Photo Focus: The Effectiveness of Blur in Toy Photography

I recently picked up ‘Why It Does Not Have to be in Focus: Modern Photography Explained” by Jackie Higgens, on recommendation from a toy photo friend. Within it’s pages, Higgins offers short conclusions on the photographic genres – portraits, document, still life, narrative, landscape and abstract, followed by numerous examples. This allows the book to be read in short chunks, rather than as a whole, if desired.

While, to be clear, in large, the example images in this book are not literally blurry. Instead, they blur the lines of presumed photographic proof. That being said, literal blurred images serve the same means. As Higgins asserts, this figurative or literal blur creates mystery, conceals truth, insists on a different way of engaging with what is before us, and allows for the limits of photography to be challenged.

In my own work this year, I explored the concept of photographic blur more literally than I have previously. For the 4 portraits you see above, I posed 2cm tall HO scale train figures in front of paint sample cards. I focus my camera lens on the figures, and then purposefully pulled back the focus and captured the image. In this way, the rigid plastic of the figure is dissolved and a mystery is created, Perhaps this in an image of a full scale person that the viewer can see themselves within.

Blur in photography, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, can help create a more realistic image.

A digital mock up of an imagined wall display with canvas prints.
My pinky finger with some of the photographed miniature figures.

All that said, I’ve sought to blur the truth in many of my photos for some times now. Really, I’ve been continually doing so for the past 10 years or so. In photographing miniature scenes, I often aim to make the final images appear real, if only for a moment. This is one of the powers that draws me to miniature and toy photography. The small, plastic items, can be transformed through posing and lighting, to become the real thing of which they are an icon of.

To achieve this, I’ve worked with silhouette, fog, and various amounts of blur or shadow. And I have more images to come in which I’ll continue to push my experimentation.

All in all, there’s a magic in intentionally blurry photos. You should try it out for yourself!

6 thoughts on “Photo Focus: The Effectiveness of Blur in Toy Photography

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  1. Really interesting stuff, I’ve been hiding Lego men in the woods behind my house and photographing them earlier in my blog, problem is they kept getting stolen by the kids and my son ran out of Lego men, so I kind of stopped, think I just need to hide them more successfully. I like the thought that one day someone may find one years from now in an obviously structured pose and wonder why the hell it is there!

    1. I love that idea! I do hope you continue with it, and that they stop getting taken! Send me the link to your Lego posts if you want, I’d love to see them.

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