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The magic of LEGO Star Wars photography

by admin on April 11, 2017

in Community Articles

(Written by Connor Yoho)

My name is Connor, I’m a 21-year-old recent college graduate with a degree in film, residing in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. I do video editing for a living, working on various commercials and short films.

Growing up, I was a huge fan of LEGO, with my collection mostly consisting of LEGO Star Wars sets. The first set I owned was the #7139 LEGO Star Wars Ewok Attack from 2002. It was a small set with 2 Ewoks, a Stormtrooper, a Scout Trooper, a speeder bike, and a catapult. Even though the set was small, I remember playing with it alone for hours. My favorite LEGO set so far is the newest iteration of the Star Wars AT-ST (#75153 LEGO Star Wars AT-ST Walker), and my favorite minifigure is the LEGO Star Wars Death Trooper.

What led me to start doing LEGO photography began around my sophomore year of college. Like all other cool college kids, I had an Instagram account, but I rarely used it. However, one day, as I was looking around Instagram, I discovered the work of Vesa Lehtimäki, who had these amazing images of LEGO Star Wars Storm Troopers. I thought to myself, “Wow! You can do that with LEGO?!” I decided then and there, that once I go home during school break, I was going to take a crack at LEGO photography myself.

I started shooting pictures on a 60-degree, beautiful and clear Christmas day (Pittsburg weather and Global Warming – what can you do?). I grabbed a handful of minifigures and got to work. (I have included some of my photography in this article, and if you are interested, you can see more at my flickr gallery and on Instagram.)

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work in LEGO photography. I’ve also drawn a lot of inspiration from various members of the toy photography community, which helped me to put a unique spin on my own creations. I would specifically like to mention Vesa Lehtimäki, Kyle Hardisty, and Matthew Callahan, as they influenced me greatly. If you are interested in toy photography, I highly recommend taking a look their galleries. They each possess a distinct style that really makes them stand out. I also recommend checking out Vesa Lehtimäki’s beautiful photography book, LEGO Star Wars: Small Scenes from a Big Galaxy.

As you have probably noticed by now, I mostly take pictures outside. When I go out to shoot, I generally have an idea in my head of what I want to create, but sometimes I just wing it. I use a Canon EOS Rebel T3i digital camera with the kit lens and sometimes a 50 mm, along with a mini-tripod, bounce board, and a can of compressed air. Why the compressed air, you ask? Well, an idea I got from Matthew Callahan was using compressed air to shoot dirt and gravel at your figures in order to make the image feel more intense and alive. I try to use this effect as a way of visualizing what we imagined the scene would have looked like when we were kids playing with LEGO. Sometimes making blaster sound effects with my mouth helps as well. 😀

I hope you found this little write-up interesting, and perhaps you may even consider getting into toy photography yourself. If I have any advice for anyone just starting out, it’s this; don’t let lack of fancy equipment hold you back. It doesn’t really matter what kind of camera you have. You’d be amazed at what you can do with even just a camera-phone! I used to worry that my camera wasn’t good enough, but after a few photo sessions, I was proven dead wrong. Another advice I could give is that everything takes trial and error. Don’t be too hard on yourself if your shots aren’t super amazing when you start. Remember; you are learning. Start simple, notice what works for you, and add little improvements as you go along. And, most importantly, have fun! This is a hobby that will allow LEGO fans to get even more creative with their LEGO bricks and minifigs!

What do you think? Have you ever tried LEGO photography? How did it go? Do you have any thoughts, questions, tips or tricks you would like to share? Feel free to add them in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

ilariel April 11, 2017 at 11:22 AM

Legography is one of the most time-consuming things I have ever done (maybe only overtaken by lego stopmotion videos). I love it, but I have a big problem there: I have absolutely no skill using postproduction programs (GIMP, PS,…) so I have to make things possible using the old-school way: wires, ligths, back projection and so.

Here you have some example: The final result: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/2pwnfls8shmcdxs/mf.jpg and the “making of”: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/inx35h24gp3kt3h/mo.jpg

This is probably one of my best shots: https://flic.kr/p/oKDDCo

Here i have some others: https://www.flickr.com/photos/126250569@N06/albums/72157646590935485/with/14933803946/

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admin April 11, 2017 at 11:29 AM

They look great! The X-wing one is particularly dramatic.

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ilariel April 11, 2017 at 11:39 AM

Thanks! yeah, that one and the ISD following the Tantive IV required a lot of room at home to get the perspective. UCS sets are great as models but they need some extra room.

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Brick April 11, 2017 at 2:01 PM

I think your practical effects are impressive!

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ilariel April 11, 2017 at 3:53 PM

Thanks! once you realize you cannot use technology, you must use your imagination 🙂

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BigShawn April 11, 2017 at 11:55 AM

Does Connor use any post-production editing? His photos are so vibrant!

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Connor Yoho April 11, 2017 at 12:38 PM

Hi BigShawn! Thanks for the kind word. I use Adobe Lightroom with all my photos and sometimes Photoshop if I need to do anything special.

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jabber-baby-wocky April 11, 2017 at 12:10 PM

Love these! The canned air method is a great idea to add some motion to dynamic scenes. Still, my favorite is the last picture. So much is said with such a simple scene.

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Connor Yoho April 11, 2017 at 12:45 PM

I’m glad you enjoyed them, and I definitely agree with you. There’s no harm in keeping things simple and easy, you can still accomplish a lot in a picture with a single figure.

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Giza April 11, 2017 at 12:27 PM

Beautiful shots! Question for Connor: Since you are taking these shots outdoors, do you rely completely on natural light?

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Connor Yoho April 11, 2017 at 12:40 PM

Hi Giza! Yup, I rely 100% on natural light. I don’t use any additional lights or even the flash on the camera. All I really use is a bounce to reflect the light to help fill any dark areas on the figures that I don’t like.

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Brick April 11, 2017 at 2:02 PM

Can you elaborate on the “bounce board”?

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Connor Yoho April 11, 2017 at 2:44 PM

Sure! A bounce board is generally a white reflective board use to “bounce” sunlight so you can redirect it towards your subject to make them appear brighter, depending on the location of the sun and your subject. For my photography, because my subjects are so small, I use a white DVD case that I have as a bounce. Below is a link that does a pretty good job of explaining the concept

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAcY5ob2UnE

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brickmaster April 11, 2017 at 12:39 PM

Very unique mix of the outdoors and plastic toys. I think this combination would also work really well for Lord of the Rings. Imagine all the forests, rivers, snow-covered mountains and firepits LOTR minifigs can be put into!

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Connor Yoho April 11, 2017 at 12:47 PM

Thanks! I definitely would like to start branching out to do other sets like LOTRs, I just need to track down some of the sets seeing as Lego stopped selling most of them awhile ago.

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Legostuff71 April 11, 2017 at 12:52 PM

That’s something I would love to do . I just don’t know how. Is there a book or a web site that I can go on so I can learn how to do maybe a short movie . God knows, I have a lot of LEGO sets to work with. I remember in H.S. I did a cartoon strip . Each page my character had to move a bit at a time to make it look like it’s moving. I guess the same goes for the mini figs. I just need to get the equipment. What do I need?

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admin April 11, 2017 at 1:30 PM

I highly recommend The LEGO Animation Book by David Pagano and David Pinkett. It explains everything you need to know for starting out in brickfilming in a very friendly and easily digestible format. I have been meaning to review the book, but haven’t had the time. However you can read the reviews on Amazon. It has a five-star rating. Here is the link: THE LEGO ANIMATION BOOK ON AMAZON

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ilariel April 12, 2017 at 3:38 AM

There is just one basic thing that you gonna need tons of it: Patience.

If you accept some advice, try starting with something really short. A 15 sec animation will take probably a couple of hours making pictures and editing video.

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admin April 12, 2017 at 11:12 AM

That’s a really good suggestion. People often don’t realize how much time and patience stop-motion animation takes.

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Legostuff71 April 11, 2017 at 4:27 PM

Thank you, admin. I think I found my next LEGO adventure. I was getting kind a worried that I was getting burnt out from my collection( buying sets after sets and that’s it . As much as I enjoyed it , it got kind of stale after a while. ) Now theirs hope.

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admin April 11, 2017 at 9:57 PM

Yeah, just buying sets is not as much fun as getting creative with them. Both LEGO photography and filmmaking is a wonderful hobby. It doesn’t even require much LEGO, as demonstrated by Connor here. 🙂

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JasonK April 12, 2017 at 11:23 AM

I just have one question, is the snow real on your pictures? Or is it fake snow? Do you make the snow fall with compressed air, or you take out your minifigs in a real snowfall? The reason I’m asking is that usually when it snows it’s very overcast and it’s hard to take pictures. Very cool images and the snowy ones are my favorites.

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