The details makes the picture

Since I read Chris McVeigh´s post “Photography is a road trip”, I have been thinking about the difference between creating pictures with toys compared with creating photographs with people. I do both; I’m a still life photographer with toys as my main motive, as well as a portrait–photographer. Doing both has made me realize that I use a lot of my still life experiences in my work with living models. Like working with my body to visualize the idea, and using my hands to arrange my models (toys and people). But there are some differences in working with a plastic model compared to working with a living model. I do mean the most obvious – that people live and breath and that my toys are plastic and relativly static.

Photographing people is difficult, but in some ways I think it’s even harder to do still life photography, or photographing toys. In a portrait session I can explain the idea and the model interprets it and we work together to reach the final result. If I work on commission the buyer will give me direction in what they want. I can always get my model to feel at ease by joking; we can talk about angles, arrangements, if the light is to hard or not. I can give people some idea of what the result will be.


But when I work with still life photography it’s only me; my idea, my settings, my arrangement of toys. My toys don’t work with me, I work with them. My toys don’t give me any response or help. Trying to get the perfect picture I will try different arrangements. I try different settings and angles because I don’t know when or if the idea/setting will work. On the other hand my toys never get tired, but I do, and my patience often ends long before I get what I want.

In still life photography the final result is all up to the photographer. And as a result of this I usually take more frames (in quantity) when I do still life photography compared to when I work with people. This makes the work of choosing the “right” frame harder because it takes time to get an overview, to see which of all the frames I should choose. Many of the frames are almost the same. My final choice is often made on small differences in composition, angle, focus and how the light falls on the subject. Because for me a good picture is in the details, and to get the details right is a part of the charm of photography.


Do you have the same experience that the result of toy-photography is a lot of similar picture? And how do you make your choices? What is that makes you to choose one picture over another?

6 Replies to “The details makes the picture”

  1. Kristina,

    This post made me laugh because it is so true!! I just got through shooting one little scene over two mornings and have over 100 imaged to choose from. Seriously, the differences between them is so minute, no one will ever notice except me. I am going to let them sit for a while before I look at them again to see if anything changes. My worst fear is that the very first image I took is going to be the best.

    But you are absolutely right, the charm is in the details…and to get those right, it takes time and patience.

    Thanks of sharing!

    1. I often has that experience when I do portraits that the first frame or the last is the best. I think it’s because my model is of gard in the beginning and in the end the just relax to get it over :)

      I’m glad you share my experience :)

  2. This post made me smile because it reassured me that other people take as many photos as I do! I see all the fabulous photos on here and on IG and I always think that they were created in a couple of shots because the photographer knew exactly what they wanted to shoot and everything was perfect right away. That of course isn’t the case and a lot of work goes into these amazing scenes. And you’re so right, the details absolutely make the photograph. That’s why we spend so much time on our art. But I always think when deciding on my final photograph, “Is this the best version? Will people like this one as much as another one?”. And it’s not like you can ask your subjects which one they like! I guess that’s all part of the challenge and the joy of toy photography!

    1. I’m trying to put the viewer aside in my selection, I try to stick with my feelings of what I like and what I think is good. Searching for what other think makes me loose myself. But that is hard when you can’t asks the model, do you prefer this over that, I agree :) Still life photography has that charm :)

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