“It is your destiny.

Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.”

What an epic twist! Darth Vader’s reveal that he is Luke’s father is among the most famous scenes in the Star Wars saga, and is (mis)quoted to this day:

Darth Vader: If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.

Luke: He told me enough! It was you who killed him!

Darth Vader: No. I am your father.

Luke: No. No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!

Darth Vader: Search your feelings, you know it to be true!

Luke: [anguished] No! No!

Darth Vader: Luke. You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Come with me. It is the only way.

Darth Vader is one of the most famous villains to appear on screen, and has been brought to life in 27 different LEGO minifigure versions to date. This photo features the following pair:

  • sw1141Darth Vader (traditional starched cape), which was just released as part of the Star Wars set 75302 Imperial Shuttle
  • sw0386 Darth Vader (black head), from the 2007 SW Darth Vader watch set, modified with black medium legs and accessories borrowed from the Collectible Minifigures Series 18 Birthday Party Girl

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

I didn’t begin with a clear idea, only that I wanted to do something with Darth Vader. I brought up a list of his movie lines, and this scene leapt out at me. Wanting to put my own twist on it, I decided to replace Luke with a childish min-Vader. And as I scanned my collection, the Birthday Party Girl caught me eye and I thought her balloon and pink frosted donut would be fun accessories to include.

Light

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

I find Darth Vader one the hardest minifigures to photograph – his shiny black helmet can be quite unforgiving with hard light. So I tried something a little different:

  • Main light: Litrapro with softbox, positioned with a Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base
  • Reflectors: DIY with folded recipe cards, to to provide fill on the subjects and soften the light
  • Diffusion panel: DIY with a sheet of white letter paper balanced on the recipe cards, to create even softer light, reduce glare, and capture finer details.

I’m happy enough with the results, although had I not shot in RAW the white balance would have been way off. The setup also created a glow at the top of the frame; I like it, but your mileage will vary.

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.

I considered to pair to be the subject, and gave them equal emphasis with depth of field, prominence in the frame, and lighting.

Composition

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 the balloon string and ‘father’ Vader’s helmet as anchor points. I would have like to have the anchor points slightly higher (at the base of the balloon, and on ‘father’ Vader’s eye), but I found that the balloon reflection crowded the edge of the frame when I did this.

I filled the frame beneath them with their reflections, both for creating balance and for aesthetic purposes, and left the remainder of the frame as empty negative space.

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.

This is as close as I can get with my system – the only crop is to make the image square. Now let’s get in a little tighter with a crop:

At this scale, small scratches and pieces of dust are so hard to work with!!

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.

Best,

Scott.

Published by Scott Murphy

Photography for the love of it.

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