Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Toy Photographer Sunny Ang Shares About Telling Epic Tales in Tiny Worlds

A couple of years back, while bashing through the jungles of social media, scouting for interesting Star Wars toy photos, Red Dot Diva found an Instagram account called zekezachzoom.

She browsed through his feed and could not help chuckling at the eye-catching images, usually featuring action figures or Lego minifigures in funny and sometimes very localised situations. The best part of the photos were the accompanying witty one-liners. Even now, those amusing photos help brighten up her day. Like, giant smiles guaranteed.

Since then, Red Dot Diva has gotten to know Sunny Ang, the owner of the Instagram account, in real life. He is chatty, amiable and Red Dot Diva gets the sense that he has a stream of creative ideas buzzing in his head.

As they say, when one finds good stuff, one must SHARE the good stuff. So, world at large, here's an interview with hobby toy photographer Sunny Ang.

Red Dot Diva: Hi Sunny! Tell the folks out there a little about yourself.
Sunny: Firstly, thanks for this opportunity to share my thoughts on this hobby. My name’s Sunny Ang and my online moniker is zekezachzoom. I have been on my own as a graphic designer for the past 20 years. I only got involved with toy photography two years ago, when I stumbled upon the toy photography community on Instagram.

Red Dot Diva: What got you interested in toy photography?
Sunny: One fine day, feeling rather bored, I fooled around with a Spider-man action figure and took a shot of him overlooking the neighbourhood. I liked how life-like he looked and posted it on Instagram. Subsequently, I discovered the huge and very supportive toy photography community there.

Red Dot Diva: Who are your inspirations when it comes to toy photography?
Sunny: That’s a pretty tough question. There are so many inspiring photographers, and that’s just on Instagram alone! If I have to pick, then it would have to be Vesa Lehtimaki aka avanaut. He does pretty amazing compositing work and his lighting work is fantastic. I would also like to mention the following as people I try to learn more from: Johnny Wu aka sgtbananas, Matt Rhode aka CaptainKaos , Mitchel Wu aka mitchelwuphotography

Red Dot Diva: On average, how long does it take to shoot one of your photography ideas?
Sunny: I usually spend about an hour or so on each photo. It depends on the setup. I think the longest one was around 4 hours.

Red Dot Diva: What are the main challenges faced while doing your projects? Any major lessons learnt from these experiences?
Sunny: Posing for a convincing shot and setting up the scene is always a challenge. A minor tweak to the head or any other part of the body can help sell the shot. Especially eye contact when shooting multiple figures interacting. Also, when the figures fall down, they tend to bring each other down. We call this the domino effect. 

Some days, I sweat buckets moving from camera to scene, making slight adjustments because the figures are not in the proper pose or position or have fallen down. So, learning the best way to secure the figure’s position is important to an enjoyable shoot.

Red Dot Diva: Of all the photos you've done, which is your personal favourite? Why?
Sunny: My personal favourite would be the one where the Snowtroopers from Star Wars share a drumstick with a Wampa. It had heart and draws you in. I liked the lighting in it too, cause it gave a warmth , fuzzy feeling.

Red Dot Diva: Is there such a thing as "too much photoshopping"?
Sunny: Everyone has an opinion on this and mine is whatever works to tell the story, practical effects or otherwise. Is like watching a special effects laden movie. If the effects doesn’t compliment the story, then it’s not effective, even if it was fantastically done.

Red Dot Diva: Isn't collecting toys an expensive hobby? How do you manage your finances concerning this? 
Sunny: HAHAHAHA! I have to be careful with this answer, least my wife sees this article. I kid! On the contrary, she has been very supportive of me in this hobby. I pay my bills and mortgages first and foremost and then indulge myself after these are cleared. Also, I don’t collect the REALLY EXPENSIVE toys. There is a limit I will spend on any figure. If it is something that’s really awesome ( I love this so much, but NOT US$500 MUCH), but out of my budget, I will just have to let it go.

I usually buy my figures from Carousell. Occasionally, I do come across some good bargains. On some occasions, when some of these sellers found out about my hobby, they offered to lend me some of their figures to shoot! Speaking of which, I have also met a few of such generous people at events and talks and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their offer! Lastly, when I go on photo safari with my toy photography friends from Facebook group Plastic Singapore, we share our toys too.

Red Dot Diva: Talking about Plastic Singapore, tell us more about the group. What do you guys do, and how often you meet? 
Sunny: Plastic Singapore was created when I met Vince Li at Maker Faire 2014. We exchanged Instagram accounts at the event after finding out we had the same interest in toy photography. Vince, inspired by Stuck In Plastic, suggested a local toy safari. The latter is a US group who, amongst other things, organises annual outdoor shoots with toys as the main subject.

At the same time, I had just started the Facebook page, Plastic Singapore to post photos of toys caught in unique Singapore situations. With not much content then, I converted it to a platform to coordinate future outings, mostly to places which are due for demolition. It has evolved to a platform to share shooting tips as some members post behind-the-scene shots. This makes the final shots even more fascinating as the setup can sometimes be very simple. It’s also a great way to make new friends and learn from one another. We usually arrange outings on a monthly basis.

Red Dot Diva: What do you think makes your photography different from the rest?
Sunny: When I first started, it has always been about the humour. I think that is my strength. I try to inject wit and humour with short captions. Let the viewer work out the joke rather than telling them directly. If I get just one smiley or an LOL in the comment section, I would have accomplished my mission.
Red Dot Diva: I have lost count how many times I've LOL-ed after seeing your photos!

Red Dot Diva: What is your project wish list?
Sunny: I would be very proud to be able to have a book published.

Red Dot Diva: Any tips for toy photographers who are starting out?
Sunny: Shoot more. Shoot often. Look for inspiration but create your own style. The internet is full of resources. Look for the Instagram toy photography community. Post photos there with appropriate hashtags. People are generally very supportive there and the comments will keep you motivated. 

Also, there is a small movement happening now on Google plus platform too, with regards to toy photography. Search Youtube for TOY PHOTOGRAPHY. There are lots of tips and tricks you can pick up. On Facebook, you can check out other people’s setup. Or join Plastic Singapore on their toy safari.

Red Dot Diva: What do you hope to achieve in the coming talk and workshop at library@orchard this weekend?
Sunny: I hope to share some tips and tricks and also create more awareness to this art form. That way, people who buy certain toys can express their love for a particular character beyond displaying them.


Red Dot Diva has collected some of Sunny's toy photo prints because they are simply irresistible. Here are some of the latest that she acquired during May the 4th Celebrations 2017:

A post shared by Red Dot Diva (@reddotdiva) on


Sunny Ang will be giving a talk called "Tiny Worlds, Epic Tales" at library@orchard on 1 July, 2:30PM to 3:30PM.

There are only 6 places left so if you want to hear him share about his experiences and gather some practical tips about toy photography, go register for a seat now!

He will also be conducting a series of toy photography workshops at library@orchard on these dates at 2:30PM to 4:30 PM:
- 8 July
- 22 July
- 29 July

No pre-registration is required for these events.

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