Were there ever cute siblings as creepy as the Grady girls from The Shining? If so, I’m not sure I want to know…
Today’s scene features a pair of modified Dorothys from The LEGO Movie 2, with the third floor of the Birch Books shop from the Creator Expert set 10270 Bookshop in the background.
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
The idea came from a recent viewing of The Shining, based on the novel by Stephen King and directed by Stanley Kubrick. There’s so much I could write about this film, but this is neither the place nor time.
I decided on a pretty straight take on the girls, often referred to as twins in popular culture, but described in the movie dialogue as follows:
“My predecessor in this job left a man named Charles Grady as the Winter caretaker. And he came up here with his wife and two little girls, I think were eight and ten.”
Either way, they certainly pass as twins and I portrayed them as such:
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.
Just 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 my minimalist style, there is no question here. This is partly an aesthetic choice, and partly practical: I produce a shot daily and simply don’t have time for complicated sets. That may change someday, but for now it does shape my output.
I did place a wall in the background for some visual interest/context, chosen for colours that somewhat matched the Overlook motif, but shot wide open at f/4 to minimize depth of field to render art as a soft blur that didn’t distract from the girls.
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 their eyes as a vertical guide and the outside edge of their heads as a horizontal guide. I filled the space beneath them with their reflection, for styling and balancing purposes, and left the remainder as negative space to help define the focus area.
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, I chose to shoot this at f/4 to minimize depth of field to accentuate the subject
- 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:
Lovely form to her hair!
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.