I tried something different.
I tried to apply some “real” photography techniques to my toyphotography. Conditions and time restraints warranted a change in the way I usually operate. The images I managed to capture were met with a very loud and very apparent “Meh” across the various social media sites I post to. Disappointing to say the least.
Last week I wrote about shooting outdoors during less then perfect conditions and usually, tolerating some weather to nail a shot isn’t a problem for me. But the wind has been ridiculous and my attempts at outdoor photography have been fruitless as of late. So I set my camera up indoors and tried some high speed flash photography.
You’ve seen the images of a water drop captured in mid splash, right? I wanted to do something like that but with a figure instead of a drop of water. I did a lot of reading, sat down with my speed lights to get better acquainted with them and figured out the best way to go about dropping figures into water. The object of this venture was to:
- learn something new
- capture an interesting image
- not destroy my camera, flash units, paint on the walls or hardwood floors in the process.
After much trial and error I found my groove. I was sitting on a little stool in front of a five gallon fish tank, happily dropping Lego figures into the water and capturing the results with great gusto! The images I saw afterward were completely different from anything I had ever shot before. First of all, they were taken indoors. Secondly there was no flying involved and lastly, no witty banter or hilarious dialogue would accompany these shots. They would stand on their own merits.
I did a very small amount of fine tuning to these shots and posted the first of them to Instagram and Facebook. The reception was interesting…
“How did you do that?” was the question most asked, and “What app did you use?” comes in a close second. What app did you use… really?
I don’t mind explaing how I do a shot. I have been told many, many times to keep my methods to myself. “Don’t give away the magic!” they say. “When you explain how you do it, you’re inviting copycats to steal you’re technique!”
Whether it’s making a figure appear to fly or float, simulating a sandstorm in 4 inch scale or coaxing a Stormtrooper to do a wheelie on a bicycle, NONE of the methods I use are anything I’ve invented on my own. So sharing how I do a shot is really no big deal.
That aside, I mentioned earlier that reception to these images has been interesting. The people that took the time to stop and look at the images I posted quickly separated themselves into three groups.
- The group that appreciated the effort and enjoyed seeing something different.
- The group that was only interested in how to do it.
- The group that couldn’t care less about a stupid figure being dropped into some stupid water.
I’m basing my observations on the comments, questions and (yes…sorry about this) the LIKES these pictures received. The people that asked questions were very enthusiastic and the comments were extremely encouraging but the LIKES, the likes were way, way down. I think we can all agree that the stupid LIKES a picture receives is the most “in your face” way to gauge how an image you post is enjoyed.
Now please understand, I DO NOT take pictures and post them for LIKES. I never have and I never will. I absolutely detest the many, many, MANY accounts in the toy photography world whose goal is to simply accumulate LIKES and satisfy some deep seated need for acceptance. You know who you are and I don’t understand that. It’s my belief that the way social media is designed to work encourages that type of thinking but I don’t really want to delve into that can o’ worms here. You must believe me when I say that is not me.
So after pondering this anti-like phenomena I’ve experienced I have come to the following conclusion. People (on social media) come to expect “the norm” from you as an artist. If you break away from that norm, they will punish you and silently voice their displeasure by not rewarding you with their all powerful LIKE.
Well guess what? I don’t care.
KEEP YOUR LIKES! I don’t take pictures to please you. I take pictures of the things I want to see. Quite often I take pictures just to challenge myself like I did with these water shots. If you happen to grace an image I’ve posted with one of your almighty likes than bully for you. Just know that I appreciate the comments people make so much more than the effort it took you to double tap your iPhones screen and move on.
I’ve made a conscious decision to keep pushing my personal boundaries in toyphotography. The days of “Captain Kaos: King of Flying Figures” are OVER! That’s not to say I won’t take the occasional shot of an X-Wing flying off into the sunset but if you follow me and have come to expect a certain type of “product” from me, things are about to get sideways for you.
As I write this I’m told I have twenty one thousand followers on Instagram. I imagine this time next week, that number will be lower.
Stay tuned, or don’t. Your call.
Matt, Nice rant! If crappy weather pushes you to move in new directions then that’s awesome! I love your flying shots, but as an artist I can appreciate the need to keep pushing yourself to tackle new challenges. IG is a tough place to play as an artist. You’re expected to do the same thing over and over again, but better and better to the point where you bore yourself. Being new, creative, different, unusual, taking risks, are not encouraged, and as you say, they’re more often than not punished by lack of likes and less followers. Your position on… Read more »
Thanks Shelly. You managed to express how I feel about the punish and reward system of social media much better than I could in your comment. Hashtags and likes only serve to promote what’s popular, not what’s necessarily good. I’m not saying my stuff is good but I know it’s a lot better than what’s popular. Certain examples come to mind but that’s an entirely different discussion. I’ve wanted to break away from the same old stuff for a while. I’d become bored, just as you said, and it began to feel formulaic. So…. off I go. Thank you for… Read more »
I’m definitely part of the group that likes seeing something different. When I saw the first pictures I loved them immediately because it’s something I have had on my todo list for months but never did by laziness. I’m glad that someone in the toy photography community finally did it!
On the topic of the LIKES-thingy it’s refreshing to read your post. It’s sad to see so much people being obsessed with likes and followers. I really have a hard time trying to understand this popularity contest.
I don’t pretend for a minute to understand how anyone gets any real satisfaction by amassing likes. Followers is a completely different subject. I’ve determined that out of the 21K that Instagram shows for my feed about a quarter of them actually ever even look at one of my pictures, let alone grace it with the almighty double tap. :)
I for one Matt , love your new venture into something new. I have stayed away from IG lately and pretty much done away with hashtag using.. I wish we lived near each other so you could teach me :) I’m trying to push myself to learn all the magical and technical aspects of photography. Maybe 2016 will be the year I finally understand LOL..
If I can ever help somehow, I’m more than happy to Windy. Thank you for the constant support through the years. I’ll still do some of the regular stuff but I have a lot of different things I want to try. Keep learning new stuff and like I said, I’m happy to help if I can. :)
Personally I find your new shots absolutely stunning. How can anyone grow if they continue doing the same thing day-in/day-out? Social media while it can be rewarding (and sometimes scary) way to share your work, is mostly a popularity contest but can also be a place to find like minded and talented people across the globe. Without it I wouldn’t have found your work or any of the SiP crew, and that would be a shame. Keep stretching and learning, but most of all ENJOY what you do! :-)
Thank you Margaret! I’ll do my best!