Photography Posts

Meet Modern Mattel Matchbox Maven John Lambert

lamley group matchboxWe have a new expert on board to help us wrangle one of the most popular diecast brands into shape in our Catalog. John Lambert will be member of hobbyDB’s Advisory Board as an expert on newer Matchbox vehicles.

matchbox ford mustang police car

Lambert started the Lamley Group as a blog with David Tilley to discuss just about any brand of diecast vehicles. (The Lamley name combines part of each of the surnames.) Their blog evolved mostly into musings about the newer Mattel era Matchbox cars.  “We started it mainly as a joke when we realized that he and I both had a knowledge of Mattel era Matchbox that matched the knowledge of some of the Regular and Superfast-era experts. Nothing came of it until I decided to start a blog to showcase my photos.”

His pictures aren’t just well-lit and focused, they are often creatively staged with scenery and props, such as this dealership diorama full of Toyota Land Cruisers.

matchbox toyota land cruiser

As for his favorite all time casting, well that’s a moving target. “I’ve tried hard to pick one favorite casting, and it’s near impossible… One day it’s the BMW 1M, but I have a feeling the upcoming ’71 Nissan Skyline will take its place.”

He displays a “small portion of my collection loose on custom wall cases”, in his Salt Lake City home. How many Matchbox models would you guess he has? “I have no idea.  I have never counted. I am probably a little afraid to know.”

In 2013, Lambert was named the 8th “Matchbox Ambassador To Collectors” at the annual Matchbox Collector’s Community Hall International Gathering Of Friends.

matchbox off road fire engine

Diecast – There’s more to it than you think…

I remember setting up and taking the first few 1:64 scale diecast pictures that I shot back in 2009. My desk was by a window in my office. I would shoot pictures on a piece of white printer paper only when the sun was shining. At that time, it was all that I had. We had an old Polaroid ‘point-and-shoot’ that we used as a family camera – I would borrow it and burn through countless AA batteries…


I began participating on a few forums and was floored by some of the images I was seeing from others. Quickly, I upgraded my setup. I have always been interested in the whole DIY (Do It Yourself) thing so I decided to build myself a lightbox. Halfway through 2010, I purchased my first DSLR and tripod. This enabled me to do many more things than what the trusty old Polaroid was capable of. I could go on and on about equipment and lighting setups but let’s talk about the subject. Diecast.

I started collecting redlines back around the same time I started the whole photography thing. History has always been an interest of mine and that led me to think….very few of my redlines are in ‘mint’ condition, but each one has a story to tell.


At one time they were new. Brilliant. Perfect. Hanging on the pegs at the local store, various hues shining bright in all their glory. Since then, days and days of play have taken their toll. Their magnificence is now long gone. ‘Beaters’. ‘Junkers’. ‘Fillers’. ‘Perfect for restoration’. These once loved toys are now referred to as many different names. The paint may be scratched, faded, and dull. The axles are bent and a wheel or two may be missing. The beauty – long faded away – but yet these toys are survivors.


The damage they wear is unique to their history, similar to how a scar is to you. That scar happened in a specific place and time. It can be linked to an event. When you look down on that blemish you tend  to remember what you were doing and where you were when you got it. These toys have a similar story to tell, yet they have no voice. In their silence, all they can do is lend themselves to our imaginations and ask for us to interpret their exclusive story in any way we’d like.


Photography has taught me to see everyday things in a whole different way. I challenge you to take a minute and really look at your collection. If you are fortunate enough to still have some cars from your childhood, step back and remember those moments and listen. I bet quiet a few of them have a story to tell.

Shoot Your Collectibles Like a Pro

I write about old (pre-1940) and antique (true centenarians) on my blog and since I’m a retired photographer, I thought I would share some techniques to help you take better pictures of your collectibles.

Photographic Lighting
Let’s take a look at a Hubley Pile Driver Truck I bought recently. I use tungsten quartz lights called “focusing spots”. Of course, any lighting will do. It’s usually better to use indirect sunlight, since this light will have less contrast, and record the bright areas (highlights) and the dark areas (shadows) much better than bright and direct sunlight.

I used 2 lights for the first set of photos to illustrate some basic principles for photographing a toy. The first light that was high and to the left of the toy, created the direction and depth to the toy. The second light (to the right and lower) added detail into the dark shadow areas. This allowed the camera to capture the overall detail of the toy best.  I also added a few silver reflectors to add some extra bright spots (highlights) to the toy.

Hubley Pile Driver-PSCR-1Here is the first light (high and to the left). It’s called the “main light”, and it’s purpose is to create the 3D (depth) and mood for the photo.

Hubley Pile Driver-PSCR-2This light was positioned to the right and lower. It’s purpose is to add light into the shadows. It is less bright than the “main light” so that the main light will still create the depth of the image. Also, in a photo, you want to only see the effect of one light, since we only have 1 sun.

Hubley Pile Driver-PSCR-3This photo presents a silver reflector card. You can use aluminum foil glued to a piece of cardboard. In this case, I use the discarded silver foil on cardboard boards that come with smoked salmon or trout.  The silver cards add some extra bright areas or sparkle to the toy truck.

Hubley Pile Driver-PSCR-4In this photo, you can see how I used 2 reflector cards. I also used a plastic coin-filled champagne bottle and an empty plastic nit container to support the reflectors.

Hubley Pile Driver-PSCR-5You can see the double weights of the pile driver in this photo.
I also originally purchased this toy because it was unique. It’s a pile driver and originally it had a string attached to the top driver part.  The toy also came with smaller pointed “poles” made of wood. They would be placed under the driver, and as the driver was release by a cord, the heavy weights came down, and drove the piles (pointed poles) into the ground.

Hubley Pile Driver-PSCR-6You can see the double cast wheel where the sting would wind around and pull up the 2 weights. Once the 2 weights hit the top, the weights could then fall (one actually released from the other). And hit the pile (wood pole). Doing this repeatedly would eventually force the pole into the ground.

Toy Photo Details
When you are photographing a toy, or anything, it’s important to present some of the details of the toy for the viewer or buyer to see. Also, it’s crucial to show the condition as honestly as possible.

Hubley Pile Driver-PSCR-7This photo of the side of the truck shows you the detail of the panel sides that were  cut out separately (pressed steel) from the truck chassis.

Hubley Pile Driver-PSCR-8This photo shows you the front of the pile driver where it fits into slots of the truck. Also shown are 5 truck roof lights that were cast into the detail.

Hubley Pile Driver-PSCR-9This photo presents the nicely-detailed cast iron front fender and grill of the truck.Hubley Pile Driver-PSCR-10A close-up of the side of the truck

In 1965, this nice toy sold at the suggested retail price of $3.98. When you look at the nice details, the components, and the time that it would take to assemble the toy, it certainly was well worth the price at the time. Good photography will increase your chance of getting a good price for your collectibles (or enjoy showing it to others online).