After 6 years of photographing brides and grooms, Salt Lake City native Mitchel Wu found himself craving moments with his family. The life of a wedding photographer is definitely driven by stress, constantly working off of narrow time-frames and picky clients so it isn’t a surprise why Mitchel wanted to shift gears and find something that fit his schedule.
At the end of 2015, as Wu was phasing out of wedding photography, he was introduced to the art of toy photography. He had all the gear from his career in weddings but lacked the subject matter. We first saw Mitchel posting in the SLRL Facebook community, hoping to inspire his peers with his work in toy photography.
I love telling stories, and I think most people would agree that photography, like most art forms, is first and foremost about telling stories. I immediately saw the potential to tell these fun, amazing stories through toy photography and never looked back. Every single one of us played with toys when we were kids. As most of us grow up we stop playing with toys, and move on to other interests. Toy photography became a way for me to rekindle that love I used to have with toys – it’s so much fun!
his toys of choice
What we found most surprising was that Mitchell doesn’t own a macro lens, which is usually the weapon of choice for photographing smaller objects. Instead his arsenal stems from his years as a wedding photographer:
- Canon 5D Mark III
- A range of Canon L lenses: 35L, 50L, 24-70L Mark II, 70-200 2.8L, and the 135L (his most used lens and likely why he doesn’t need a macro)
- Canon and Yongnuo speedlights
- MagMod MagSphere & Modifiers
- Lowepro bags, Spider Holster, SOG Tools and Manfrotto tripods
He uses speedlights for toy photography for the same reasons wedding photographers prefer them: portability and ease of setup. He is often photographing the toys in remote locations so having a portable set up is what works best for him.
to infinity & beyond
What sets Mitchel apart is his persistence, accuracy, and dedication to make his special effects as real as possible. “I use practical effects in my images, meaning almost all the effects you see in my images are real and were photographed realtime in the scene. Splashing liquids, fire, smoke, airborne dirt and debris, raw runny eggs”.
Just to give you an understanding of his process, the above image took about 12 takes and 8 eggs to get just right. He recently started using Atmopshere Aerosol, one of our favorite creative effects, to create fog and haze without having to worry about it in Photoshop. Wu aims to create these masterpieces in one single shot (can you even imagine the amount of work?!) but won’t rule out compositing if it makes the shot stronger and adding finishing touches in Lightroom. His latest tool that has helped with efficient post-production? The Wacom Intuos Pro tablet and pen tool.
Mitchel now works with companies like SOG tools and Mattel in crafting incredible artworks with his ingenuity and craft. His perseverance in the photo industry teaches us that the path you are on isn’t necessarily the correct path. He built his toy photography portfolio off the same fundamental understanding of lighting and portraiture that he carried through his 6 year career in the wedding industry.
CREDITS: Photographs by Mitchel Wu are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.