Creative Genius Portraits Posts

Climbing into the Ring with Matthew Goldberg Toy Photography

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg wears many hats as a brand influencer, social media manager and eCommerce photographer. But Toy Photography remains his passion and part of a “surreal journey.” We jump into the ring with Matthew who gives us a glimpse into his world of wrestling photography and beyond!

When did you begin toy photography? What was the inspiration?

I began toy photography, I believe, in 2015. I had been doing a lot of stop-motion animation with wrestling figures since 2006 on YouTube, it was a huge success, and as I got older and went to college I had less and less time to do such. Having studied film for many years, I decided to try my hand at toy photography, being there weren’t that many people, if any really, doing wrestling figure photography and it was a lot less time consuming than doing animation. Knowing wrestling worked well for me, and being a lifelong fan, I figured I’d try it out.

How would you describe your style?

I’d say I aim for a very realistic style. My goal is to always make someone do a double take, in that they don’t know if they’re looking at an actual photo of people or if they’re looking at toys. It’s really cool to blend the two together. I use real photos/video stills to help guide me on how to pose them realistically to sell the realism of the image. 

What do you look for in a good photograph?

The details really make a photograph for me. Besides the obvious of framing, lighting, focal points, etc. I like when someone puts the tiny details into a shot to really sell the realism of it.

Matthew Goldberg

What do you shoot? What’s your favorite to shoot?

I shoot wrestling action figures mainly, like WWE and AEW. I collect a lot of different toy lines and would love to experiment in more cinematic photography, such as Star Wars or Marvel, etc. My favorite thing to shoot would be wrestling, being it’s my most demanded content and has truly opened so many doors for me over the years, which I’m beyond grateful for.

What did you collect as a kid? What do you collect now?

I always collected wrestling as a kid, but my other collections have come and gone, then came again since then. I go through phases like many others really, but wrestling was always my staple and it’s become a huge part of my life now.

I like to collect Star Wars and I did collect that a little bit growing up, some Marvel like the MCU figures, a lot of NECA movie action figures, many Funko POPs and other random, nostalgic lines/figures that surface over time really. There’s so many nostalgic action figures and toy lines these days that it’s so overwhelming in a fun way. There’s also new toys being developed constantly that it’s hard to keep up with it all!

What advice do you have for prospective toy photographers?

My biggest advice would be to not be afraid to experiment. My work has grown so much over the years as I’m always trying new things and pushing my boundaries to grow as an artist. Many people get comfortable and don’t go outside their comfort zone, whether that’s trying more elaborate setups or simply editing their work more in-depth to polish it up that much more.

Also, don’t be afraid to invest in the hobby. It can get very expensive, but if you’re open to growing then you need to constantly upgrade your tools, setup, and so on. Don’t be afraid to make those big moves. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either. Study people’s work and ask them how they did it. If they don’t tell you then do your best to figure it out by experimenting. Watch tutorials if you have to. Be open to stepping outside the box.

Matthew Goldberg

What other kinds of work/services do you provide?

I do social media marketing for a living, but I have a Bachelors and Masters in film and television. I love creating content, whether graphics or videos, and sharing it with the world. I most recently started doing e-commerce photography for Jazwares with their AEW toy line, so it’s been a dream come true to work on a new, popular, growing toy line as well as see my work live on websites like Target, Walmart, Amazon and many more. It’s just been a very surreal journey from this hobby. I’m also a brand influencer for Mattel, Ringside Collectibles and many other wrestling toy licensees, so I’m always working on promoting products through many forms of content.

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

If you’re a wrestling fan be sure to check out my photography over on my instagram (@mbg1211) at instagram.com/mbg1211! If you’re not a wrestling fan still give me a follow if you’d like as I do plan on stepping out of my comfort zone again and doing something cool, like Star Wars, to expand my skills. Thanks for checking out my work and I hope to see you around on my page! Thanks!

 

Enjoy some more of Matthew Goldberg’s images

 

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg

Matthew Goldberg

 

The Many Visual Worlds of Mitchel Wu Toy Photography

 

Mitchel Wu

For Mitchel Wu, it’s easy to get lost into a world of fantasy and alternate realities…and emerge with the images to tell the tale of the journey.

Wu is a former wedding photographer who eschewed the “Bridezilla in favor of Godzilla” as a professional toy photographer.

These days, Wu crafts stories through his photography using real-time effects, doing so for the likes of Disney, Marvel and Funimation, as well as Hasbro, Hot Wheels and lots more.

Wu graciously took some time recently to answer some questions about toy photography and offer some tips for shooting your own images.

Make sure to check out his website here.

Mitchel Wu

How and when did you get started in photography?

Prior to toy photography, I was a wedding and portrait photographer for seven or eight years. In 2015 my daughter Angie was entering high school and I realized I had a limited number of weekends left to spend with her before she headed to college. Weddings are weekend killers so I decided to stop shooting them. I serendipitously came across toy photography at almost the exact same time. Although I felt toy photography was strange, I was thoroughly intrigued by it. We all played with toys as kids, but most of us eventually grew out of them and moved on to other things. Rediscovering toys as an adult has been amazing. Once I took my first toy photo I was hooked and never looked back.

What was your first one and how did you come up with the idea?

My first toy photo was taken during an outing with my nephew. Coming from wedding photography, I had all of the photo gear but none of the toys. My nephew ended up loaning me a couple of stormtrooper action figures to shoot. I set them up in the crook of a tree, without any thought about why they’d be there except for the fact that it looked cool, and snapped the shutter. Of course now, five years later, a major component of my toy photography is storytelling. It’s been a learning process and an amazing journey.

Mitchel Wu

What are your personal favorites to shoot?

Much of my toy photography is driven by nostalgia. I’m inspired by the movies, tv shows, books and comic books that impacted me as a kid, or just as likely the movies, tv shows and books that impacted my daughter as she was growing up. Angie and I watched Toy Story and other Disney and Pixar movies together dozens of times, which is why you’ll see me creating a lot of Toy Story images.  

The children’s book Where The Wild Things Are was also one of her favorite bedtime stories, and that has led to my creating quite a few images inspired by that classic as well.  But in a more general sense, my images are driven by stories.  If I see a toy that sparks my imagination then I’m going to buy it. That has led to a rather eclectic toy collection!

What is it about the toy images that has you hooked?

It really comes down to the creativity and storytelling, two things that, for me, go hand in hand (or sometimes claw in claw!). It’s an art form that is truly limited only by one’s imagination.

Mitchel Wu

Do you shoot anything else?

Not professionally. I still have people asking me to photograph portraits and weddings, but I will always refer them to friends and former colleagues that do that as a career. I like to jokingly say that I’ve gone from shooting Bridezilla to shooting Godzilla! But honestly, I never encountered a single Bridezilla in the hundreds of weddings I photographed. Now Momzillas…that’s a different story!

Having said that, I am a voracious monster when it comes to taking photos and videos with my iPhone. I use it like a visual journal, where I’ll take quick photos throughout the day to help remember that day by. It can be of the most innocuous moments too. But you know the old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words. For me one image can bring back the memory of an entire day.

Mitchel Wu

Without giving away any of your secrets, do you use a special camera or anything like that?

I really don’t have any secrets. I post a lot of behind the scenes on my social media channels so that anyone who’s interested can see how I construct and shoot my images.  I think doing this helps drive the art form forward. But as far as gear, I used a lot of what I had from my wedding photography days. That included my Canon 5D Mark III.

Much of that gear transferred over to toy photography nicely, especially my lenses. But there were some areas that I needed to adjust, primarily my lighting. At weddings I used to use several speedlights (flashes) to light my clients and the various rooms they’d be in throughout the course of their wedding day. I tried using those same lights for toy photography but found that they were overkill for such little subjects. So after trying a lot of different lights I found some phenomenal LED lights from a company called Litra Gear. Light is one of the most important aspects of photography and I can honestly say that switching to Litra was a game changer for me.

But back to my camera, I just purchased my first new camera in almost 10 years, the Canon R6. The technology has made huge leaps in that 10 years so I’m excited to use that in my toy photography.

Mitchel Wu

How long does it take to create an image?

It can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to set up, shoot and then edit an image. It really depends on the complexity of the setup and scene I’m creating, if there are multiple characters, and if those characters are in intense, often gravity-defying poses. Most of the effects you see in my images – liquids splashing, explosions, fire, dirt and debris flying about, etc. – are created using practical effects. This means they are real effects created in real time, not effects created digitally. Honestly, creating those effects can be one of the most fun and exciting parts of a shoot. Who wouldn’t want to blow off some fireworks during the course of their workday?

Do you have any advice for someone who would like to get into toy photography?

With toy photography you can actually do a lot with very little. You don’t need an expensive camera – there are toy photographers who create amazing images using just their phone’s camera. And you don’t need a studio. I create different worlds and universes on my porch, in my backyard, on my kitchen table, and anywhere else I feel fits the story I’m trying to tell. Photograph toys that you have an emotional connection to as that almost always comes through in the image.

And lastly, tell stories.  Stories are ultimately what will make your images impactful and memorable. You can start telling stories based on what you know about the characters. Or you can make up entirely new stories about them. The sky’s the limit!

Mitchel WuMitchel WuMitchel WuMitchell Wu