Aurélien Mathieu aka Shobrick
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This week Under the Macro brings you Aurélien Mathieu aka Shobrick, from Paris. With great detail, and an eye for bringing action and motion to all of his toy photographs. Aurélien provides us a glimpse into what it takes to bring his Lego toy photos to life. With great attention to detail, lighting, and effects it is easy to see the joy and excitement that Aurélien brings to his work. Aurélien is a toy photographer that you’re definitely going to want to follow and keep an eye one.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and where you’re from.
I’m 29 years old born in Annecy, in France. I have lived in Paris now for ten years. I’m a huge fan of cinema and visual arts in general.
When you’re not photographing toys, what do you do for a living?
I’m a director and scriptwriter. Five years ago, I started my own audiovisual company called “Quai 19 Production” where I used to make commercial videos and music videos. Now I’m focusing on making short and long feature films.
When did you get started with toy photography?
When I was a kid I used to remake famous movie scenes with my lego, using my eye as a camera and start making my own movie in my head. I’ve started by customizing mini figs and put them in more evolved dioramas. In 2010 I’ve really come to understand how cool pictures with lego could look like in a nice display.
Is there a specific type of toy you like to shoot the most? Brand, type or size?
I’ve photographed some 1/6 scaled toys but I’ve preferred sticking to Lego minifigs because they are pop icons and they offer a large variety of themes.
Before you started taking your own shots, did you have any interest in the world of toy photography?
I started with Playmobil and even have a Warhammer period. Like a lot of boys my age, I was a big fan of Lego. Loved to build the bricks, building spaceships your own and plays with the minifigs is magical for a kid. It helped me express my creativity with endless possibilities.
“I close my eyes and envision an idea, the characters I want, the background, the diorama, the scene, action, comedy, etc.”
Did taking toy photos lead you to collecting toys, or did you already collect them?
I’ve never been into toys collection.
In the beginning, do you feel there was a learning curve?
Sure you can see on my Flickr the progress I’ve made through time. My way of making pictures combines a lot of technics you have to master, photography, posing, practical effects, building and post producing.
What is the hardest part about toy photography?
I would say the hardest part for me is the shooting itself, including lighting and getting the wanted effect on the set. You have lots of ideas in your mind, but sometimes getting it the way you imagine it in the real world is quite tricky.
If you could go back and impart a bit of wisdom to yourself when you were just starting out, what would you tell yourself?
I would say be patient, work hard and keep going up, like for every thing you try to achieve in life.
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What can you explain and share about of your process?
It starts with ideas, written down in a note book or some rough sketches. Then you try to get the right posing of the figs, made for a particular camera angle. If you were to try and shoot the figs I’ve posed from another angle it will look like a mess, because I disarticulate the arms, legs, head, torso and even the hands, to get more motion feeling. Then when I get the right posing and angle I start building the set from the point of view I’m shooting from. I use real wood, polystyrene foam, dirt, ashes, lichen, every material is good to take. It’s the same way they build props in the movies except I’m at Lego scale and it’s photography!
Then when everything is done, I’m getting the camera ready, the lights ready, the practical effects ready, smoke machine, fire-lighting cubes, dry air spray bomb, etc. It takes me quite a long time to get the perfect lighting. Usually, I take one picture then the set and lighting are not right, so I add some trees there, move the light there until I get everything like I want. I can take up to 300 600 shots for one picture, especially when you have to shoot at high speed and in burst mode, to get the perfect frame where the dirt blow is nice!
As you may know, the depth of field is really shallow when you frame small things with a full sensor captor. So I take a picture of every thing I want to be in focus in the shot. In Photoshop I’m using photo-merge tool to mix all the pictures in one and get a bigger depth of field. And most of the time I’m reassembling things, on one picture I’m taking a gun flying in the air, so I’m editing it and moving it where I want in the final composition.
When you’re looking for ideas of types of images to take, what do you do?
Internet, movies, videos games, and graphic comics are a huge source of inspiration. I create an “inspiration” file on my computer and fill it up with artworks, screenshots, pictures related to my theme.
Can you tell us about your equipment?
I’m using a Canon 5D MarkIII with some macro lenses 50mm or sometimes a 35mm. A cobra flash and tungsten mandarine lights.
How do you display your photos?
I’ve got a Flickr and Instagram account. And I’m participating in some exhibitions where I print my Lego pictures.
What is your favorite image or series of images you’ve taken?
My two favorite series are on one hand the Lego star wars series I’ve made for Warner Bros and the promotion of the Lego Star Wars the Force Awakens video game. On the other hand the huge series I’ve made for a dinosaur book that is going to be released at Christmas with Glénat Editions. This is gonna be a gorgeous book written by a paleontologist from the famous Museum of Natural History of Paris and illustrated by some of the best pictures I’ve ever made. Canon France helped me by sending me some lenses. The book is called Lego Dino, it will be available in libraries in France and on amazon.com.
What type of photos do you feel are the hardest to take and why?
The photos that involve live effects, like explosions, or dirt flying, water splash, are the hardest to take. Because the live effects are a bit unpredictable so you have to do it over and over again until you get the right effect. “The modern warfare” picture is made with Bengal fire tightened up together so when u light them up they all explode at the same time. I had to make a lot of artisanal little bombs to get the shot you see there. In fact, almost every shot is different and they all have their own challenges and difficulties. Storm troopers behind enemy lines were hard to make also because I had to build a big forest and it was hard to light it up. I wanted to have rays of light coming through the vegetation roof but never manage to do it. It was also difficult to drop dirt on the figs because I had trees behind their heads. I remember making the trees fall and it is was so fragile!
What was the most challenging photo you’ve taken or attempted to take?
Battle of Geonosis must have been the most challenging one, I had to build the cliff in the background from scratch and the blast effect was quite hard to get. I have to make the shooting two times. The first one I screwed up too many things, but the clone in the foreground is the only thing left from the first shooting.
How much do you rely on staging and how much on post-production processing?
Every practical effect will always look better than CGI, it’s true for movies and photography. I’m getting all my effects in camera. I’m just enhancing it and reassembling things in post production.
Other than your camera, do you have a favorite piece of equipment?
Dry air spray to make things blow in your picture is my best discovery!
Do you love toy photography?
Want to take your photography to the next level?
Bricksdaily.com is excited to announce the upcoming launch of the multipart online video course teaching the ins and outs of taking better photographs of the miniature world. The multi-session series will get you up and running and perfect your skills.
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