You don’t need to have kids to love photographing toys. They’re simple, versatile, and rich with creative possibilities. They’re great in all seasons, all types of weather, and all kinds of photography.
One reason why toys are such great subjects is because of their personality. Unlike other objects, toys seem to have feelings. In some ways, they’re more like people than objects.
This emotional capacity is especially true when the toys have faces, like action figures, Lego people, or stuffed animals. These toys can express almost any emotion, from sadness to pure joy. Though they’re objects, you can pose them like people, creating mini stories with each picture.
If you’ve got a few toys on hand, why not include them in your next shoot? Many photographers in our Flickr group have tried it out with fantastic results. Here are a few of their shots, plus ideas for getting started.
If you’re struggling to be creative with toys, try to think of something that makes you smile or laugh. Perhaps it’s a love affair between two unlikely toys, or a funny way of using an everyday object. Imagine the life of the toy you’re photographing, and find the humor.
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Working with the same idea, theme, or characters in several photos is another way to spur creativity. Toys are excellent subjects for a series, especially if you start to imagine a background story. This story can be even more striking or humorous if you work with well-known characters, like Star Wars figures. Then, your image will have two layers: the famous story, plus the story you create in your image.
You don’t necessarily have to make up a story to take an interesting toy photo. You can discover stories in all toys, especially if they’re old or abandoned. Forgotten toys, whether they’re dusty dolls or empty tricycles, makes the viewer wonder what happened. An abandoned toy doesn’t need any other story but the one it’s already telling.
While you can technically use bokeh for any object, toys are one of the best subjects for the technique. That’s because they can “interact” with the background, leading the eye smoothly from the sharp areas to the blurry bokeh. This connection between the sharp subject and the background blur makes the entire photo look interesting and purposeful, not just a coincidental bokeh shot.
If you’ve taken portraits of children before, you might be used to including toys in portraits. They’re a natural, commonsense prop. But instead of focusing on the child, why not bring the toy into focus? Make the toy the hero of the photo instead. You can still end up with an amazing portrait, only with a fresh perspective.
As fun as the above ideas area, you don’t need to do anything special to create a cool toy photo. A “simple” still life can be striking enough. In other words, if you’re low on inspiration, just try a few shots of the toy as it is. With good lighting and the right angle, you might end up with a shot worth keeping.