Noooooo!! My precious….

Poor Gandalf: Servant of the Secret Fire, Wielder of the Flame of Anor, Elf-friend, and… butterfingers.

Here we see Gandalf the White, a minifigure that was only available in the 2013 LEGO The Lord of the Rings set 79007 Battle at the Black Gate. I didn’t dare put him anywhere near my charred cedar plank or lump charcoal!

Behind the Scenes

I enjoy sharing a look at the process behind my work and my creative journey.

Photography has long been my passion. With the level of technology available to us today, it’s easier than ever to take a technically competent photograph. And yet, some images still clearly ‘work’ more than others.

With LEGO photography, where we can often control almost every aspect of the scene, I believe that investing time and mental energy in the creative process can help make that difference. So I consider four fundamental things in making an image:

  • The Idea
  • Light
  • Subject Isolation
  • Composition

The Idea

This is another minifigure that I’ve been meaning to to shoot for some time now. As I looked over my parts, the first that caught my eye was the ice cream cone. In a moment of whimsy, I decided to shoot a blooper scene.

With help again from sticky putty, I posed him in a low reaching position and with the cone just out of reach. My black ceramic tile serves as a floordrop again.


My preferred style is low key photography: predominantly dark and dramatic scenes, with light emphasizing only specific areas of the frame.

I used a single Litrapro with softbox as my key light, positioned with a Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base. I’ve feathered it, both to soften the light on him and to create a glow in the upper part of the frame. (I’ve notice my lens reacts this way when light hits it from certain angles – it’s quite a softening effect)

Finally, a pair of folding recipe cards served as reflectors to soften the image and fill shadows.

Subject Isolation

The subject is ultimately what the photo is about and there should be no doubt in the viewer’s mind as to what it is.

Given my minimalist style, there is no question here.


I try hard to get as close to the final image as possible in camera. To help with this I compose in live view with my mirrorless camera’s rear display, using a crop mask and grid overlay. It looked almost exactly like this:

I composed using the rules of thirds, using his head as an anchor point and the ice cream just touched the vertical third line.

While Gandalf is the subject, the ice cream cone is an important element of the visual story. To emphasize this, I used implied leading lines with both his outstretched hand and staff tip pointing at the cone, and his eyes focused on it.

I filled the right third of the frame with his reflection and, other than the ice cream cone, left the remainder of the frame as negative space for balance.

Tech Stuff

Instead of sharing the exact technical settings for this one photo, I’d rather share my standard operating procedure for, which can be applied to all of my LEGO photography with but few exceptions:

  • Tripod mounted mirrorless camera set to ISO 100 and triggered with 2 second delayed shutter
  • 120mm macro lens shot at f/8 and manually focused using magnified live view
  • Aperture priority centre-weighted metering with exposure compensation to taste
  • Post processing the RAW files with custom white balance, luma curve, saturation, contrast, sharpness, vignette, levels, and dust removal

Up Close and Personal

Macro photography allows us to see small objects in spectacular detail. For me, LEGO minifigures are perfect subject material.

There’s some nice texture on his hard and beard that catch the light nicely. Let’s look closer:

Wrap Up

Time once again to close out with the before and after shots, showing how I realized my idea through deliberate lighting, subject isolation, and composition choices.



Published by Scott Murphy

Photography for the love of it.

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