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© Ute Reckhorn

© Ute Reckhorn

Standing in My Own Way

  • 4 min read

As a visual artist of nearly 30 years, I thought I was through standing in my own way. I thought I was through dealing with my inner creative demons (imposter syndrome, fear of failure, rejection, etc.). Turns out I was wrong. It seems that I've been telling myself stories that are impeding my ability to take silly and happy toy photos.


How I began standing in my own way


As a toy photographer, I'm often asked how I got started. Honestly, I don't know. It simply happened, much like life. But this is not the answer anyone wants to hear. So, I blurt out some random words about family, my love of the LEGO brick, and discovering Instagram. This answer works most of the time. But it also seems a little random and vague, even to me. So, I've learned to embellish the story.

Taking toy photos has always been a way for me to stay occupied. Frankly, I'm not very good at staying still. Whenever we go hiking, road tripping, or simply head to the beach, I always have toys and my camera with me. Toy photography is how I keep sane while everyone is reading and relaxing.


"As a visual artist of nearly 30 years, I thought I was through standing in my own way."

This habit turned into the simple story that I like to take my toys on adventures with me. Taking toy photos is how I experience nature as well as how I document my travels. Toys and photography is my excuse for having my own adventures. While all this is true, these stories solidified into this is theonly way I can take toy photos. I canonly take them while on vacation, in the woods, or on an adventure. How did this simple story to help people understand my weird hobby change into a self-limiting belief?


Instead of having fun while on a family adventure, family adventures became another work opportunity. Adventure time became work time because this is theonlytime I can take toy photos. Can you see how a simple story turns into just another self-imposed roadblock where I'm standing in my own way?


How I stopped standing in my own way

It's pretty darn hard to get out of your own way when you don't even know you're standing in your own way. With the start of the Covid pandemic, nature became many more people's refuge. Trails that normally saw a few folks on the weekend were suddenly overrun. The cities emptied out, and the forest became crowded and a little scary. And, of course, traveling to fun places was off the table for the time being. What did this leave? My yard. The one place I've been telling myself I can't photograph in because it's too ugly, the houses are too close, there is no grand horizon, etc.

Guess what? I was wrong.


Because the drive to take toy photos is strong for me, I was forced to figure out how to take photos in my own yard. The key to breaking through my internal roadblocks was using a longer lens. It turns out that this choice and occasionally using a black and white treatment were the keys I was looking for. Sure, the neighbor's house is still too close, my own house is the color of orange brick, and large trees dominate the horizon, but somehow, I can make it work. Now when I have a photo idea, I simply go outside into the yard and figure it out. So far, this technique is working well. I've managed to capture a few images that qualify as some of my favorites.


This is how I shoot any macro photography, but it is especially useful when using the OMNI. Instead of moving my focus ring to focus while I'm shooting, I focus my camera as close as possible, moving closer or further from my subject to nail focus. It's complicated to turn a focus ring and hold a mirror and a camera all at once, so this tip is really a game-changer!


In conclusion, I will leave you with this quote by Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt: "To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them."



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Shelly Corbett

Shelly is a long-time art photographer residing in Seattle, Washington. You can connect with Shelly through her frequent toy photography workshops, at art shows where she sells her photography or on the community-oriented blog ToyPhotographers.com that she founded.



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