Photography is an incredibly fun activity, especially with the many great cameras that can be found on mobile phones. But what do you do when you don’t have a model to take a photo of, and you’re tired of taking the scenery around you?
Dabble in some toy photography of course.
Singaporean freelance graphic designer Sunny Ang has been delving into toy photography for the past five years, and has since made a name for himself with his witty and humorous toy imagery.
For Sunny, it all started one day when he took a photo of his son’s Spider-Man figurine.
“For no particular reason, I put him on the ledge of the window overlooking the road and took a photo,” Sunny shared in an email interview with us. “After I posted the photo on Instagram, I discovered that there was this whole community of toy photographers producing incredible toy photos. I started sharing pictures with a humorous twist ever since.”
Noted for his incredible sense of humour in the photos he creates, Sunny cites Mad magazine for their movie parodies, as well as the Far Side series by Gary Larson, for stimulating his weird sense of humour. Some of his movie inspirations include popular movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s such as Star Wars, Back to the Future, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Terminator.
Having taken a large number of photos over the past five years, Sunny admits that it is difficult to choose only one that he likes, seeing as how it changes every now and then. For now, Sunny states that his favourite is the one from the Lego Tron Legacy Set.
“It’s special to me for a couple of reasons. It was the first time I was working officially with Lego to produce some pictures for their social media channel. It was also the first time I did an outdoor night shoot,” Sunny explained.
“I like the energy level of the photo and how the figures blended in the real-world environment. I was also very happy how the curve handle rail worked really well with the figures as the race track.”
Sunny hopes to one day release a book with photos focusing on popular Singlish phrases. Here is an example of one such photo, which is familiar to many of us in Singapore.
Every photographer will surely encounter problems and issues during a photoshoot and Sunny is no different. For him, he finds having to pose figures in such a way so as to bring them to life a challenge. Of course, there are many toys in the market that are highly articulated, making it easier to pose them for photos, but Sunny relishes in the challenge of posing figures with limited articulation, especially if they have a great sculpt. According to him, “with some imagination, location and angles, you can still get a great photo.”
Another challenge that Sunny often face is lighting, which is especially important in composite photos, where toys are placed in the real world through the use of programmes like Photoshop. In composite photos, such as his Simpsons photo below, Sunny had to make sure the lighting on the figures where correct relative to the room he will be placing them in, and that they were facing the correct angle.
When asked for advice for budding toy photographers, Sunny has the following 4 points.
- Don’t shoot pictures just because a particular style [or] character is the flavour of the day…. Shoot things you like and are passionate about. Otherwise, you will properly burn out after a while.
- Do not fall into the trap of worrying about likes and comments on social media. As long as you are happy with the image you created, it’s all that matters.
- Learn and be inspired by others and then challenge yourself and create your own stories. Create images no one has thought of. As one of my client who likes to ask me, “Where is the surprise?”.
- Understand that creative energy can be cyclic. One day, you have so much inspiration that you don’t have time to shoot all those wonderful ideas, but the next you are wondering why you even bother with this hobby. I have personally experienced this more than once and have found myself back at it again when inspiration strikes”
He also states that social media is a great place for your photos to get a wider reach, as well as a platform for you to meet other passionate toy photographers who will share their tips and tricks to help others improve their skills.
Sunny has also co-founded Plastic Singapore, a Facebook group filled with toy photographers who will organise monthly outings with the objective of shooting toys.
To help inspire a younger generation to take up toy photography, Sunny will be conducting a class for Apple’s Youth Camp on September 12, where he will be teaching youths aged 13 to 17 ways to bring mini-figures and props to life with just their camera or mobile phones.
“I hope to inspire the attendees to see what is possible when shooting toys and create fun and interesting stories with these toys,” Sunny explained when asked about the class he will be conducting. “Using some behind the scenes shots, I will share the techniques I use to achieve the shot. I will also highlight some Dos and Don’ts when shooting toys.”
Sunny’s class, titled Big Little Stories with Sunny Ang will be taking place on September 12, from 2pm to 4pm.
Germaine is a fun-sized introvert who loves nothing better than sleeping in on rainy days. She can be found reading fanfiction and manga while still waiting for her Hogwarts acceptance letter. It’ll come eventually.