Inside Brick Fanatics Magazine: Photographing 21311 Voltron

Stuck In Plastic put together a very special set of photographs of 21311 Voltron for Brick Fanatics Magazine Issue 1 – here’s how they did it

In planning out the first issue of Brick Fanatics Magazine, the new LEGO magazine we have just launched, it was apparent that we wanted to feature 21311 Voltron. Likewise, in accordance with our desire for the Review+ section of the magazine to be about more than just set reviews, we knew we had to bring in some expertise. Enter Stuck In Plastic, the collaborative group of toy photographers with a reputation for creativity. Boris from the team took on this particular challenge, and his amazing results can be seen in the magazine. Here, though, he explains his fascinating process of work:

When Rob asked Stuck In Plastic to produce a creative review for the new Review+ section of the first issue of Brick Fanatics Magazine, we immediately said yes. 21311 Voltron was set that had already been standing a while on my desk waiting to be reviewed. Yet every time I took it up, I ended up with the photographer’s equivalent to writer’s block. This Voltron is huge, and while I have taken other big sets outdoors (the Mini to Cape North, the VW Camper to the Atlantic Ocean in Norway, and the VW Beetle to the Atlantic in Portugal), the dimensions of Voltron created a double challenge. Forced perspective in the outdoors would not contribute to his size, and could take focus from him. Taking the model out would cast him as a mere actor in a larger composition.

A part of the story. Not the story itself. Not the Review+ feature that Rob was looking for. I went back to the creative drawing board, where three distinct words jumped out to me. Primal. Transformative. Gigantic.

Primal

The primal ferocity of the lions was something I wanted to capture in its rawest sense. I started off with each lion in front of the camera, exploring their features in front of a white background, but very soon I felt myself competing with the beautiful artwork the LEGO Group had created as part of their marketing.

I then shot against a coloured backdrop – it was better, but not yet what I wanted.

When I looked back across my photographs, I knew there was something missing. These were not the lions I was looking for. Their brutal character, with heavy accented studs as part of their build screamed for something else. Something primal. Something more. Some real bricks.

The bricks worked for me, as they added a more brutal character to the lions as if they came out of their den. I selected different sizes of bricks for the male and female lions, to underpin their specific characters.

Yet the road to getting these simple images was not as easy as it may have seemed at first. The images were shot with a full frame camera with a prime 105mm at f11 and, as you see in the image below, the depth of field (DoF) is not taking the full body into sharpness – as a result, his tail is completely out of focus. In a lot of cases, a toy photographer will actually go for an even shallower field of depth (f3.5) so as to create that artistic blur in camera. But I wanted to get the full lion in focus, with my camera and my lens of choice. So I needed to use a technique called focus stacking. Basically, you take a series of images, each with a slightly different focus point, and then blend them together in post production so as to get a complete image in full focus.

The second photograph here is one of the six images of the series before focus stacking brought them together. You can see the difference when compared to third photograph, once the process has been applied.

Transformative

After finishing with the lions individually, it was time to come together, to start the transformation, five lions into one. Behind the scenes, I roleplayed step by step how the lions come together. If you look closely you will see the legs are not in their final position and the two arms are still in the process of connecting. The lack of light is due to the fact that I made the studio as dark as possible to avoid unwanted reflection on this big piece of shiny plastic.

Here is a close up of the final image (the full one is in the magazine) and as you can see we used the DoF completely different here to keep the focus on the lion. Same lens, same f-stop. No focus stacking. On purpose.

Gigantic

To try to showcase the sheer size of Voltron, I created a tree landscape for it to loom over, but, in order to achieve the shot, I had to take the legs off.

Then came the idea to use smaller figurines, each approximately half the size of a LEGO minifigure. This image is a teaser version of the final shot used in our photographic study published in Issue 1 of Brick Fanatics Magazine:

If you want to see the final image, please grab a copy of the very first issue of Brick Fanatics magazine – it doesn’t disappoint.

And if you like what you see from Stuck In Plastic, then you could win an exclusive A3 size, limited edition, signed original poster of ‘The Voltron’, specially printed for this very first edition of Brick Fanatics Magazine. Head over to www.stuckinplastic for more details.

Can’t get enough and want some more creative toy photography, feel free to pass by on our blog at www.stuckinplastic.com, follow us on Instagram @stuckinplastic or like our Facebook page to stay up to date on all our creative mischief.

Until next time,

Boris, on behalf of the Stuck In Plastic crew.

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