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Wedding Photographer Finds New Purpose As Special FX Toy Photographer

By Shivani Reddy on April 3rd 2017

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:


A post shared by SLR Lounge (@slrlounge) on

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.

To see more of his work, follow Mitchel on Instagram and Facebook.

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.

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Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

Q&A Discussions

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  1. drbrian duke

    With such strong words, and such dedication to
    safety and superiority —including a one year, bumper-to-bumper limited warranty
    on everything except the battery on most of their vehicles —it’s no wonder why kids ride wild Fisher Price considers
    Power Wheels to be one of their “core products.”
    ride wild

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  2. Jean-Francois Perreault

    I recently bought a couple of figures to try Toy Photography. It’s a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon :)

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