Have you ever worked for a monster?

They look human enough, but under the skin….

#bossfromhell #soulsucking

Today’s character is a frankensteined mashup, with the head from the Mouth of Sauron in the LEGO The Lord of the Rings set 79007 Battle at the Black Gate and body from the Saxophone player from the Collectible Figures Series 11.

The desk in the background is borrowed from the Creator Expert set 10278 Police Station, with a coffee cup added as a nod to Lumbergh in the 1999 film Office Space.

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

Today’s theme is darker than my usual whimsical fun.  I’m guessing it’s something more than a few of us have experienced at one time or another, but don’t talk about much.  It’s been on my mind lately, so I decided to put a face to it and to put it out there:

To be clear, this is not my current situation – quite the opposite, quite thankfully.  But there was a time.


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 two-light setup:

  • Main light: Litrapro with softbox, positioned with a Platypod gooseneck arm and Ultra tripod base
  • Background light: Litrapro with grid, lying flat on a table top
  • Reflectors: DIY with folded recipe cards, to provide fill and to help soften the light

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 placed an office desk in the background to provide context, but far enough away so that it would blur and not distract from the subject.


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 brow as both my anchor and focusing point. I placed him moving diagonally into the frame to create a dynamic feel, and breaking the fourth wall when a menacing grimace at the viewer to make them feel part of the scene.

The desktop lamp was my secondary anchor point, and was careful to have to desk provide the background for both hands to help frame the subject.

The remainder of the scene is negative space to help define the focus area.

Tech Stuff

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
  • 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 him with with a tighter crop:

Amazing texture in that helmet!

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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