Playing with Toy Photography

Probably some of the most fun subjects you can photograph are toys, and when it comes to ways to compose your shots, you are limited to mostly just your imagination.

Toy photography is not just about photographing toys in a simple and straightforward manner, it also often tries to capture the toy’s character, or tell a story, or evoke a reaction or emotion from the viewer. Once you start playing with toy photography, you may quickly get hooked!

Some suggestions on how to photograph toys:

Take advantage of what the toy represents – many toys are easily recognizable because of huge marketing efforts. Some toys may be action figures or characters of popular movies. Others, such as teddy bears, may be more generic but just as endearing. You can portray the toys in the manner they are usually perceived, such as making Star Wars Stormtroopers look menacing in your setup. Or you can go the opposite route and inject some humor or silliness, creating an unexpected but fun composition such as with this shot:

toy photography
Photo by JD Hancock

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Add character through composition – although toys are inanimate objects, don’t have personalities, and can’t feel emotions, these facts are easy to forget, at least for a while, especially if you are a kid or are attached to the toys. Some toys are humanoid with faces and limbs and these can be easily posed to portray their characteristics. The tilt of the head, the position of the hands…your toy’s body language can speak volumes.

toy photography
Photo by JD Hancock

The entire scene or composition should assist in supporting the effect – avoid cluttered backgrounds or elements that are out of place. You can make use of objects around your house and place your toy on a piano, behind a flower pot, on a pillow, etc. You can also choose to have a table top studio setup, whatever you prefer. Just make sure the background, the props, the lighting, etc. all help bring to life what you want to convey with the toy (check Maximize the Background in your Composition).

toy photography
Photo by Sindy

Get closer – most toys are small, some are just a few inches tall. You will have to go closer to capture their details and features. Also, when you get down to their level, you might be surprised with this perspective how different everything looks.  Small things may suddenly look huge and you can highlight this in your composition.

toy photography
Photo by M. G. Kafkas

Play with the toys – now would be a great excuse to play with toys even if you’re all grown up. Remember when you were a kid and your imagination ran wild as your blanket suddenly became a jungle where your toy soldiers would hide? Or when your teddy bear had a cut and stuffing was coming out so you bandaged it with your handkerchief? Tap your inner child and just have fun without thinking too hard on how to pose them. Before you know it, you will have loads of interesting setups for your toys.

toy photography
Photo by Lolla Moon