When it comes to photography, there are a variety of shots a photographer can take that help you tell a story for your viewer. Many of the terms I’ll be using this month originate in film-making, which I learned in various courses in art school like storyboarding and film history, and are equally relevant to toy photography.
A CAMERA SHOT size refers to what elements are included in your photo within the outside edge (called the FRAME) of your photo. It can also refer to the purpose of the photo.
Some of the most common framing camera shots are:
- Extreme Wide Shot
- Wide Shot
- Full Shot
- Medium Wide Shot
- Medium Shot
- Medium Close Up
- Close Up
- Extreme Close Up
Some camera shots that refer to the purpose used:
- Establishing Shot
- Detail Shot
- Over-the-shoulder shot
- POV Shot
- …And many more!
The use of multiple of these different shots for your photography will create variety and interest between photos. It’s also great for maximizing the photography you can create with one set/build. Personally, I find that by shooting both wider and up close, I save time by setting up a scene once and getting multiple shots out of it.
This month’s tips will touch on subjects from previous Tips. In 2020, foolishbricks did a brief overview of some of the different camera shots in his TIPS: Anatomy of an Image, and nocturnelle9 had tips on camera lenses and focal lengths in her TIPS: Wide angle vs Telephoto. In 2022 minifigs_lifescescenes wrote a series on camera angles in TIPS: Using Camera Angles.
Also called the long shot, the wide shot frames the character from head to foot with details of the environment visible. The wide shot is great for showing the action as well as the location.
This shot is also great for MOC builders and to showcase your LEGO sets. In LEGO photography terms, it means the full set, your MOC, the outdoor location you’re shooting at, or your diorama.
Equipment-wise, this shot is very approachable for beginner LEGO photographers, because it can be shot on cell phones or your kit lens. If you want to shoot dramatic natural locations with your LEGO toys, a wide-angle lens would be a good choice (less than 35mm, the lower the number, the wider the angle of your lens).
Some variations of the wide shot are the Extreme Wide Shot and the Establishing Shot.
Extreme Wide Shot
The extreme wide shot is mostly environment. If a character is in it, the character is generally very small. City skylines, wide open desert, and aerial views of a mountain are all examples of an extreme wide shot.
This shot is great for expressing loneliness or isolation since the viewer is so distant from the subject.
In the real world, extreme wide shots require using a wide-angle lens or being very distant from the scene we’re shooting, but for us LEGO photographers, we can get away with creating micro-builds and using a regular lens.
The establishing shot shows your viewer the location and environment. In story terms, it’s the WHERE in the story. Whether it’s a wide shot of a bedroom or alleyway or an extreme wide shot of a cityscape or desert, it tells your viewer where the action is taking place.
The establishing shot’s subject is equally place and character (if there is a character), so you’ll want all of your LEGO set or MOC to be in focus.
The Full Shot frames your character from head to foot. With some of the environment, the face, as well as all the limbs visible, the full shot is great for action and comedy scenes that have a sense of place. This is also a great shot for having interactions with multiple characters.
In terms of LEGO photography, this is your minifig shot, but it can also be great for showing off your buildable animals and robots. If your subject is a LEGO minifig, you’re going to need a lens capable of shooting macro. If you have a large dragon or a robot the size of the very large LEGO Hulkbuster, you wouldn’t even need a macro lens.
Medium Wide Shot
The Medium Wide Shot frames your character from knees and up. This shot is useful to get a sense of the character and some motion since you can still see part of their legs. It also helps place the character since you can still see some of the environment.
Now, LEGO minifigures don’t have knees, so the bottom of the frame would be somewhere mid-leg. There are variations on the medium-wide shot that go slightly above or below the knees, but the difference is a few millimeters up or down on a minifig.
The Medium Shot frames your character from the waist and up. This shot is used to show what a character is thinking or feeling while still being able to see their environment. The framing allows you to see the character interact with their environment and is close enough to see their response.
Medium Close Up
The Medium Close Up Shot frames your subject from the chest and up. Think of this as your standard minifig portrait. This shot is mainly to highlight the personality and emotions of your subject. Since their hands can be visible, objects in the eye line or in their hands are an excellent way to tell a story.
The Close Up Shot is all about the head. Generally, we humans look at a person’s eyes first, so make sure you get the eyes in focus. I suggest using manual focus with a small aperture (the higher the number the smaller the aperture, so f8 and up).
To take LEGO close-ups, you’re going to need a macro lens that has a very short minimum focusing distance. A super macro lens capable of macro photos of insects would be the one you’re looking for, not all macro lenses can get quite that close.
Extreme Close Up
The Extreme Close Up frames the eyes or other details. In film, framing just the eyes gives the viewer a sense of the character’s inner emotions, it can also be an extreme close up of various accessories and builds. This shot was commonly used in the old spaghetti westerns, where you see the extreme close-up of the cowboy’s eyes and holster right before the duel at high noon.
The Detail Shot is a variation of the extreme close up where we are focusing on an object or accessory. This shot would be great for our #bc_builddetails and #bc_minifigless tags. It is used to highlight a storytelling element in the scene that the viewer may not notice.
The purpose of a POV Shot is to make the viewer feel like they’re part of the scene. One way to achieve this is to have a limb extending from the edge of the frame, as if the viewer’s hand is interacting with the subject. In this example, I chose a dragon’s POV, with his claws grasping the knight.
The Over-the-Shoulder Shot is another way to make the viewer feel like they’re part of the scene. Shot from behind the shoulder of the observing character, it makes the viewer feel like they’re standing just behind the observing character, looking at the subject.
There are many shots that I haven’t been able to include due to how long this article is getting, but I hope this helps inspire you to create some great LEGO photography.
Thanks for reading!