(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! 😉
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