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The journey to become a LEGO photographer

You might remember that a few months ago I shared with you some fun LEGO posters I found on eBay by a store named Silly Brick Pics (see: Unique LEGO Posters to Decorate Your Walls!). Since then I have been in touch with the owner of the store, Robert Rhatigan Jr., and he shared with me some additional details on how his LEGO photography developed. As I know many people dream about making their LEGO hobby into a full or at least part-time business, I thought Robert’s story may give you some inspiration and insights. ๐Ÿ™‚

LEGO Posters on Ebay

During our discussion Robert shared the following: “I have to tell you, it’s funny what roads life takes you down. I have roughly 15 years of photography experience, and I worked as a graphic designer at an e-commerce costume company for 10 years. In February of 2012, the company that I was working for became a victim of the economy and decided to close their doors. At that point I decided that it was time to take the reigns and take up photography full time.

LEGO Poster 3 by SillyBrickPics

Over the first year and a half, I did mostly portrait work. A lot of it was for local athletes and fitness instructors. I also mixed in some fine-art landscape work that I presented at fine-arts festivals in my area. Then, about a year or so ago, I came across a cool picture of a LEGO Stormtrooper online. I loved it and found it clever. You see, I was in the fourth grade when Star Wars came out. My uncle and aunt took me to see it and it blew my mind. I have loved the franchise ever since. And I have also been a LEGO fan since childhood. And now, having two boys aged 6 and 7 (who absolutely love LEGO as well) I decided to create a couple of LEGO art-scenes for them. They liked them and we hung them in their bedroom. Then I decided to make a few more to frame as posters in our basement, and I became hooked. I continued creating these LEGO scenes and infusing a little humor into them. I then started selling them on Etsy and eBay with some success, and also developed my own website SillyBrickPics.com. (UPDATE: this website is no longer active.)

Outrageously Unique Home Decor, featuring Funny LEGOยฎ Inspired

A few months ago my wife mentioned that I should consider displaying my LEGO Star Wars posters at some kind of Star Wars convention. I though it was a great idea and figured I’d look into it at some point. I got a bit freaked out when the very next day a gentleman from Wizard World Comic Con called me on the phone. He said that he had seen my work online and that I should really consider doing their conventions. I could not believe the timing; right after the suggestion from my wife! I have signed on to do three of their conventions in 2015; I will be displaying my work in Cleveland, OH, Raleigh, NC and Philadelphia, PA.

Outrageously Unique Home Decor, featuring Funny LEGOยฎ Inspired

Then a couple weeks ago I got a call from the Art League of Long Island, here in NY. They too found my work and told me that they have an upcoming exhibit called “Art After Dark” in which they feature 2-3 local artists and their work. They said that my photography is a great example of Pop Art and invited me to be a part of their show in October. Then I discovered that you guys have included me here on your blog! My head has been spinning as this has all been quite a whirlwind.

LEGo Posters & LEGO Art Prints

So over the past year, my whole photography model has shifted from taking photographs of real, actual people to taking photographs of little plastic people! I have to say, I prefer the latter. The little plastic people are always on time, wonderful about posing and holding the pose, and they are not demanding at all! I believe that I have found my happy little photography niche and I find that super exciting. Again, it’s funny what roads life takes us down. As a result of all this exposure I got “discovered” by Newsday, which is a major newspaper and website in the Long Island and New York City area with almost half a million subscribers. They came to my home and shot a video that ran on their website the following day. The exposure was absolutely phenomenal. You can view the video below:

As you can see in the video, my “office” is really a “man-child cave”. At 45 years old, I’m a product of the 80’s and have a huge fondness for nostalgia. We have two arcade machines with over 100 classic video games installed; from Space Invaders to Pacman, all the big ones are there! I also added fooseball and air-hockey to round out the fun. And of course the decor is finished with LEGO art! As I mentioned I have two young boys (although my wife would say she has three boys because I’m just a big kid). One of my favorite ways to spend time when not working, or taking the kids to soccer, music lessons, cub scouts, etc., is to hang out with my kids in our little home arcade. In an age of much fancier and advanced video games and technology, I love the fact that my kids also really enjoy the old classics.”

LEGO Posters by SillyBrickPics

If you would like to check out all the wonderful LEGO art-prints from Robert, you can visit his website at SillyBrickPics.com. He offers frameable prints in several sizes, giant wall-posters, and even LEGO printed iPhone cases with his hilarious LEGO Star Wars and other LEGO minifigure scenes. And if you have any questions, comments, or request for Robert, feel free to share them in the comment section below! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Strider December 9, 2014, 11:14 AM

    Really nice pictures, I can appreciate your talent, as I have dipped into Lego photography with stopmotion, and it’s much harder to get a nice photo then it looks. Also, admin, any info on the contest results?

    • Strider December 9, 2014, 11:16 AM

      Whoops, sorry, I didn’t check back on the original contest post.

      • admin December 9, 2014, 11:19 AM

        SO yeah,the contest closed last night at midnight. It will take me a while to count all the entries for each book, then select the winners. I will try to do it in the next couple of days.

    • Rob December 9, 2014, 12:15 PM

      Thanks very much! I appreciate the kind words. It definitely helps to have done portraits for so long. As I’m sure you know, lighting makes or breaks a good photo. Lighting these little plastic people is no different than lighting any of the real people that I have photographed over the years… just on a MUCH smaller scale. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I have yet to even think about trying stop motion, but I LOVE to see it. I give you a lot of credit. I would imagine that it takes a tremendous amount of patience!

      • Strider December 9, 2014, 3:01 PM

        Well, my stopmotion videos are more attempts, nothing special really. As far as patience goes, I would say that the work is more fun than it sounds. The interesting thing about lighting, is that in stopmotion it has to be a steady source so it won’t flicker and change through out the movie, which isn’t really a problem in stills. However I would imagine that someone like you who has so much lighting experience would be able to make very good looking stopmotion.

  • BLProductions December 9, 2014, 11:20 AM

    Interesting! I must say, your journey to LEGO photography is very different from mine. But I have been taking pictures of LEGO for a few years, even if it’s just my MOCs. I like the stormtrooper pics, they’re very creative, plus stormtroopers in general are fun to laugh at. My question is that do you have a LEGO collection (like sets) that you get your bricks from, or do you buy all the bricks and minifigs necessary to make a certain scene when you need them?
    Also, this is a new and relatively unheard of set: http://brickset.com/sets/70228-1/Vultrix-s-Sky-Scavenger I see two new pieces on there, but does anyone know what piece is on the end of Varoy’s giant gun? I can’t find any piece like it on LDD. ๐Ÿ˜• And speaking of LDD, there is a minor update for it. 22 updates total. The only new thing I found was those wheels that go on the back of the Exo-suit. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • admin December 9, 2014, 11:32 AM

      Are you talking about those ligth-gray Technic-pin looking things?

      • BLProductions December 9, 2014, 3:04 PM

        Yeah, at the end of the gun, if you’re referring to Varoy’s gun. It kind of looks like this piece: http://brickset.com/parts/4610374 in Light Stone Grey, but with a flick-missile shaft instead of a cross-axle. There’s always a chance it’s a new piece. ๐Ÿ˜

        • admin December 9, 2014, 3:19 PM

          It could very well be a new piece, and exciting one for sure! At least I haven’t seen it in any sets that I can think of. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Rob December 9, 2014, 12:32 PM

      You’re right! Stormtroopers ARE funny to laugh at. There’s something about seeing one of them in a setting outside of the norm for them, that always makes me smile.

      As far as the collection goes, I started by using my kid’s bricks. My boys are 6 and 7, so we have A LOT of LEGO bricks in the house. My wife and I have bought many sets for them in recent years. They enjoy building whatever the set is and then they tear it down and add the bricks to plastic storage bins that slide under there beds. As a result, they have amassed a large assortment of bricks to use for their own creations. As much as they like building the sets, I think they enjoy using all the bricks they have acquired, to be imaginative and create with.

      After I got more into this, I found that I wanted to have the bricks more organized and easy to find, for my builds, than a plastic bin allows for. So daddy started his own collection!

      I pretty much did the same thing… started buying some sets… built them and then tore them down. The only difference was that I got several compartmentalized tool boxes to keep the loose pieces organized. I have them separated by color, type, etc.

      I also started acquiring a large collection of minifigures. First it was just getting the ones I need for a particular picture. It quickly became an addiction, however, and I have amassed a good amount simply because I know that I will use them at some point. You see I have a growing list of scenes I want to create, so I’m planning ahead. At least that’s the rational that allows me to keep buying these and still stay married! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Most of my minifigures are purchase on eBay since this allows me to get the figure without having to invest in a whole set each time I need one. I did, however, read a post her on the blog, over the summer about the Ghostbusters set and went and ordered it seconds after I finished reading. I wanted those figures, but the vehicle was just too cool to pass up!

      My minifigures are kept in these plastic cases that I got at a local craft store. They really intended to hold beads for crafts, but the individual compartments are amazingly perfect for one minifigure each. It’s a great way to keep them organized (again by theme and the like), while keeping them clean and in good shape.

      Thanks for asking and for checking out my work. I’m really looking forward to the new year when I can turn more attention to the creative part of the business and start making a lot more scenes. Lately, with the holiday shopping season in full swing, most of my attention has had to be devoted to the business side of things.

      Happy Holidays!

      • BLProductions December 9, 2014, 3:16 PM

        So you have lots of bricks, probably more than I do. But I only got my first sets in 2005, and didn’t get more until 2010, so my collection is small. I like to keep my sets whole, it actually helps me keep track of what pieces I have to use. But I do destroy them and build stuff with them often. As for minifigs, I have less than 30 total, but I do enjoy Technic and Creator more than many other themes, which explains that. I keep them sitting side-by-side on some scaffolding I built out of marble works, so they’re constantly visible. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m currently doing a picture-a-day project with minifigs, which is really honing my photography skills, but it’s making me need more people, and I am too young to shop online. Luckily I finish around the New Year, so I can stop. Maybe then I’ll be able to come up with better scenes that won’t seem so rushed… maybe involving some stormtroopers. ๐Ÿ˜‰
        Happy Holidays to you as well!

  • LegoUniverse Bob December 9, 2014, 12:05 PM

    Cool! I like your comical photography. ๐Ÿ˜› Picking Storm troopers was a good choice as a “mascot” for your photos! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Rob December 9, 2014, 12:39 PM

      Thanks Bob! Yes… love my stormtroopers. At the risk of aging myself here, I will tell you that I saw Star Wars when it was released in theaters. My uncle and aunt took me and I was in the fourth grade. I will never forget that afternoon. I think I sat with my jaw open for most of it and was completely blown away. Nowadays, kids have seen it all… but at that time, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. The love for the Star Wars genre never waned over the years and I was excited last year when my boys were at the age where I could share the films with them!

      When I started doing these scenes, the Stormtroopers were an easy “mascot” choice since it was what I know and love. I’ve since signed on to participate in 3 upcoming Comic Con shows in Cleveland, Raleigh and Philadelphia. Once I committed to those, I realized it was time to expand into other pop culture genres, such as Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Dr. Who, etc.

      Stormtroopers will always be my favorites though! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kim December 9, 2014, 4:25 PM

    I purchased one of Rob’s cases a month or two ago for my iPhone. The one I picked was featured in the article, it was the Chicken one. And I’ve found it to be a high quality case and a great conversation piece. I love the picture and really enjoy Rob’s work. As I start decorating my house, I know I will be picking up more of Rob’s work. =)

  • Rob December 9, 2014, 5:23 PM

    Hey Kim! Thanks… I’m really glad to hear that you were pleased with your case and I totally appreciate the patience you had while we were waiting for the iPhone 6 cases to be available as part of our line of products.

    Happy Holidays!

  • Tom December 9, 2014, 6:13 PM

    Very impressive photos! I have a ridiculous amount of lego and tend to moc medieval scenes but I cannot take a decent photo for love or money. Part of the challenge is I dont own an SLR and the second part is my only child free spot to build is a windowsill so I tend to get awful flash bounce ๐Ÿ™

    Keep up the great work….

    • Rob December 9, 2014, 9:30 PM

      Thanks Tom… Glad you like them. Although you’ve put up some very valid obstacles, I have to say that I have seen some really great pictures that some toy photographers have done with nothing more than their smart phones. Now, I’m sure they are not limited to windowsills! ๐Ÿ™‚

      That being said, if you are setting up on a windowsill, I would recommend trying to take some pictures without the flash. The window should provide nice natural light and then you won’t have to worry about the flash bounce.

      If that doesn’t work, take the setup outside and find a nice patch of shade. Place your setup as close to the edge of the shade, where the light meets it, without actually placing it in the sometimes harsh sunlight. Again, you wouldn’t need to use flash in this situation either.

      It’s worth a try… you might increase your chances 0f getting more of the type of image you’d like to see.

      Happy Holidays!

  • Chris of Yoda Archives December 9, 2014, 8:25 PM

    These are great. I’m a toy photographer myself. It is so much fun to create art with these little toys. Good luck at the Cons.

    • Rob December 9, 2014, 9:34 PM

      Thanks Chris… I’m really looking forward to those conventions. I’ve always wanted to attend one, but never got to it. I’m excited to be able to participate as a vendor and be a part of the whole scene. It should be very cool.

      Speaking of cool, I just took a look at some of your work and think it’s great. My absolute favorite is “An Extremely Unexpected Party” with the Minions. I love mashups and that is a very clever and well executed image. Really nice work!

      • Chris of Yoda Archives December 10, 2014, 1:38 PM

        Thanks Rob. That’s one of my favorites as well. Convention are similar to as far how to pack and prepare but more people “get it.”

  • cpulido September 21, 2016, 5:34 PM

    Not a fan of Silly Brick Pics. Although the prints are awesome, I would not recommend this company to anyone! I ordered a print for a farewell party. Unfortunately, I had failed to notice that there was an additional processing time that I needed to add onto the deliver time. This caused the expected delivery date to be the day after it was needed. I called to clarify about where to find the processing information on the website and to attempt to see if I would be able to order another print that would get here more expeditiously. The guy immediately got defensive and rude. He would not let me finish explaining my issue, or even finish a sentence, nor would he help me order another one. HE HUNG UP ON ME 3 TIMES. I cannot believe how rudely I was treated. He did not care that I was a customer and that had he just listened to me, My question could have been answered and I would have ordered more. I wouldn’t care about calling back except I spent weeks trying to find the perfect gift and I have not seen it anywhere else. Now, I am going to have to figure out something and I have wasted my money. I am sure the ordered item is great, but, if you have any problems the poor customer service will keep you from ever coming back.

    • admin September 21, 2016, 7:47 PM

      That’s sad to hear. If you like, I can contact Robert for you and bring this to his attention.

  • Jennifer August 22, 2018, 12:44 PM

    Is there any place to still get these prints?

    • admin August 22, 2018, 3:46 PM

      Hm… looks like they are no longer active, as neither their website, nor their Instagram page works. ๐Ÿ™

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