Matthew Barnett

Matthew Barnett

Toy Photographer

For this week’s Under the Macro, we’re excited to bring you a look at Matthew Barnett. Matthew shares some insights as to his process and gives us a peek at what he puts into his work. Shooting his favorite characters, Matthew brings a sense of motion and action to his shots. We know this week that you’ll enjoy everything that Matthew has to share and be sure to follow Matthew online both through Facebook and Instagram.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, and where you’re from.

I am a father and musician, I am from Omaha, Nebraska.

When you’re not photographing toys, what do you do for a living?

I work for a children’s home, as a child care specialist.

When did you get started with toy photography?

I started collecting in 2009 right before my daughter was born, I kept them mint until 2016, that’s when I started opening them, taking pictures, and posting them on Instagram.

Is there a specific type of toy you like to shoot the most? Brand, type or size?

I really love Mezco, Marvel Legends, Mafex, and Revoltech. 1/12 scale is the only scale I shoot, I love Marvel and DC figures.

Before you started taking your own shots, did you have any interest in the world of toy photography?

Yes, I really loved Al Figures’ work, his work with dioramas and toy photography definitely got the spark going with wanting to get into the hobby with the collection I already had.

“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?

Like I mentioned before, I was already collecting them for about 7 years before I started using my collection to take photos.

In the beginning, do you feel there was a learning curve?

Yeah definitely, once I got going, especially with Articulated Comic Book Art, the guys there taught me most of what I know now. Huge shout out to ToyLoverCrew and Behind the Scenes International for the help as well!

What is the hardest part about toy photography?

The hardest part is probably between the camera angle and balancing the figures so they don’t domino each other!

If you could go back and impart a bit of wisdom to yourself when you were just starting out, what would you tell yourself?

If I could go back and talk to myself when I was just starting out, I would tell myself, “lighting is key!”

What can you explain and share about of your process?

I close my eyes and envision an idea, the characters I want, the background, the diorama, the scene, action, comedy, etc. After I get the picture in my head, I begin to lay out the figures I want to use, the diorama/backdrop, and any props I want to add. Then I start to match what I saw in my head to the setup in front of me, balancing the figures, hanging them with wire, anything I need to get the best possible result. Lastly, I get my tripod and attempt to get the best angle with the scene I have displayed.

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When you’re looking for ideas of types of images to take, what do you do?

Google the character, the comic book, the movie, watch a comic book movie or show, or simply close my eyes and try to imagine a shot that would look dope.

Can you tell us about your equipment?

Sure, I have a handmade 2’X2’X2′ wooden diorama box that I put a 32″ LED television screen on and any poster board or foam based diorama I want to use. On top of the wooden box, I have the top of a cooking grill so I can use fishing line to hang characters in midair. I use a Canon Rebel XS to shoot, and a tripod to place the camera on to avoid blurriness. I use 9w-16w daylight bulbs as most of my light sources.

How do you display your photos?

I display my photos on my Facebook page, and on my Instagram account.

What is your favorite image or series of images you’ve taken?

Probably the shot with Spider-Man swinging through a cracked wall about to hit Lizard, I had it put on a canvas and is currently in my living room.

What type of photos do you feel are the hardest to take and why?

Shots with a lot of people, hard to capture everything going on in a smooth fashion instead of it appearing chaotic.

What was the most challenging photo you’ve taken or attempted to take?

A picture that was very challenging was a decent Guardians of the Galaxy shot, I attempted twice and just gave up both times. No idea why, but they were by far the most difficult shots I’ve encountered so far.

How much do you rely on staging and how much on post-production processing?

All staging, literally maybe 15 minutes of post processing for each shot.

Other than your camera, do you have a favorite piece of equipment?

I love the diorama box I created, I use it for every shot, very useful.

Be sure to follow Matthew online through these platforms:

Toy To Life Series Branding-11 300-1Do you love toy photography?

Want to take your photography to the next level? 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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