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Have you ever found yourself looking at your childrens toys and thought to yourself man that would look great in an image? Well I have, I do and I love creating images this way, trying to create a realistic/sureal image which tells a story from using nothing more than a piece of plastic.  A portrait of a figure reveals the character you see in this inanimate object and brings it to life, the more I delve deeper into this genre of photography I am finding it very similar portrait photography, capturing a side of a person you see as you get to know them, you want to bring that out in the Photo, but that side you see may actually not be the real person in front of the camera rather your impression of them, this is the case in my portrait work as instantly as soon as I see a model male or female I have a vision of how I want a portrait of them to look and that similarity falls into the toy portrait genre I am finding, photographing the side of the character as I see it. 

        Lighting the subjects is also very similar as in different skin tones  oily skin/dry in real people can require a different light modifier to control the specularity on the skin the same can be said with the materials a toy is made of, also creating a dramatic lighting or what ever mood you want to bring to the image is very much the same, so implementing the same lighting setups  I use in my portrait photography produces the same results in my toy portraits. This blog post is not about portraits of people or Toy Portraits but creating images using model planes, but using all the lighting principles I use in my portrait work to help create some epic images.

If you want to jump straight into the full behind the scenes video click below.

So this small project came about with a little obsession with clouds and wanting to create them to use in an image, now I have failed a few times trying to make them look realistic in an image but finally settled on using stuffing out of a pillow as this looked so much better than cotton wool,

I wanted to be able to light the clouds from inside so I used a couple of tupaware containers and glued lumps of the stuffing randomly all around then spray painted part parts with black paint for a more dramatic look, and when lit from inside with my strobes it gave a nice depth to the clouds and being able to add gels allowed me to play with the colours. I initially wanted to create a big scene, a vast expanse of water and clouds behind the aircraft but soon realised that my small studio space just wasn't big enough so I settled on the perspective from my 35mm sigma art lens on my Nikon D750 full frame camera which allowed me to use the full width of my studio floor in the frame,

I used tin foil up on the floor to create the effect of water and using a long focus reflector fitted with a gird and blue gel with a Pixapro Pika 200 in created a moonlit backlit scene which gave nice reflections in the water and also backlit the clouds and aircraft a little.

I suspended the model planes from around 3-4ft above the floor sitting them on thread inside a cardboard frame which I would later  remove the thread in photoshop, the aircraft was lit using the Pixapro Citi 600 fitted with a standard reflector and 60 degree grid for a small spot of light on the model.

To add a little more depth to the image I also added some of the pillow stuffing around the the frame to give the effect of clouds above and below the model, I wanted to create town lights  below and on the edge of the water again to give more depth to the image so I added some fairy lights on top of the tin foil,  the final element to add was smoke to the scene using a smoke machine just to add a little more atmosphere.

    Finishing the photo in photoshop with removing the thread adding some dodge and burn, prop blur, vignette and in a couple of the shots I added the search lights for effect, you can see this in more detail in the video, I wanted to keep this post short as I go into way more detail in the video, below are links to all the gear used if you want to check those out, hope this gives you a little inspiration to try something similar, until next time folks.

Gear List.



ND  Filters

Pika 200

Citi 600.

580 mkii

Hybrid 360

smoke machine

Light Modifier.

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