo, Justin has experimented with practical effects such as water, flying debris, and sparks to get random and unique results.  Australia’s strict bans on fireworks/crackers force him to get creative. But sometimes, despite all of our best and most creative efforts, a fluke can still become our favorite shot.  His favorite shot is one of these flukes. A mosquito landed perfectly on Scooby’s nose, and gave the photo a little more character.

radnoskiFav

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Matt Tomi
@house_of_m__

Matt is a collector of comics and statues that enjoys the hunt.  Living for that adrenaline rush of finding that figure he’s out looking for.  He has only recently started collecting figures. Like any collector, he’d get them home, unbox and pose them a little and they would either go back in the box or on the display shelf.  But he always wanted more than just that instant gratification.  He got into toy photography for justification.  Matt wanted to justify spending the time and money of the toy hunt, and to see his figures do more than collect dust.

house_of_m__First

Still in his first year of toy photography, Matt tries to push himself with each post, building off what he has learned from his last post.  His current favorite photo is a culmination of what he has learned about so far. He has used his knowledge of color contrasts, shooting angle, atmosphere, lighting and effects to showcase his favorite Bat-Suit.

house_of_m__Fav

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Well friends, I hope I’ve started shedding some light on this hobby of ours.  After all, we’re all human and we like collecting stuff and things. So tune in next time, same Exclu time, same Exclu channel as we cover the joy of Creativity.  Thanks for reading!

– Adam (@BurkeHeadToys)

Last modified: April 25, 2019

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