Tourmaline .

Miniature Diorama Photographer

10+ FAQs of Toy Photography

Some frequently asked questions and answers!

Let me know what I missed in a comment below whether on the question or answer side!

Click on a question in the list below to be taken directly to that spot on the page.

  1. How do I take realistic images of toys?
  2. How do I create practical effects in toy photography?
  3. Can I use trademarked toys in my photos?
  4. Who are the most famous toy photographers?
  5. Why toy photography?
  6. What lens should I use for toy photography?
  7. What lighting should I use for toy photography?
  8. Where do I get action figures for toy photography?
  9. Where do I get accessories, sets and clothing for those figures?
  10. What’s a typical toy photography set up?
  11. What do I need for travel toy photography?
  12. What are the best toy photography hashtags on instagram?
  13. How do I make emotive toy photos?
  14. How can I make money from toy photography?

How do I take realistic images of toys?

Get on the same level as your figures, use a shallow depth of field, match the scale of your scenery and props to that of your figure. 

Learn more here.

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How do I create practical effects in toy photography?

Explosions – canned air, fireworks or fiber optic lights

Fire – real fire, battery operated tealights, cellophane

Fog – fog machine, Atmosphere Aerosol, textured transparency film, smoke bomb, dry ice

Blood – fake Halloween blood, red food coloring + corn or simple syrup, hot glue + paint

Snow – flour, baking soda, powdered sugar, instant or canned snow

Rain – spray bottle, holes poked in a water bottle cap, automatic sink

Water – clay, silicone, resin, real water

Learn more here.

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Can I use trademarked toys in my photos?

Short answer, you can use trademarked toys in your photos, but you can’t make money from those photos. At least officially, but people often get away with it. 

Learn more here.

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Who are the most famous toy photographers?

In the art world David Levinthal is the most well known name in small figure photography. Along with Levinthal you’ll also hear about Lori Simmons and Ellen Brooks. 

In modern days, Mark Hogancamp (of Marwencol and Welcome to Marwen), Brian McCarty (of War Toys), and Felix Hernandez have made headlines. 

Within the toy photography community and toy industry fold the biggest names are Johnny Wu (sgtbananas), Vesa Lehtimäki (avanaut), Mitchel Wu, Captain Kaos, Ky (captain dangerous) and Richee (noserain). There are many more names I feel could be added to this particular part of the list, but these seem to be the ones that remain in the forefront.

Learn more about historic toy photographers here.

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Why toy photography?

Because it’s a way to express yourself. Toy photography is an art form like any other that speaks to some more than other art forms do. I for one love the hands on nature of making the scene, and the transformative nature of lighting and the end result of a 2-D image. I also see toys and miniatures as icons of our everyday world which make them the perfect subject matter for emotive imagery.

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What lens should I use for toy photography?

It depends on the size of your figure. For Lego and train miniatures you’ll want a macro lens. A100mm or 105mm is a good start. For dollhouse and 6 inch scale action figures you may be able to work well with a 50, 60 or 80mm. 

I personally use a 100mm for most of my shots. While I could use something even more macro for my HO scale scenes, I shoot in raw so I’m able to zoom in well. My 100mm still works well for my dollhouse scale scenes, and if I want a larger area I just back up my camera. 

Prime lenses (one focal length) are better quality than zoom lenses because they have less moving parts and tend to have better quality glass. If you shoot a wide arrange of toy scales though, a zoom lens with multiple focal length options may be the more economical way to go and you will still get good photos with it.

More info on TP equipment coming soon!

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What lighting should I use for toy photography?

Use the sun, or studio lights, natural window light, or a desk lamp. Your choice. It really depends on what you’re going for. If you want a natural sunny glow use the real sun or a lamp with a daylight bulb. For a blue or cool tone, use LED bulbs. For a specific color cast get some light gels to put over your lights.

More info on TP equipment coming soon!

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Where do I get action figures for toy photography?

Everywhere! From the flea market to a big box store, just look around for what grabs your attention.

If you’re looking for a specific action figure check out Big Bad Toy Store. Not there? Head to the direct manufacturer website – like S.H. Figuarts.

If you’re looking for model train figures or accessories I recommend Hobbylinc.

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Where do I get accessories, sets and clothing for those figures?

Clothing

Some great resources for action figure clothing are CJESIM and GPSlot. But Aliexpress and ebay at large have a ton of options too!

For ball joined dolls and 1:6 playscale dolls, Etsy is your go to. Just search the scale followed by the word ‘clothes’ or ‘clothing.’

Learn more about 1:12 scale clothing here.

Sets

You can get pre-made action figure sets from both Extreme Sets and Readysetz. But if you’re looking for something more domestic, don’t overlook dollhouses and room boxes. 

For outside themed sets, model trees, shrubbery, etc. can be purchased. Hobbylinc is also a good source for this.

Set Pieces and Accessories

Determine the scale of figure you’ll be photographing. Then you can search for items that come in that scale on amazon, ebay, etc. For 1:12 and 1:24 scale, check out Dollhouse Heaven and miniatures.com. 1:18 scale, World Peacekeepers, Maurader’s Inc and Lundby. Model train scales, Hobbylinc. 1:6 scale, JBM, and well this is the scale I know least about, but checkout Amazon and Etsy too of course.

Learn more about 1:18 scale accessories here and here.

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What’s a typical toy photography set up?

A camera and a tripod. Whether you prefer to shoot indoors or out is up to you. If you aim to shoot indoors, some people build intricate sets, others use simple backdrops and a few scenery items. You can also look into get a table top studio to help soften your lighting and control what ambient light gets in. These can range anywhere from $20 – 300. If you shoot outdoors, find a field with thin grass or a calm stream. Anything will work, just get creative with how you frame your shot.

More info on TP equipment coming soon!

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What do I need for travel toy photography?

A camera, a toy and a good place to shoot! If the area you’ll be in has good nature trails or scenic areas then you’re set. If you’ll be stuck in a hotel all day, get creative with natural window lighting and desk lamps. Use colored paper, or your tablet screen as a backdrop. 

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What are the best toy photography hashtags on instagram?

#toyphotography and #toyphotographer are good starts. Then join in on the daily sessions through @toypops3 and @toygroupalliance to get your work in front of the other participants. The idea is you like all the posts, and everyone will like yours back. It’s more hit than miss on the “everyone like every post” thing, but it does get your image seen by accounts that wouldn’t have otherwise. 

Learn more about toy photography communities and hashtags here. (note the toy photographers community has moved to MeWe)

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How do I make emotive toy photos?

Write down your strong emotions that move you and consider how you would sit, stand, act in these times. Translate that through the figure you choose to photograph through posing, lighting and color. Harsh, contrasting lighting tends to be read as negative – anger, sadness. Vibrant, soft lighting makes the scene feel happier. 

Learn more here.

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How can I make money from toy photography?

In almost very way you can make money from photography and art! Work for a toy company’s marketing department as a photographer, work on a freelance basis for toy companies, sell your art online and at shows, get brand deals on social media if you have enough followers, teach others what you know, sell your work as stock photography. The possibilities are endless but hopefully this will get you started. 

Learn more here.

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Have a question that’s not answered here? Let me know in a comment below and I’ll do my best to get the info you need.

Have some advice not listed here? Let us know that too!

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