Two mugs of oat soda for table 3

Or: “Why I do suck taking pictures of Nendoroids.”

In the field of photography, taking pictures from figurines or toys is a pretty niche part. But even in this small realm of light recording enthusiasts there is one section overshadowing all the other ones with ease. I’m of course talking about taking pictures of Nendoroids.

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When first released at Wonder Festival in 2006 those roughly 10 centimeter mini figures took the world of collectors and photographers by storm. Good Smile Company stroked gold with this series of posable and interchangeable characters.  More than ten years after Neko Arc’s release there are now over 700 characters from various anime series, games and other shows you can choose. Meaning that on average more than 60 new figures will be released over the course of one year and GSC is showing no signs of slowing down there tight release schedule.

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But what is all the fuzz about?

In my opinion Nendos are that popular among toy photographers mainly because of three reasons:

  • First, they are adorable! No matter how firm you are, someday there will be one of those mini figures from your favorite show and you will go “awwwww” and buy it.
  • Second, they are relatively cheap. Of course the prize for Nendoroids went up quite a bit over the years, but on the other hand they now come with even more accessories and swappable parts.
  • Third and most importantly: You can not only collect and put them on display, the interchangeability means you can also play with those mini figures as well.

So rather than a scale figure that is unchangeable and has a given theme, Nendos can be posed, changed and combined with a sheer amount of parts and facial expressions.  This leads to a much more creative approach when taking pictures. And also there is this tiny convenience that Nendoroids tend to have the perfect size for matching with 1/12 doll house interior.

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So why not doing more Nendoroid photos?

As stated in the opener, I tend to suck when it comes to taking pictures of Nendos. First of all our collection still isn’t that big. Currently we do held about ten figures and the collection is slowly growing but it is far away from being impressive.  In my entire career as a toy photographer I only shot three pictures with Nendoroids. In hindsight none of them was a great picture and I disliked them shortly after finishing the projects. There even was I time when I disliked Nendos as a whole but nowadays I simply realize that is only my lack of skill that prevents me from taking astounding compositions.

So hopefully this picture of my sushi shop diorama is the beginning of a new era where I get slightly better in this very popular genre of toy photography. I want to improve myself when it comes to positioning and angles so that maybe one day my skills hold up to the current standards of mini figure photography.

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Thoughts about the picture:

Since this was my first attempt in doing a Nendo doll house setting I had no plan how to take a charming shot. My basic Idea was to use Ika-chan as a waitress since she is also doing this on the show. Then I looked for some of my Nendos who come with a drunken or at least funny face to have them as restaurant guest and I also wanted at least four figures on one shot to make it look crowded and enlivened. Since I currently own only around ten of those small figures I hadn’t much to choose from. So my choice fell on Nozomi and Kanna as well as Cyan as the cook.

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For an inexperienced photographer (of Nendos) like me the arrangement of the figures was really hard. Most of the time I ended up using adhesive pads to mount the Nendos without their crane and to keep small objects in place. Naturally I worked from the back to the front when setting up the figures but nevertheless it took me quite a while until I finally could pull the shutter.

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About the sushi shop set:

This was my first doll house set I worked on. I received it as a Christmas present from a friend and it sat on my shelf for way too long until I finally started working on it. On first glance the set looked very detailed but some of the prefabricated elements did look rather cheap and unpleasant. Especially when you plan is to take macro pictures of it. Over the building process I did a couple of pictures so I can show you some of the modifications and where I altered the original set.

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First I changed the whole ground and wall texture. The included texture was rather pixelated and printed on glossy paper. So I used real wood for the parquet, balsa wood for the front as well as a stone pattern for model trains for the side walk. I also replaced the wallpaper inside the shop with one that I liked more.

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Since the tatami mat that comes with the set is just a piece of cloth I ordered a beach mat and exchanged it with the original. Unfortunately this was a reoccurring theme with this set that some of the supplied materials were really cheap and inappropriate while other things were just fine.

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The furnishings remained mostly original. I only drilled some holes in the tables and bar stools for easier assembling.  I also painted the stools silver to imitate the look of metal.

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The store window and the front in general might be the most altered part of the set since the whole thing is now made out of wood and also the lanterns are now in a traditional red instead of the included Sakura pattern. And since I didn’t want to have the shop sign and Noren as generic as they came out of the box I also replaced them with self-made designs.

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After finishing the whole kit I also ordered some extra doll house kitchen supplies online. Especially the plates are essential since the original ones are just made out of paper cones.

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Here you can see the completed Sakura Sushi Shop set photographed in daylight on my balcony. Like I said it was the first time I did a model set like this and even without any figures it’s a very lovely piece of decor for my sideboard. The only sad thing about it is that you most likely will only see either the front or the inside of the doll house when it sits on a shelf. I was thinking about buying an electric rotating table for shooting figure reviews. And if the table is not in use I might put the sushi set on it.

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Conclusion:

Nendoroids are easily the number one motive when it comes to figure photos. Nowadays groups and sites are filled with brilliant looking sets and compositions from well-known photographers. But even if it looks so simple in concept it isn’t something that one can achieve overnight. The fact that you can pose and combine their parts make up for endless possibility but it also opens quite a few chances to mess it up.

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I learned it the hard way: “Maybe the picture would have looked better with the right arm raised a little bit more?” “Maybe the posture isn’t that great?” “Oh crap, one shoulder joints is about to pop out…” You see, there are quite a few unique problems that you most likely will never face when shooting a 1/8 scaled figure.

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Canon EOS 5D, 90mm Macro lense / ISO 100 / Exposure time 1.6 sec. / aperture: 22n

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Time and effort:
It took my about 3 weeks of spare time to build the sushi shop set with all the improvements. The shooting itself with all the assembling and positioning of the figures took me about 2-3 hours.

Costs

Costs of the props:
The sushi shop was a present but I saw it online for about 40 Euro or less. The additional material and set pieces cost another 15-20 Euro.

 

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