Toy Voyagers Photography

If you are a kid who loves toys or an adult who is a kid at heart, then you should check out toyvoyagers.com.  ToyVoyagers is a free-to-join website dedicated to travelling toys and their adventures around the globe (quoted off their website). It was inspired by the French film Amelie, which is about a girl who persuades her father to follow his dream of touring the world by stealing his garden gnome and having a stewardess friend send pictures of it posing with landmarks from all over the world.  Check out the toyvoyagers FAQ for more information!

I love photography and toys, so this is a great hobby for me! Despite my interest in photography, I’m not a professional photographer and I don’t have some big fancy camera. However, I am an artist with a decent camera, so I tend to take fairly good photos. I have a Samsung CL80 Digital Camera. With that said, I have my own personal tips for how to take photos for toyvoyagers.

Recently, I got a new camera accessory called the Gorilla. It’s like a small tripod that is pose-able and can be grappled onto things, so that you can take hands-free photos at an angle. The Gorilla has been great and a lot of fun! It also allows me to record video on my camera without having to hold it (such as if I happen to be sewing, or making a toy video). I highly recommend getting one!
As you can see, I’m in the picture! In your photos for Toyvagers, they don’t want you to take photos of you holding the toy up for the photo, in order to keep the illusion that the toys are alive. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t be in the photos. If you are interacting with the toy like they are a person, like jokingly giving them bunny ears, or giving hugs and kisses, or simply just being a part of the photo like you would with your friends. The trick is to make it look like they’re your buddies and not just an object you are holding.
Obviously, you have to hold toys up to get a lot of other types of photos. You can crop out hands and parts of the photo that you don’t want in the picture. In order to be able to crop out all of the undesired parts, you should learn some better ways of holding toys to accommodate this. Try to hold toys at the bottom, fingers hidden behind the toy, or pinching the very bottom of the toy, or hidden in some other way. You can hold them by the ear or to the side on one foot, taking the photo at an angle so that you can crop out the hold and part of the body, but leave the face and the background of the photo intact. Also, with the really small toys, it’s okay to only have their head in the photo, so that you can hold the body and crop out that part with your hand.
 
Now, some toys may be small and awkward. Myka the panda, from Kansas, is SO CUTE! But her head is bigger and heavier than her little flimsy body… and she’s small. She doesn’t sit up on her own and her head is floppy. This makes it hard to take photos of her.
Now the obvious way to get a photo with Myka, is to have another bigger toy in the photo with her that she can lean on. You can also place her between two other toys to keep her upright without the assistance of your hand.
You can use a lot of the holding methods I mentioned earlier; such as holding her ear or positioning your hand and fingers just right so that you can crop out your hand and still have her head in the photo.
Also, Myka and other “key chain” toys have a loop. You can sometimes get away with hanging them from their loop to get the photos that you want!
Now speaking of difficult toys to photograph, Myka, Schnattchen the duck, and Toki the bunny all have one problem in common… white wash. White wash is when something white, light colored, or shiny (like a plastic toy) gets washed out by the flash of a camera so that you can’t see their face, or they look really fuzzy, or they get a really glowing appearance. This can also create a very dark background. Here are some examples of White Washing.
The best ways to eliminate White Wash, is to turn off your flash, move the camera further away from the toy, or re-angle the camera so not as much light or reflection will be caught on the toy. Try taking the photo several times from several angles and distances, and even try other flash options on the camera. If you simply have to have the photo, just pick the best one! If you have lots of great photos but just that one is white washing, then it’s really not that big of a deal.
Also, when you hold the camera too close to your toy, you often end up with a blurry background with a clear toy, or a blurry toy with a clear background. The best way to avoid this, is to pull your camera back away from the toy further.
In general, blurry photos are the hardest thing to avoid when taking photos. The darker it is, the blurrier the photo. The more motion there is, the more blurriness there is in the photo. The more heat or moisture there is in the air, the more blur you will get in your photo. For people like me, who aren’t professional photographers, it’s hard to understand how it works and how all the options on the camera works and for which situations to use them in.

Luckily, my camera has really easy auto focusing. The best way to avoid blurry pictures is to slow down and take several pictures at different angles. You can very quickly snap a bunch of photos, only to find they are all blurry and crappy looking. With my camera, I point it at the scenery and wait a few seconds and it begins to auto focus, which corrects the blurriness in most photos. I can also press the button (that snaps the photo) down part way to tell my camera to focus. If it still looks blurry on the LCD screen, I can change the angle of the camera. Sometimes, you can make very minor angle changes to get the photo to focus correctly. Sometimes, I just take 2 to 4 photos of the same scene at a few angles, and at least one will be great! Most of my photos come out good, but sometimes, those other angles just capture the scene and lighting so well it’s almost like being a real photographer! I’ve accidentally taken some pretty awesome photos just by experimenting.

Also, turn off the flash or try other flash options on your camera when your photo doesn’t look right. You can also play with the “Scene” settings. They have settings that are specifically designed to for specific scenes, like night time, macro (small things), landscape, portrait, indoors, beach and snow, etc. You might just find the feature that corrects the problem you are having. A majority of the time, I leave my settings on the “Smart” options. This is a feature that lets your camera do everything for you. It seems to work brilliantly on my Samsung camera!

You can also get creative with your angles… like getting low to the table or ground to get photos of your little toys at their level. You can lower the level of the camera and angle it back to take a photo that looks like your toys are looking up at something. There’s a different effect whether shooting from straight ahead, shooting at an angle looking down at the scene, or looking upward. You never know just what you can do with a camera with little to no experience! It’s all about having fun!

Now, as wonderful as it is to take photos of land marks and tourist attractions, you can take a lot of different themes of photos to make your toys come alive. You can take photos while out grocery shopping, of tea parties with other toys, holidays, having lunch, taking a walk out in the scenery, concerts, conventions you attend, pictures from a business flight or at work, photos of your toy baking cookies, photos with people and pets you meet, funny costume photos, or even a set of photos that tell a story, and so on. The life of a toy is what you make it!
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