Toying With Photography


When I think of toys, the first thing that comes to my mind are the times I enjoyed as a child creating my own make-believe adventures. Waging war with my armies of action figures. Building magnificent cities with Legos, only to have them crushed by Godzilla. Even racing the greatest cars on earth that could submerse under water and fly through the sky. As a child, my enjoyment wasn’t confined to the bounds of the toy itself, instead I made it my own experience by creating a story for each adventure.

This same concept is critical to the photographer who wishes to use toys as his subjects. Almost any photographer can take a landscape photo and make it look good, but not everyone can snap a photo of an action figure and pass it up as A+ work.

So what is the secret formula for photographing a good toy shot? Well, according to my college photography instructor, “You need to have a story behind your photo, make it interesting.”

Take this photo by Brian McCarty for example:


In his photo, McCarty replicated a scene straight out of a sailor’s nightmare by having the toy squid “attack” the toy submarine in a swimming pool.

In Chris McVeigh’s album, he features pictures of his action figures interacting with neighborhood critters:

Under Siege!

My personal favorite is a photo album of the character Danbo by Arielle Nadel. Danbo was originally a manga character, then became an action figure, and finally was photographed by Nadel in an album called “365 days of Danboard:”

A Little Soaked

The key is to not just photograph toys as the subject of your picture, but instead use them to create your own world of imagination.


-Glenn Hiller

photo sources:

35 Extraordinarily Clever Examples of Toy Photography

(link for featured image)


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