Tips For Toy Photography


Rubber ducks, action figures, stuffed animals – we’ve all kept some of these childhood playthings in our hearts, some even on our shelves. But have you ever thought of capturing these little emblems of nostalgia and joy through your camera lens? Welcome to the imaginative domain of toy photography. Far from child’s play, toy photography provides an engaging and nuanced field that lets you marry creativity with technical skill.

In this article, you’ll uncover a treasure trove of seven key tips to navigate the nuances of toy photography. Learning how to select the right toys that act as your model, creating effective background and environment settings, playing with angles to dramatize or soften a scene, illuminating your frame with appropriate lighting, using a macro lens to breathe life into your little subjects, mastering post-processing techniques to heighten your result, and finally building a supportive community to share, learn and grow in.

No, you won’t be embarking on an epic adventure. But trust me, there will be some twists and turns as we delve into this interesting facet of photography. So grab your camera, dust off those toys, and get ready to explore a new, fun perspective. Because your old toys are the new ‘it’ models, and they are ready for their closeups!

Choosing the Right Toys

When it comes to toy photography, your leading stars are, of course, the toys. The choice of toy can make a significant difference in the final result of your photographic endeavor. Let’s explore what factors to consider when selecting your plaything protagonist.

Firstly, consider the color of the toy. Bold and vibrant colors can make a toy stand out against a backdrop, creating a visually appealing image. A rule of thumb is to select toys with colors that contrast pleasantly with the anticipated background.

The degree of detail in a toy can also greatly impact the resultant image. Highly detailed toys allow to capture intricate close-ups, showcasing the craftsmanship in every tiny design element. Alternatively, simpler toys can equally be effective, especially if you’re aiming for minimalist shots.

Scale is another influencing factor. The size of your toy in relationship to its setting can create dramatic effects. For instance, photographing a miniature action figure in a life-sized environment can evoke a fun play on dimensions.

The type of toy you pick is dependent on the story you wish to tell through your photos. Action figures pose expressively, teddy bears evoke nostalgia, while cars can empower dynamic movement. Remember, photography is about storytelling – choose toys that embody the narrative you aim to depict.

In selecting the right toy, you’re essentially casting the main character for your photographic story. Attention to these details can fulfill the dual task of engaging viewers and improving the overall aesthetic of your photos. So, embark on your toy hunt with a discerning eye and a clear storyline.

Background and Environment Setting

Creating the ideal background and setting for your toy photography can feel akin to being a movie stage director, setting up miniature versions of real-world scenarios. It involves the careful selection and arrangement of props and backdrops that frame your toy subjects and build a story.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Settings

The decision between indoor and outdoor settings primarily boils down to the feel you want for your photo. Indoor settings allow for greater control over every element within the frame. You can use things from around the house as props, from simple colored paper for a clean background to everyday objects for a more immersive or surreal scene.

Outdoor settings, on the other hand, offer a natural and expansive backdrop to play with. The open space, natural light, and real-world elements such as grass, sand, or water, can make your toy subjects appear larger-than-life. The weather can also be a cooperative ally, creating dramatic environments with wind, rain, or sunshine.

Building Your Own Scenes

An indoor shoot sets the stage for DIY creativity. You can build a cityscape with cereal boxes or create a desert island using sand and rocks from your garden. Since the toys are small, they don’t need large props or spacious backdrops. This leaves plenty of room to be imaginative with what’s available and purse-friendly.

Professional Mini Environments

For those who wish to delve deeper into the nitty-gritty of toy photography, investing in professional mini environments and props might be worthwhile. Online platforms offer a wide range of thematic backgrounds, from rustic wooden houses to modern city skyscrapers. However, remember not to over-rely on these sets as your creativity still needs to shine through.

To paint a vivid picture for viewers, always question whether your setting complements the toy subject or vice versa. Each toy has a character and story of its own, and a fitting environment can bring that story to life, making your images look more than just miniature figures under a lens.

Playing with Angles

In toy photography, angles can be your secret weapon. Like a puppet master, how you position your camera in relation to your toy subjects can drastically alter the story you convey through your lens.

To start, consider how shooting at a higher angle can make your toy subjects appear smaller or more childlike, evoking a sense of nostalgia or playfulness. Conversely, shooting from a low angle can transform even the most benign teddy bear into an imposing, larger-than-life figure, towering over its environment. Undeniably, this angle game contributes to the illusion of life and reality that characterizes great toy photography.

Now, let’s widen the spectrum. Try experimenting with diagonal or slanted angles. These unconventional perspectives can add a refreshing dose of drama or dynamism into your shots. They can make a static toy car look as if it’s zooming at top speed, or a cluster of toy soldiers appear as an overwhelming army on the attack.

Practical exercise for you: Set up one of your toys and take three different shots: from a high angle, a low angle, and a slanted angle. Compare the outcome and notice the differences. It’s incredible, isn’t it? Even in the same setting, different angles can conjure up entirely separate stories.

And this is where the fun lies. With toy photography, you have the liberty to easily manipulate your subjects and their surroundings. Consequently, you can capture the same scene from different angles to create contrasting narratives. This tool not only keeps your work interesting but also showcases your creative prowess to viewers.

Remember, in toy photography—it isn’t just what you shoot, it’s how you shoot it. This simple tinker with angles can turn a good photo into a great one, elevating your work from a casual snapshot to full-fledged art. So grab your camera and your favorite toy, and let’s get angling!

Importance of Lighting

Lighting is, quite literally, the lifeblood of any photograph, and toy photography is no exception. In fact, given the intricate details and smaller scales involved, effective lighting becomes even more critical. Understanding and skillfully utilizing lighting techniques can exponentially elevate the quality of your toy photography.

Let’s take a peek at both natural and artificial lighting. Natural light, predominantly sun light, is an economical and rich light source. The charm of this light lies in its changing quality throughout the day – soft and warm during dawn and dusk, and dramatic and intense during mid-day. This variability provides a lush palette for photographers to play with, but it also requires awareness of what kind of mood you wish to set in your photograph. A sunlight-flooded window or an outdoor setup can help leverage natural light effectively.

For more controlled settings, artificial lighting comes to the fore. Studio lights, torches, or even a smartphone flash, can serve as an efficient artificial light source. The primary strength of artificial lighting is its predictability and control, allowing photographers to create desired effects and shadows. For instance, using a directional light source you can cast long, dramatic shadows, adding depth and intrigue to your toy scene.

Tips to remember: the size and distance of your light source matter. A larger, closer light source will yield softer shadows while a smaller, distant light source will produce crisp, harsh shadows. Also, diffuse your light source with translucent materials, such as a white bedsheet or a diffuser panel, to cut down on shadows and evenly illuminate your toy subjects.

In conclusion, lighting in toy photography can transform a simple setup into a compelling scene. Treat light as your secret assistant, and remember, it’s not just about having enough light, but using it effectively. Play around, experiment and let the light guide you towards that perfect shot. Happy shooting!

Using Macro Lens for Detail

In the field of toy photography, capturing fine details is like unearthing hidden treasure. The secret weapon that enables you to achieve this is a macro lens. To newcomers, the term may sound slightly intimidating, resembling something out of a sci-fi novel. In reality, it is a simple tool that makes a massive difference in your work, adding depth, clarity, and realism to your miniatures.

Macro lenses are specially designed to capture subjects at extremely close distances, reproducing them at a 1:1 ratio on your camera sensor. When used with toys, this lens translates every minute texture, smile, frown, or paint job with astounding precision. It helps create an illusion of reality, transforming your plastic Superman figure into a life-sized superhero saving the day.

Deciding when to use a macro lens comes down to your artistic vision. When aiming to showcase intricate details of your subject or when the toy’s facade is the focus rather than the full scene, the lens is your go-to solution. Just imagine the twinkle in Iron Man’s eyes brought to life or the menacingly intricate tread on your monster truck.

As fantastic as macro lenses may sound, they can also be a bit pricey. However, a cost-effective alternative is extension tubes. These hollow cylinders increase the distance between the lens and the camera sensor, enabling you to focus on closer subjects without needing to invest heavily.

In essence, using a macro lens or its alternatives significantly enhances your toy photography, turning simple objects into detailed masterpieces. It might require some practice, but the results are undoubtedly worth the effort. So, strap on that macro lens, pull out your favorite action figure, and uncover a new level of detail.

Post Processing Techniques

In the arena of toy photography, capturing the image is just half the battle won. The magic truly unfolds in the post-production phase, where you breathe life into your miniature creations through careful edits and enhancements.

Arguably, editing is as crucial, if not more, than the actual process of taking the picture. Post-processing allows you to augment the aesthetic aspects of your photos and correct any minor imperfections that might be present. For toy photography, some specific post-processing techniques prove particularly effective.

Let’s kick off with saturation. In toy photography, shifting the saturation levels of your images can significantly enhance their visual impact. A modest increase in saturation can bring out the vibrancy in your toys, making them seem more life-like and engaging.

Next, adjusting contrast levels can work wonders in adding perceived depth and texture to your toys. A higher contrast setting can make your photos pop and give your toys a more three-dimensional look. However, ensure not to over-do it, as it might lead to loss of intricate details in the shadows and highlights.

Sharpness is another essential editing control that you will want to make use of. Sharpening your images will accentuate small details that might otherwise go unnoticed, adding intrigue and depth to your photographs.

Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop are great software options for post-processing your toy photos. They offer a plethora of tools for you to fine-tune your images to perfection.

Pro tip: Remember, when editing, less is more. The goal is to amplify the qualities of your photo subtly, not to overshadow them with glaring edits. Maintain a delicate hand while manipulating these settings, and your toy photographs will shine with newfound brilliance.

Yes, the post-processing highway might seem a tad winding, but fear not. With practice and patience, you’ll soon be steering your way into professional-level edits. So buckle up and enjoy the ride. You’re not just playing with toys— you’re mastering an art form.

Building a Community

In the sandbox of toy photography, having a community of like-minded enthusiasts to share your work can be as rewarding as the snapshots themselves. After all, the lone photographer is often just a mysterious figure behind a lens. Discovering the thrill of toy photography shouldn’t be a solo venture.

Toy photography forums, online groups, and local clubs are gold mines of inspiration and learning. Just as you might gaze at a gallery wall, surveying other photographers’ work can help you gain new perspectives and ideas for your own shots. Stumbling upon a stunning use of shadow in a superhero action figure scene, or an innovative use of perspective in a teddy bear portrait, might just spark your next masterpiece.

Sharing your work with the community is not simply about gloating over your latest captures. Think of it as a dynamic classroom where everyone has something to teach and learn. Feedback from peers can help you to fine-tune your skills, identify areas of improvement, and garner praise for your creative successes. An unbiased opinion from a fellow hobbyist could be the key to transforming a good photography practice into a great one.

By becoming an active participant, you not only build relationships with other photographers, but you also create opportunities for collaborative projects. Team up with other photographers for a group shoot or challenge each other with a thematic contest. It’s all part of the fun!

With every interaction within the community, keep a humble and open mindset. Each critique can be a stepping-stone towards your growth, and each achievement a reaffirmation of your skills. Remember, we’re all here to capture the joy that toys bring into our adult lives. So let’s click, share, and grow together in this engaging landscape of toy photography.


In the fascinating and engaging discipline of toy photography, mastering the right techniques makes all the difference. We have explored a variety of skills, from selecting the right toys to understanding the importance of angles, environments, and lighting. Don’t forget, the magic often lies in the details. A well-chosen action figure or stuffed animal, positioned appropriately and illuminated effectively, can tell an entire story in a single frame.

Moreover, we have delved into more nuanced aspects such as the utility of a macro lens for detail enhancement and crucial post-processing techniques. These pieces of rich advice, far from being overwhelming, serve to widen your toolbox, offering diverse ways of capturing the essence of our miniature subjects.

Then there’s the role of the community. By engaging with peers, we open a range of possibilities for growth. A shared critique or a moment of admiration for a colleague’s work can be incredibly informative, nurturing development in surprising and delightful ways.

In essence, toy photography is an art that requires equal parts creativity and technique. From ensuring proper lighting to using post-processing applications to fine-tune your work, every step is significant. The beauty lies in the balance of all these elements which, when done right, can produce mesmerizing results.

With these seven tips at your fingertips, you’re well-positioned to take vibrant, compelling toy photographs. To quote a famous toy, “To infinity and beyond!” – or in our case, to the limits of our creativity and the edge of our macro lens. Here’s to capturing the tiny and making it grand, one snap at a time.

The Creativv
American digital marketer and founder of with over a decade of experience in event, travel, portrait, product, and cityscape photography.