Tourmaline .

Miniature Diorama Photographer

Posts from the ‘In the Studio’ category

2012, A Look Back

While certainly not the only images of note that I created in 2012, I began this blog in July of that year and am going to go with the assumption that the images I chose to share here were some of my best. I have delved deeper in my collegiate and prior photo history, and while I appreciate those images for where they’ve led me, I can’t say they’re good, so I’l stick with showing off the below.

2012 was my junior year of college. I had firmly decided that miniatures were going to continue to be a part of my photographic work, but was largely creating for course assignments. That summer I studied abroad in Italy, and prior to arriving, knew my main photo goal was going to be photographing the street-sold souvenirs alongside their full size counterparts.

2012 was also the year that my dad wrote a book and had me create the cover. Only my second ever book cover, and I enjoyed having relative freedom with how I chose to depict his words.

Let me know what you think.  Check out my 2017 post here.

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2017, A Look Back

Over the years my creative process has changed. As of late, I’ve been focusing on longer form photo series, as well as life outside of my artistic practice. And as I consider where I want my art to go from here, I’m reminded of pieces I’ve created in the past. Lately I’ve been enamored by my 2017 work.

You have to understand that this is not normal for me. I tend to create, be proud of what I create for a bit, then heavily dislike whatever it is for awhile. Eventually I’ll settle back into a level appreciation, but always feel like I could do better. Overall, I think this is a good creative drive, but it’s also a good feeling to legitimately feel proud of what you’ve made.

From changing my artist name, creating book covers,  youtubing, being a part of gallery shows and publications, to the beginning of my vitamin deficiency struggle and  pulling away from blog challenges and zine publishing, 2017 was quite the year on all sides of the spectrum.

In any case, here I present my favorite images I created in 2017, in order of creation.

Let me know what you think in a comment below. Maybe I’ll do some other look backs soon. :)

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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?

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Now Offering Photography of your Miniature Spaces!

I’ve been telling miniature stories for 11 years. Now let me tell yours.

You’ve poured yourself into your miniature world, your model train set, your dollhouse. Let me help you document it to share with your family, friends, clubs, and generations to come.

I will come to your home for a 1 – 3 hour photography session. You tell me the story behind your miniature set up, so that I can accurately capture the narrative, or simply leave me to photograph all the little details I find. Your choice.

While you will likely receive many more photos, each hour guarantees a minimum of 15 images digitally delivered to you within 1 week. You will receive low res digital images to share on social media, or print on your own as 4×6 prints. You will also receive a private gallery link to pay per print if you desire larger size images to display on your wall, etc.

I am currently only offering these sessions in Jacksonville and the surrounding area with Saturday and Sunday appointments only. If you live further out contact me anyway and we will see what we can work out.

Learn more here, and find other services I offer here.

If you have a miniature world that needs documented, contact me today!

HO scale warehouse building, toy photography by Tourmaline .

The Numerous Wonders of a Tiny Building

There’s a toy store at our local flea market. It holds a collection of opened and sealed toys, new and old, plaything and collectible. My fiance (oh yeah, I’m engaged now!) collects action figures from time to time, I photograph toys and miniatures, so between the two of us we’ve bought a good bit of items from here.

A few months ago the shop owner stocked some HO scale items – figures, vehicles and buildings. There was a warehouse I admired from the start – very detailed with so many interior pieces. I learned that it had been the store owners father’s. He hand built and painted the building and interior pieces. I wasn’t prepared to drop the cash on it, but admired it at each visit.

This last time around, my fiance snuck off and bought it for me. Read more

Slickforce Softlight

Ignore my messy backdrop… This is the Slickforce light standing at 8.25 inches, with only 1 center pole attached.

About a month and a half ago slickforce graciously sent me this mini soft light. And I finally have gotten the chance to try it out and review it. 

I’m always looking for new small scale lighting options, so I jumped at the chance to try out this light. 

All detached parts

This light, at full height, stands at 11.5 inches. When attached directly to the base, or using just 1 of the center poles, it can be adjusted to stand at 5.5 or 8.25 inches as well. However, the light cannot be tilted up or down, and is instead made for straight on even light diffusion rather than a more creative lighting technique. The face and diffusion does pop off if you need it to, and I imagine the LED light inside could be replaced.

The light works as expected. And because it takes batteries, rather than having to be plugged in, is very portable. 

There’s no denying that this is an adorable mini model of a full scale studio light. Coming from a photo background, and being obsessed with minis, this of course grabs my attention right away.

The slickforce (left) next to a standard table top studio light (right)

My main complaint is that it’s very top heavy. I’ll admit, all my small table top studio lights fall face down plenty, but this one, with its thin, lightweight, plastic pole and base can really hardly stand up on its own. I got around this by wedging the battery pack between the base sections or simply taping the light down. But I think a redesign with a heavier metal base would be well worth it. 

I usually shoot in a table top soft box meant for simple at home product photography. A nice thing about this particular light is that it’s diffused as part of the design which gets rid of the need for a soft box. 

Testing it out:

My image set up – the slickforce at its lowest height, behind a piece of textured transparency film (to add a haze to the final image)

No tabletop studio necessary here as the Slickforce light really did make for nice even lighting. It was a tad brighter than I wanted for this scale of figure, but could have been moved farther away from the scene if necessary, or diffused more so with paper or fabric.

Overall, for $15 the Slickforce Softlight is a good buy. I already have lights I’m pretty happy with, but if you’re just starting out this is a great brand to consider. If you’re wanting a mini studio in which you show the lights in your images these are a no brainer.

Learn more and purchase your own here: https://store.slickforce.com/products/slickforce-softlight


So what do you think of the Slickforce softlight? What lights do you use when taking photos indoors?

As I Lay Dying Behind the Scenes

I’ve shared the following images here a couple times now, whether posting them individually, or the story behind how they’re recreations of my first ever toy photos from 9 years ago. However, I’d like to take the moment to go into how I created each one.

I am so happy with how this one turned out. And it was actually a very simple set up. I took a pack of plastic wedding doves (about 1 inch wide each), painted them with varying shades of brown to create a more vulture-esque look, glued them to a blue gradient sheet of scapbook paper, then lit the paper from behind to create the sun effect.

This one I sadly don’t have any in-progress shots of, however it’s fairly straight forward – a horse drawn wagon from the flea market surrounded by green poly-fill esque scenery and fake mini trees. I then photographed the scene from a low angle and added the dirt like fog in post processing.

I designed this barn in tinkercad then printed it with my m3d. Once printed I painted the outside with brown acrylic paint and lined the inside with orange and yellow cellophane. I then placed a lit incense cone inside to create the swirling smoke effect and lit the barn from behind with a small studio light. The sky in the final image is cut together from multiple shots to get more fog. I then added the ash bits in post processing.

The background of this post is the barn you see above before it was painted. The tree is a dollar store Christmas village accessory with the white snow painted yellow. I then held the tree to the war gaming grass mat with clay and positioned the figures. The boy originally was holding a bag above his head. I cut this off and his hand went with it, so I drew his hand back in in photoshop.

And finally, my favorite of the bunch. I purchased a fishing pole and attached fish from hobby lobby, detached the fish and dirtied it up with brown acrylic paint. I then created a coffin in tinker cad and printed it, glued the coffin down to a piece of glass from a picture frame using e600 glue, then placed died preserved moss in and around the coffin. The base of this picture is a piece of scrap book paper and the water is clear glue. Fun fact, the glue never did dry and was a huge mess through this whole process, it achieve the solid edge, reflection and bubble effect I wanted however.

7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started 3D Printing

Awhile back I got a 3D printer. A small m3d. It prints to about 4.5 x 4.5 inches at the largest, but was relatively inexpensive as far as 3d printers are concerned and came completely built – a must for me. I recently found myself listing off all the things I wish I had known going into 3D printing. Sure there would still be trial and error involved, but knowing these things up front would have saved me a ton of misprints. So, I thought I’d share those things here, in case they prove useful to you all.

As a disclaimer, these things may not apply to all 3d printer models. I can only speak for my own experience.

To understand the below you’ll need to have a very basic knowledge of the 3D printing process and terminology.

  1. At the same time you order your printer, order a tool for removing prints from the print bed – they look like little spatulas or palette knives. Also get a stand to hold your filament reel.
  2. If you don’t know anything about digital modeling or 3d design, Tinkercad is a great place to start. A level up from Tinkercad is 123D. If you want to try out your printer without any design work first, check out the models for download on Thingaverse.
  3. When designing, keep in mind that minimum print width is 1mm. Anything smaller than this the printer will attempt to print, but your model will be weak and possibly full of holes. If you download something that is already only 1mm wide and scale it down in your printer software, just remember it will get thinner. Instead, import into a design software and rescale from there.
  4. If your print isn’t sticking to the print bed and increasing the print temperature isn’t making a difference, put down strips of standard blue painters tape to cover the print bed. On top of the painters tape use a glue stick, then begin your print again. It works like magic.
  5. If your printer allows for loading filament externally or internally, always opt for external. It makes it much easier to load, switch out and fix jams.
  6. For my specific printer, if I use a raft with an item that has a solid base, I can never remove the full raft later. Thus while I always elect to use wave bonding, I only use rafts on items with walls and no floor.
  7. Support material is meant to be removed from the print after it finishes printing. Anything support material connects to that is thin is liable to break when ripping off the support material. Select this option sparingly and only when you feel the print won’t come out correctly otherwise.

My current supplies (affiliate links):

A couple more tips:

  • Both enamel and acrylic paint will work with 3D printed plastic. You may need to coat the acrylic paint after with a matte medium or varnish as it can scratch off.
  • Your print will have a bit of texture from the layers of plastic. I have not tried this myself, but have read that the best way to get a smooth print is to dip it in resin.

Find me on Thingaverse here.

Please do let me know if you have any questions. I’ll do my best to answer or point you in the right direction.