German photographer and LEGO enthusiast Andreas (aka photography.andreas) has been on a mission this past year to take test his AFOL photo chops with a project he’s dubbed “LEGO Project 365“. It’s pretty straightforward really: Shoot the equivalent of one photo of minifigs for every single day of 2011. The photo subjects range from minifigs being goofy to serious portraits that really accentuate how well-designed these little buggers can be. What caught my attention, however, wasn’t just the subject matter, but the quality of shots. I got in touch with Andreas to talk a little more about the project to try and learn a thing or two about his excellent LEGO photography.
So what’s the story behind “The Year 2011 | The Project”? How did it all come about?
I’ve been taking photos for more than 15 years. I’ve shot fashion, people and models both indoors and outdoors for a few years. After a certain point I was looking for a new challenge…a new project. In the past, I have [taken on a project where I took] 52 weeks of self-portraits. Each week, [I'd take] a picture of me [as a learning exercise]…that was a great and amazing experience [from which I] collected a lot of practical knowledge. But as I said, I was looking for a new photographic challenge. When, suddenly, my son began to collect LEGO minifigures, I saw my new project in front of me. [Before that] I had been thinking for a long time [about doing] a 365 day LEGO project online. I knew from my 52-week [self-portrait] project that I would get a lot of experience out of [finishing a year-long one]. So I finally just came to the decision to do it.
It seems like when you started you weren’t really sure about what the rules or guidelines for the project would be. Have de facto ones come up as time goes on?
Yes, that’s true. I was not sure about what the rules or guidelines for the project would be. I understood that it would be a difficult and a tight project. I’m still thinking about how [to] arrange my holiday time, but since my rules are a bit “easy” I’m no longer worried. If I cannot upload a picture every day, [an alternative goal] would be [just to make sure that I] have, at the end of the project on the December 31, 2012, 365 pictures. I [can just] try to upload at the and of the month the same amount of pictures as the month has days [to make up for any time I missed]. It will happen that I [end up having] to upload two or more pictures on [any given] day.
Are you a photographer professionally? Are you more of a hobbyist? Perhaps both?
I would like to say I’m a bit of both, or I simply just have fun taking pictures. [I also just enjoy] seeing other people appreciate my work. I like it when people laugh out loud when they see my pictures! That’s a real honor to me.
No doubt. They’re quite hilarious at times, and at others, they’re just beautiful to look at. So what’s your studio set-up like?
It’s quite simple. For my background, I just use some different colored cardboard. For my first light setup, I used some [common] desktop lamps [to light] from the top. For my second light setup, I used cheap lamps from IKEA. They cost about €3, or about $4 to $5. But the really really key element in my setup are the actual light bulbs. The first setup [is seen above in the first two photos]. I wanted to have a “pure” white image, therefore [I got] a new light setup [which helped me achieve a truer] white as you see it [in the third photo above]. Standard incandescent bulbs cast a terrible orange glow that can ruin your shots. I opted for bulbs that had near-perfect light. They’re “daylight” CFL (compact florescent) bulbs that have a color temperature of about 5,000 or 5,500 or less. Incandescent bulbs have color temps around 8,000-9,000 – way, way too orange for any decent photos. Currently I have a “daylight” bulb with “pure white” light. That’s all!
I find that doing something like this on such a repetitive, regular schedule inevitably leads to some learning and discovery about the process. Have there been any technical or compositional “A-ha!” moments that’ve come up yet?
Technical issue? Ohh yes, the dust, [as seen in the first photo above]…you can see [quite a bit] of dust and fluff. [In the second, most of] the dust has gone somehow. That [was a] challenge.
How do you keep the pics from getting redundant?
Have fun playing [with] LEGO, use the right light together with the right blurb, and have fun taking pictures!
Are there any tricks you’ve discovered along the way that help you to keep taking interesting shots or producing quality work?
Some ideas come-up from playing with my son. These are no trick…it’s just fun!
I assume it’s not always easy to stay on top of a project like this with discipline and regularity. (Kinda like running a blog…heh.) How time intensive is this? And do you ever taken a day off?
Oohhh yea… [Smiles.] As i told you [earlier], I will try to upload at the end of the month the same amount of pictures as the month has days. [That means] it will happen that I must upload two or more pictures in a [single] day. But finally, I still have no solution for some days off. The issue is not [necessarily having to take] pictures every day; the issue that I see is [having] to upload [photos] every day.
What’s your workflow like and how long does it take, generally, from set-up to upload?
[Since] the light is always there (because they are my desk lamps), [I just] bring the white cardboard in the right position and angle, use some minifigs, build a scene and don’t forget to turn on the camera, take a shot, double check it in Lightroom, and then upload it. It’s as simple as it is.
Will you make it to 2012?
[Laughs.] That’s still a secret, but I have some new ideas.
If there’s one thing you want viewers to take away after seeing your project, what would it be?
Have fun on the play. Don’t think…just do it, no matter if there are some people [that] think that you’re crazy. [Smiles.] Be an AFOL!
Finally, what effects does Jägermeister have on ABS plastic?
I don’t know, but I think there is no effect.
Who knew minifigs had such strong constitutions?