I have very fond memories of playing with action figures as a kid. In my formative years lesser known X-men played with Predator who was on the same side as G.I. Joe. I recently activated an Instagram account @fronizzle and immediately became a follower of some people who take pictures of action figures. Some were good and some were, er… less good, but I was intrigued. Yesterday I went to the store to pick up one small item and found myself in the toy aisle looking at a new display. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new Batman movie coming out appearing to be based heavily on Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. The trend of higher quality, more detailed and pose-able action figures for $20 worked in my favor and I thought “down the rabbit-hole” as I purchased an Armored Batman (the coolest figure there!).
The first step was finding a suitable background for my first foray into action figure photography. My Absolute Version of The Dark Knight Returns worked nicely, and later on I added The Long Halloween, which cover has cooler and more night-like tones. It worked great for close ups, and added more depth than my flat-colored laptop cooling pad. My wife bought it for me and it doesn’t get much use otherwise (I love it, honey!). The lesson is you shouldn’t always work entirely on black (or very very dark gray).
After this, the next and perhaps most important step is lighting. Flat light would flat-out not work here. Batman works at night. This means high contrast shadows and highlights. A spot light set up high would be the first order of business to emulate the moon or a streetlight. Then I wanted something from behind the subject to create some contrast and fill out the fine details of the action figure. I used a small fluorescent countertop light to highlight the figure evenly from top to bottom.
From there it’s all experimentation; finding the right lens and angles to tell your story. I got to use my Lensbaby Velvet 56 (a Christmas present put to good use) at f4 to minimize the built in softening effect and create the impression that this is not just a small figure (see image above). There’s a very iconic shot in the first trailer where they reveal Batman in his armored suit. This was something in the back of my head and I wanted to test my hand at recreating it from memory. What do you think?Do you still play with toys? You Will.