The photo above, as well as the photos below, were taken in camera, using knowledge and ingenuity. We reached out to Felix Alejandro Hernández Rodríguez to ask him how he made those:
Felix shared his process with DIYP:
… I remember. Since I was a kid I used to spend hours alone in my room playing with my toys. I also remember that the best part was creating for them a environment and “weathering” them to match the scene in my head… Now that I’m a “grownup” I realise that I never stopped playing and that the only difference is that now I have a camera on my hands. Photography and digital art just gave me the possibility to brig alive those scenes that since I was little had inside my mind.
Toy photography is not so different from other kind of photography, but it has It’s own particularities, most of all because the scale. There are some subjects that must be taken into consideration and here they are:
Scale is one of the most important. If what you want is to give the sense of “realism” to your scaled models (toys) you will need in many case to get close with your camera. You could think that taking a Macro lens would do the job, but the problem with Macro lenses is that they have a shallow depth of field, that meaning that you will only have focus in a small area of your subject and the rest of your subject and scene would be out of focus, and that would be a downfall for our purpose in making them look “real” these is because the way our brain has been taught to see the things in our human scale.
So one solution for using a Macro lens and achieve focus in all of our subject is to use the technique of “focus stacking”.
Focus Stacking means to take different shots of your subject, focusing from the very first plane (the closer part of the subject towards your lens) to the farther plane of your subject and in between. At the end you will have “X” amount of individual shots of all the planes of your subject in focus. Individual images that you will process in softwares like Photoshop to get a final image with all it’s planes in focus.
Some important notes for scale.
- Focus stacking on camera can be done with any king of lens, no necessarily has to be a Macro lens.
- When your scene is wide enough a Macro lens won’t help. Use a wide angle lens.
- I normally use a 24-105mm lens. The focal length that I choose will depend of your scene and composition.
- You don’t have to do focus stacking if your models (toys) are big enough and you are using a f.stop between f.11 and f.32
I shoot my models at studio with studio flashes. It could be similar to shooting a product, but again, if you want to give the sense of realism you have to think in the scale. Is not the same shooting a real human model with an “octabox” than to shoot a “scaled model” with the same “octabox”… The quality of the light would be softer due is a huge modifier for a scaled model. So all the basics of lighting in studio will apply but take them to a smaller scale.
I normally shoot with a beauty dish and / or a snoot for the models and two more lights for the background if I want it to be pure white.
I love photo manipulation and digital art… But what is really cool, is to do all you can in camera. It is not only fun, it also gives the image a more realistic look.
So if your model is in the snow, use your imagination and create a snow scene… I use wheat flour to do snow and I use corn flour to do deserts. If I want to add some atmosphere I use smoke from a cigaret (you don’t have to smoke, but I have found that is the best way to control small amounts of smoke and put them where you want). or spray water for a rainy day… If want to make droplets I use corn syrup or if I want to freeze something I use butane gas (Be aware, butane gas is strongly flammable so don’t make smoke with a cigaret at the same time.)
The possibilities are endless and there is no recipe, only use your imagination and try different things. Most of the things you will need are at home or at the corner of your superstore. Be creative.
Post will give the final “punch” to your image.
In post you can insert images to your background, elements that complement your story telling, effects that could be complex to do in camera, adding sense of motion, color grading for adding the “mood”, etc… All of these tasks are done in Photoshop.
At the end, toy photography is just a mix of playing and technical photography aspects. The technical side can be learn and it’s “easy” but the “hardest” part of toy photography lies in our minds and in our hearts, and that is staying childish, foolish, dreamy… Learn how to play again. If you have forgotten how to… just spend some time with your boys… If you don’t have boys, then grab some memories when you were one!