Toy Photography Geek Spotlight: Fajar Billy Sandi

In a world where toy photographers come out of the woodwork every other day, the more successful ones are those who give their creations more thought, and Indonesian toy photographer Fajar Billy Sandi has taken his hobby of toy collecting one step further, by merging it with his love for movies and presenting it via photos. 

His journey into the hobby started in the early 2010s when he first started using Instagram and stumbled upon photos by other toy photographers.

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“I know this kind of photography existed long before social media, but then I didn’t know how to use or operate cameras (not even till now). So I grab my smartphone camera, an iPhone 4S, and start taking toy photography,” explains Billy. “It was challenging… but I’m happy with the result. Toy photography is like therapy to me, you can explore your imagination within.”

Billy has certainly come a long way since he first started his hobby, with his @fbillys having over 10,000 followers. It is evident that his photographs are certainly well liked by many. 

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He mainly gets his inspiration from various films and we can see that from Billy’s Instagram which is filled with photos from a number of films, from Harry Potter, to Star Wars, Disney and even classics like Kill Bill and The Wizard of Oz

“If you see my Instagram page, I shoot a lot of reimagining posters or movie scenes with Lego,” says Billy. “I try to treat Lego as a piece of art. Sometimes I take a simple shot with only one part or a minifigure and then I create a minimalist poster, something like that.”

Of all the photos he has taken, Billy’s favourite piece is also his most popular one, which amassed more than 23,000 likes. It is a post showcasing everyone’s favourite bounty hunter The Mandalorian in all his masked glory being a babysitter to one adorable little Baby Yoda aka The Child. 

“I had no idea that this pic is gonna blow like that. I assume it’s maybe because at that time there was no Baby Yoda minifigure yet and I was one of few people that reimagined it into a photograph first. It’s just a simple shot, profiling the Mandalorian as a babysitter and Baby Yoda looking cute.”

As you can see, the photo was taken back in November 2019, long before a Baby Yoda minifigure was announced by LEGO. It certainly took some photo editing magic to turn a normal minifigure into Baby Yoda but Billy’s effort definitely paid off with how well received the photo was.

Speaking of photo editing, Billy mentions that his dream is to one day post a set of photos that was taken with purely practical effects, instead of having to rely on Photoshop to add his desired effects in post-production. 

“My dream photography is definitely to take it like it is, I mean with practical effects etc,” says Billy. “I always use Photoshop to create some effect, but other photographers are always challenging me. I respect all toy photographers that take some effort to do a shot.”

As he only shoots his toy photography using his phone, Billy notes that he faces a number of challenges not often faced by his fellow camera-wielding photographers.

“By using a smartphone camera, I have to do more than other photographers. Whenever the day gets dark, I can’t take a proper shot. That’s why I always rely on natural lighting for all my shots,” states Billy. 

“Thank God technology gets better every year, so does the quality of the smartphone camera. But I’ve always said this to myself, ‘If people can do it with their camera, I also can do it with my phone, it will just be a million times harder.’ I maximize all the features in my smartphone camera, from pro mode to live focus.”

As for toy photography tips, Billy says it is important to not compare yourself to other photographers but instead, take inspiration from them and use them to better your skills. He also mentions that you should never stop taking photos, even if it feels like you have hit a wall and run out of ideas for what to shoot. 

After all, sometimes the best way to confront a problem is not to take a step back but to face it head on.