๐ŸŽถ It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) ๐ŸŽถ

Just give that rhythm everything you’ve got….

Today’s swinging couple is the Collectible Minifigures Series 6 Clockwork Robot, and Series 11 Lady Robot. They’re so sweet together!

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, itโ€™s easier than ever to take a technically competent photograph. And yet, some images still clearly โ€˜workโ€™ 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

We describe movement as robotic when it is stiff and without feeling or expression. Swing dance is at the other end of the spectrum: upbeat, lively, and characterized by lifts, spins, and flips. And so I thought it would be fun to to explore the oxymoronic idea of robot swing dancers.

Most popular in the 1920s-1940s, swing dance developed with the swing style of jazz music. The song It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got that Swing) is a legendary example, composed by Duke Ellington and with lyrics by Irving Mills in 1932.

I only became familiar with swing through a high school musical, iirc inspired by the 1993 film Swing Kids. Not a great movie from what I can remember, but it did feature a nostalgic period-authentic soundtrack that was like nothing I had heard before.

So I posed the pair on a piece of black ceramic tile, with a black painted wall in the background

Light

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

This is a fairly typical lighting setup for me:

  • Main light: Litrapro with softbox, positioned with a Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base
  • Background light: Litrapro with grid, positioned with a Platypod gooseneck arm
  • Reflectors: DIY with folded recipe cards

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 as to who the subject is here.

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 cameraโ€™s rear display, using a crop mask and grid overlay. It looked almost exactly like this:

I composed using the rule of thirds, using his eye as an anchor point and placing hers at the same level. They are actually balanced in this position without any help, but there is a definite sense of movement and energy.

I’ve filled the frame beneath them with their reflection, both for balance and for aesthetic purposes. Finally, I’ve left the perimeter as empty negative space.

Tech Stuff

Instead of sharing the technical settings for this one photo, Iโ€™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:

Lovely detail!

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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