There’s nothing cooler for me to see than when fans submit really sharp, funny, cool photos of their Mega Bloks sets in our Collectors community. Many of the coolest set images always seem to come from the same source: Symon Six. So I reached out to him to ask a few questions about what it takes to create memorable photos.
Symon Six is a self-described product of the 80’s and huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy movies, comics and video games. His interest in art made him start down the path of studying industrial design, with the hope of one day landing his dream job as a toy designer: “For some, toys are just toys…but to me, toys are like a three-dimensional manifestation of art through engineering.”
But around studying to launch that career, his hobby has given him a short-term fix: amateur photography. This has allowed him to express the coolness of the art of toys: “I always envision a story of what toys are doing; I would chronicle their adventures via ‘photo-comics’. But over time I started telling simpler stories with stand-alone photography rather than a multi-panel/text-heavy format.”
“I think people would be interested to know that my hobby started as a way to engage my artistic self. In the real world I’ve developed an insane ability to problem solve – but in the imaginative world, there are no problems to solve; only ideas to be had. The focus of my work has always been to share my love of toys with others. I feel like technology can deprive us of using the imagination that cultivates innovation.
I asked if others had inspired him along the way: “I found that humor could be very influential in toy photography. I credit JD Hancock and Deinonychus as inspirations – Deino’s reviews on The Bloks Forum are what motivated me to simulate his style of comedy with insight (see example above); and JD Hancock inspired me by his humorous pictures of toys in precarious scenarios (he’s also the one that gave me the glass-surface tip). Both of these individuals taught me that the caption of a picture can deliver as much of a message about a photo as the image itself.”
Considering the sharpness of the shots he regularly produces at S6 Photography, I was surprised to hear of how basic his set-up is: “A Nikon P510 for reviews or my Samsung GS4 for photobombs and an editing program like Photoshop or PicsArt. And my ‘studio’ is literally a utility closet at the bottom of the stairs of my basement. I’ve positioned a 3’ x 4’ desk in one corner and on the desk is an IKEA glass top, an $8 desk lamp fitted with a 40W reveal bulb, and a black construction-paper background taped to the backside of the wall. Overhead rests a 60W utility socket with a standard 60W incandescent bulb.”
What really makes up the difference of not having expensive equipment and a huge studio space is patience: “Typically a single shot takes about an hour; and reviews take between 2 to 5 hours. I think the most time-consuming to date was the Call of Duty Landing Craft because I actually shot that in three different locations over about 120 pictures – that one was around 15 hours including write-up.”
That write-up is remembered well here at Mega HQ. “It was really a labor of love. When I built the set, I was imagining how awesome it would look coming out of the ocean. But I live hundreds of miles away from anything close to a wave so I had to do some creative location scouting to find a pseudo-oceanic location, where I could take pictures of toys without getting the cops called on me (which did happen in a different location). I was sitting in mud half the time taking the pics!”
“I thought doing some simple photo filters to make it appear like vintage war plans…so I Googled some old WWII D-Day maps to use as backgrounds and modified my watermark to look a bit more dated. Unfortunately final photo editing required me to cut out some of the FX I wanted to add (like smoke out of the gun turrets); but overall I was very pleased with the 30+ images in the final cut.”
So how about a single photo; does he have a favorite? “One of my better known single photos was a shot where COBALT team kicked an insurrectionist off a cliff with a plasma grenade stuck to his head; sending him spiraling down to a pack of brutes waiting below. I chose a top-down angle to illustrate the heights they were stranded at, and blurred the brutes down below a bit to give a greater sense of depth.”
“The story that spawned that shot was a COBALT rescue mission gone awry after being discovered by a pack of brutes while extracting an insurrectionist informant. My process always begins with a narrative. I always have some story that’s going on – so I typically try to find dramatic angles that help convey that message.”
Toy photography is easy enough to do nowadays – especially with some creative storytelling and patience. “My overall mission as conscript Symon Six was to engage with the community and more than anything else spark other fans’ imaginations.”
If your imagination has been sparked, we want to see what YOU can do. Take a killer pic of your own Halo micro action figures and sets and upload it to our fan community! All you need is a little inspiration. Take it from Symon: “It doesn’t take a fine arts degree or an extensive background in photography and graphic design to have an adventure with toys; it just takes a little time, willingness to break off the grid, and an active imagination to make your own adventure!”