So ya dig toy photography? You like setting up articulated pieces of plastic and making them look like they’re alive. You enjoy doing insane things like pitting Captain America against Peter Venkman. P.S. I’m sure they’d become friends, though Cap may try to walk away before Venkman starts singing.

Anywho, if you’re that kinda person, you’re definitely in the right place. Because this is the place I’m going to chat about the essential items I use whenever I bust out a camera to do my own nutty crossover. Or a more normal-ish shot…ya know, as normal as taking pics of plastic crack can be.

Oh, and uhh, this list assumes you or someone you know has action figures or other toys. Because otherwise, why would you be here?

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

A Camera

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I have to think that comes as no surprise to anyone. Whether you use a new-fangled digital camera, your fancy new cell phone, or that old tablet your crazy Aunt carries around, you need something to capture your action figures in all their glorious…uhh…action.

A Tripod or Two (or Three)

Let’s face it: Tripods make photography a whole lot easier. Without one, it’s a lot tougher to get one of those nice, clean, crisp shots we all envy. As for why I say “or Two,” well, I have a regular-sized tripod, but you know those cool ground-level shots you see when you search #toyphotography on Insta? I can’t shoot those, because I need to add a smaller tripod to my figure photo supplies.

If you use a cell phone, you might want to try a cell phone stand, but I can’t vouch for their effectiveness. Because frankly, if I were to use a cell phone, I’d just stick it on a smaller tripod with putty, which brings me to the third thing I always have on-hand for toy photography.

Putty

Cowboy Logan and Dino Examine Something They Can Only Hope is Actual Putty
Cowboy Logan and Dino Examine Something They Can Only Hope is Actual Putty

If you want something good and cheap that’ll help you in a huge way, you need putty! Without a camera, you don’t get pictures. Without a tripod, you don’t get clear pictures. Without putty, you often can’t make your figures do what you want them to do to get COOL pictures! I’ve also used putty to help me set the camera on a weird angle when I can’t use my tripod for the shot I want.

Lights

Any photographer, amateur through professional, will tell you ya need lights. For a while now, I’ve used simple GE Reveal bulbs. They’re relatively cheap, easy to come by, and provide a decent light source. But I don’t use them so much anymore (more on that below). For my outdoor shots, I usually just use sunlight, so you’re set if you live in a sunny area and only take outdoor shots, you’re good to go.

A lot of people in toy photography use Lume Cube(s) for lighting. I’ve personally never used them, but they’re next on my “try to take really cool pics” purchase list.

I mentioned that I don’t use the Reveal bulbs much anymore. That’s because of apps (yay, technology)! I have an iPhone and an iPad, and grabbed lighting apps for each of those, which effectively turn them into light sources. For the iPhone I got screen-light, which creates a nice, clean, white light. For the iPod, I got an app called Best Night Light, which allows you to light your action figures with any color you’d like.

There are a whole lot of lighting options, and I’m sure a bunch I don’t know about. So, if you have something you wanna try, go for it. You might be surprised!

Background

Dino Wants Some of Logan's Brews, But Wolvie Has Other Ideas. "Get your own, bub."
Dino Wants Some of Logan’s Brews, But Wolvie Has Other Ideas. “Get your own, bub.”

The last thing you absolutely 100% need is a background. Backgrounds can be whatever you like. My only thought is you probably don’t want them to be whatever’s on the table behind your figures. I learned this the hard way, as I’ve shot the cat a few more times than I’d like to admit.

If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with some poster board. When I started having fun with figure photos, I grabbed a bunch of different colors of the stuff, and I still use it from time to time. If you’re ready to take the next step, but don’t wanna destroy your wallet, Extreme-Sets makes cardboard dios that are a great option. I’ve had the Asylum Pop-Up Diorama for quite a while. And finally, if you’re ready to go nuts, you can find all kinds of diorama artists on Instagram, eBay, Etsy, pretty much all over the internet. I recently got my first artist-created dio on Etsy, from BeardedWolffe.

Conclusion

We could all go nuts getting things to add to our photos, and I’m working on ways to do just that. But if we’re talking about the things I find absolutely essential for action figure photography, this is a pretty comprehensive list.

Can you think of anything else you find absolutely necessary for your toy photography? Well hey, don’t be shy! Let us know about them in the comments.

As always, have fun, and happy snapping!

-Photo Dave

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