There are countless ways to play with your camera even when you’re stuck at home—and have a lot of fun with your kids at the same time. One of them is to reach into your stocks of action figures that never grow old. If you yourself have grown old enough to feel ashamed at carefree play with them on your carpet, now you have a unique chance to dive back into your play as a photographer. So take your camera, call your children over, and get playing!
The tiny Lego models have innocent little dolphin t-shirts on, but they can also be dressed up like Harry Potter or wear a Batman mask depending on which series they’re from. Since it’s a miniature person, you can have place them in all sorts of situations—like defeating a two-winged monster made of a clamshell, watching a ladybug flee their tiny frying pan, or swinging on a soap net as they save the world. The LEGO® Movie can be a wellspring of ideas here.
The basic idea is the same for other action figures. Although these ones here, the Czech “kinder” figures, have a rigid position and a specific expression inscribed on their faces, precisely these traits can emphasize how comical your scene is. Got a figure who’s tearing their hair in fear? How about making it look at your schoolwork or your score in a computer game?
A Studio on Your Kitchen Table
If you’re getting ready to start with one of the world’s most demanding photographic disciplines—photographing figurines—and you don’t have access to a professional studio and, ideally, your own technician, you’ll have to make do with that less glamorous solution. When choosing where to shoot, watch for three things: what your little subjects are standing on, what’s in the background, and what your light source is.
For photographing small objects, a flat surface is ideal; for the sake of simplicity, we’ll call it a table. At a height where you don’t have to stoop while you’re shooting, but don’t have to stoop either, and big enough that its edges aren’t visible in the photo. Not how the figures have different colors that may not blend well with the color of the table if it’s not black or white. Because of this, I recommend covering the table with a single-color sheet or tablecloth, ideally white.
If you’re using a sheet or a long tablecloth, you can put a chair (or another tall object) behind the table and throw the cloth over its backrest. That way, the figures will be in a monochrome, isolated environment. But you have to take care to keep the cloth from wrinkling, which can be a real pain sometimes. I chose the kitchen wall as my background because of this.
TIP: the farther your subject is from its background, the less depth of field—and thus the more blurring—you can achieve, and the more the table’s edges will melt away. Because of this, I recommend keeping the table far away from the wall.
That leaves us with the third point: the light source. We’ll say a bit about the lamps later; start by finding a suitable source of natural light, i.e. sunlight. Have a window at home? Great, place the table by it, and that’s taken care of.
And Now for Something More Difficult
If you prefer taking pictures under the mask of darkness, you may be pleased to know that all you need for photographing figurines is the light from a desk lamp, flashlight, candle, or other small source. Bringing in artificial lighting also brings a shadow into the scene, and you can work with it within both your composition and the whole picture’s atmosphere. Let’s look at a couple of photos with the working name “Variations on Minnie.”
To close things out, I’d like to present a photo series named “Minimiam” created by the French-Japanese duo (and couple) Akiko Ida and Pierre Javelle, who have been photographing figures and food for a long time. Bon appetit! Time to devour some inspiration.
Try it yourself and show off your creations!
Photographing figures is great fun and a great way to relax for children and adults alike. Try it yourself, and feel free to show off your creations to us. You can add them in the comments or on, say, our Zonerama galleries. Let’s find out whose little plastic adventures are the most fun!