Artist spotlight: zekezachzoom

Every month, we pick a LEGO photographer active in our community and share some of their work and a little about themselves. This month we flight in Singapore to meet zekezachzoom!

My name is Sunny but you might know me better as zekezachzoom on social media.
I am a freelance graphic designer and have been a toy photographer for 10 years.

I came up with this profile name after my sons’. Zeke is my second son and Zach my first. I imagined them running away after calling their names, hence Zoom. 

I live in Singapore where we have two seasons, Rain and Shine. It’s a tiny island and getting around is pretty fast and easy.
I have a few favourite spots around the island for toy photography.
I will be more than happy to explore these places with any of my overseas friends if they pop by this part of the world! 

Though sometimes I wish we have mountains, rivers and maybe desert for more outdoor choices. On the plus side, being a small island makes organizing an outing with fellow toy photographers very easy, even if it is a last minute thing.

I started toy photography after posting an image of Spiderman squatting on the window ledge overlooking the neighborhood on Instagram…and then discovering the community. Everyone was and still is very encouraging and I think this helped in me trying to better myself with each photograph. Though Instagram is not what is used to be, but that is a discussion for another day.

Talking about process, if there is a brief for the photo (commissioned work, photo contest), I will usually follow up with some research work on the topic. At the same time, I will park the topic for the photo at the back on my mind and let it simmer unconsciously.

However, for personal work, I usually do not actively chase for ideas, forcing them out. I find that most ideas come to me randomly. This usually happens in a variety of ways, like watching videos on any subject, going about my daily life, observing and listening to things around me. I think being curious about everything and anything certainly helps in generating ideas.

Once I have a photo idea, I then let it sit and simmer further in my mind’s eye. This can help take the concept to more interesting directions in terms of story, setup, composition, lighting, etc. More ideas can be built upon this initial concept base on even more things you see and observe. It also allows time to think about how to setup the shot.

I will always sketch my ideas on my notebook, which is always by my side. At present time, I have more ideas than time to shoot!

When it comes to the shoot itself, I usually start with the mobile phone, quickly checking the angles and then locking my camera to a tripod. I always use a tripod to gather multiple shots of the same angle with different lighting, atmospheric effect so that I can then composite them in post if need be. Then I will shoot couple of shots for final composition without the lighting and atmospheric effect.
I enjoy the post production work, especially the color grading part. Sometimes, the word PHOTOSHOP give rise to arguments within the photographic community. To me, it’s just a tool to bring the picture to its maximum potential. 

I think people I know in the community know me for my punny, silly and light-hearted stuff. So much so that friends recommend me toys they think that might fit this style. However, recently I find myself going all over the place in terms of themes. I just enjoy the process of experimenting different approaches, be it the storytelling or the technical bits of photography.
When I am shooting indoor, I usually set up for low key images. It gives me a chance to experiment with indoor lighting. If there is one thing I would tell my younger self when I started, it’s to pay attention to lighting. It can elevate a nice photo to a great photo.

Also, I like to build simple sets with everyday object that end up looking like something else when viewed through the camera. I do this mostly because I am lazy and don’t have the patience to build dioramas. 

I am usually with a group of friends when I shoot outdoors, because we have a monthly gathering among us. During these outings, I am constantly looking out for areas with awesome lighting. I try to reserve my action shots (ie scenes with flying debris) outdoors, mostly because there is no need to clean up after the mess! Also, outdoor light is beautiful…but fast changing lighting condition is another story all together.

When I first started, it was all about the Star Wars figures. I had stopped collecting figures since the 1980s , but it was the Star Wars Black Series that got me collecting again with all its glorious articulation. Once I discovered the community, I realized that there were other characters to be bought! I sometimes wonder if that is a good thing, from my wallet’s point of view.

I find myself gravitating towards nostalgia when it comes to the figures I buy. So, my collection and images usually reflect that, with movie/TV characters from the 80s. Stuff like Aliens, Indiana Jones, Predator and Back to the Future, etc.
However, whether they are LEGO minifigures, statues, 6 inch figures, I will shoot any figures as long as they serve the stories. Each type of figures has its own pros and cons and challenges. But I would not have it any other way.

This is my basic equipment list:
• Nikon Zfc with kit lens (16mm to 50mm)
• Lensbaby Sweet 35 lens
• Helios 44-2 58mm lens
• Extension tubes for close ups
• 2 speed lights
• Couple of LED cube lights
• Manfrotto tripod

Why toy photography? 
I love pop culture and telling quirky weird stories with characters I love. I can never produce awesome looking illustration of these images I have in mind and photography seems like the next best thing. Hence toy photography!
When I first started, I was always coming up with ideas in the middle of the night and sketching them down and made it my mission to spread this hobby. I recall vividly telling a friend how much I enjoy this hobby and was going to just keep throwing out toy photos into the internet and see what comes back.
And a lot has indeed happen since then:
• I started a local Facebook group to organize more toy photography outings and share photos.
• Managed to get featured on national newspaper and television, because they came across my work online.
• Made friends on social media and participated in podcast by some of these friends.
• Conducted workshops.
• Shot for some toy companies.
• Collaboration with toy designers and model/diorama makers.
• Nikon Ambassador.

I have enjoyed the journey so far and look forward to improving myself. Something I always remind myself:
 your best photo is the one you have not taken yet.

The exclusive

When I was asked to produce an image for this post, I went through my usual process for coming up with ideas. There was no exact theme to follow, so there was total creative freedom. I have several notebooks filed with sketches from ideas that came to me previously. I will usually flip through them and pick any concept that strikes my fancy. I will then park these ideas at the back of my brain and start to absorb other concepts from looking at random stuff on the Internet, esp on Youtube and Pinterest. I will let these ideas further develop subconsciously and then pick the one that I fancy the most


I learned a long time ago that the best ideas come when you are not actively chasing for one. They just come randomly. In this particular case, I was trying to learn more about low key lighting and saw examples of film noir…and then everything came together for the final image:
• I had just bought LEGO series 25 (yes, late to the game!) and the noir detective would be perfect for this.
• I enjoy creating simple setup that suits my concept. In this case, it’s just a black box with some tiny crushed paper for texture and additional alley cat rummaging through a trash can.
• I usually enjoy shooting dramatic low-key images when indoor.
• A friend wanted to throw away a Monster Inc prop and I asked him for it, cause it has an interesting pattern and makes a perfect GOBO (a gobo is a light modifier, typically a stencil)! Pretty sure this won’t be the last time I will be using it as a lighting modifier.
I usually have silly, fun concepts with LEGO minifigures but sometimes, I let my dark side take over. In fact, I was ready to do a re-shoot with another idea if needed!


I used two speedlights for this shot. One for key light from the front with no diffusion so that I can create hard shadows, which is characteristics of film noir. The other one is positioned at the back of Pennywise for lighting the background. I have one more constant light to brighten up the foreground, just to show a bit of the rat.

 I created the poster of Pennywise with Adobe Illustrator. I felt the right side had too much negative space and created the poster to balance the photo. 

I usually start off my composition with my mobile phone, moving it around to find the best angle and then mount my camera on the tripod. I always use a tripod because it allows me to experiment with different lighting settings which I can then take into Photoshop for easy composite work if necessary.

I used blue tac and wire to float the balloon. Some more tac at the base of the detective, so that i can balance him while making him arch his back to make better eye contact with the balloon. Finally, thick wire and globs of tac to hold Pennywise in position. 

The only major challenge was to create the atmosphere for this shot with the use the mini fog machine. With the use of these machines, luck plays a big part in getting the correct distribution of haze. After 75 shots with and without fog and narrowing down the final few shots, I ended up with the first one, which did not contain the haze! It just felt right. Hahaha. I think some people can relate to that.


This was a fairly easy shoot compared to others I have done, as far as scene setup and posing is concern. I always try to take the time to lock down the figures and props. It makes photographing them more enjoyable without worrying if they will topple down.
I usually use speedlights for my toy photography and suggest you try it too! Even though I have an idea what the lighting outcome will likely be, sometimes, the results can be a little unexpected. It is great for freezing action and you can use it to create night scenes even though the ambient light is bright.
I always enjoy the post processing work. I have been a Photoshop user for almost 30 years (still learning new things everyday!). The color grading process is my favourite part. It can take a ordinary looking image and make it into a cinematic one. Hate it or love it, I am of the opinion that whatever tool is available to make the story come alive and make it better visually, I am all for it.

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