Toy Photography

Toys and miniatures can offer an interesting challenge and creative opportunities for photography. Artist Michael Paul Smith has created an innovative miniaturized version of a fictional American town he calls Elgin. This is done by taking pictures of toy cars using a technique called “forced perspective;” shooting the cars at an angle which leaves them looking life-sized to the camera lens.

The project has taken 25 years. A book of his photographs of the mid-20th century town he created was released in 2011. Smith’s techniques create incredible in-camera effects, which, with time, and the right equipment, offer a fun challenge for even amateur photographers.


Lenses, angels, and aperture speeds are important to trick photography. Taking pictures of toy cars works best in a macro lens camera, which has larger sensors to let more light in, and which can blur the background of the image. The more lens options you have, the more options for shooting your project, and the details to take into consideration. If a toy car is a bit banged up, the angle could hide the chipping paint entirely, or the aperture speed might allow a viewer to see every detail, if the viewer is looking at a miniature wrecking yard or abandoned vehicle. An extension tube allows for further optical close-ups, while a remote shutter allows a photographer to take a picture without touching a camera that has been carefully placed to allow for the right angle. But even the best equipment can only go so far. For more hints, and a more extensive list of equipment to use while shooting miniatures, visit Picture Power.


The most important aspect of photographing toy cars, or indeed any photography, is attention to detail. Toys, whether cars, dolls, action figures, or miniatures, offer interesting creative challenges, but have the added appeal of being static objects which, with time and effort, can create incredible imaginative effects.