- Hans Christian Andersen
Today’s scene features The Faun from LEGO Collectible Minifigures Series 15, along with assorted animals from our daughter’s early childhood collection.
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
- Subject Isolation
Today’s scene was not inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen quote, but probably should have been. Instead, and following a number of The Lord of the Rings photos, I simply wanted to explore a forest scene set in fantasy world. I hadn’t yet photographed the faun and thought it would be fun to see him playing for his woodland friends:
While searching for a quote to accompany the scene, I came across this from Hans Christian Andersen:
“Where words fail, music speaks.”
Not only were these words fitting for the scene, it just felt right to reference the 19th century Danish author best remembered for his fairy tales. Some of his best known works include:
- The Emperor’s New Clothes
- The Little Mermaid
- The Ugly Duckling
- The Little Match Girl
- The Princess and the Pea
My preferred style is low key photography with soft lighting: predominantly dark and dramatic scenes, with light emphasizing only specific areas of the frame and with smooth transitions between light and shadow.
I use a continuous light source, which in combination with my camera’s live view, allows me to adjust in real time my light positioning and shaping.
This is a simple one light setup:
- Key light: Litrapro with softbox, positioned with a Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base
- Reflectors: DIY with folded recipe cards, to provide fill and to help soften the light
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 the prominence of the faun here, surrounded by secondary characters mostly focussed on him, 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 rule of thirds, using his mouth as an anchor point. I placed the animals around him to fill the middle of the frame evenly, filled the space below the group with its reflection for both aesthetic and balancing purposes, and left the remainder as negative space to help define the focus area.
To further help subject separation, I shot wide open at f/4 to minimize depth of fields and to render the background as a soft blur.
Instead of sharing the 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
- *Note: as mentioned above, today’s shot was made at f/4 to maximize subject separation from the background
- 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 a little closer look at her with with a tighter crop:
That chest hair…. reminds me of Austin Powers!
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.