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[Sticky] Using forced perspective in LEGO photography

Marco Zanconi
Posts: 126
Core Team
Topic starter
Joined: 2 years ago

If you have seen “The Lord of the Rings” by Peter Jackson, you will have been deceived and at the same time fascinated by the technique used to make the hobbits appear much smaller than humans, when the actors themselves are actually about the same size in real life

And those photos of people seemingly pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Or holding the sun between their fingers? Or defying gravity?

This technique is called "forced perspective" and is basically an optical illusion aimed to make an object appear “different” than it actually is in reality.

Big and Small

For the first example, let’s start with a common forced perspective theme: making one subject look bigger, smaller, closer or farther than the other.

Distance plays an important role here. Place one of the figures in the foreground and the other in the background, paying great attention to their alignment. The distance between the two depends on the size difference you want to achieve. If you want to make one minifigure much smaller, for example, it would have to be placed at a greater distance from the other one.

The more distance you place between the two subjects, the larger depth of field you would need and so you would need to use a small aperture on your camera.

You should be very careful with the position of your light to avoid shadows that can reveal the trick.

Building microscale

In the first tip we talked about distance to create an illusion of size differences but you can play with forced perspective also using your LEGO bricks.

For example, if you want to shoot a city on the background you have two choices:

  • Build a whole minifig-scale city and place it far away
  • Build some microscale buildings and place them where you have a shallow depth of field

First method could be a little bit expensive, so I suggest the second one.

There are plenty of pieces that you can use to make your own microscale palace: technic bricks, plates, various bricks with masonry or grille patterns, 1x1 with studs placed upside down or in different angles and so on. You can experiment and find new ways to see your bricks.

Once built, you should place them carefully in your stage. Is just enough filling the frame to reach the goal, because the most important part is the depth of field.

Shallow depth of field is the key to a successful optical illusion. Too much focus will reveal the trick, with the result of showing some bricks out of place.

On the contrary, if the city is way out of focus, you could miss the critical shapes that identify the buildings.

Try to find the right balance, confuse the shapes just enough to make them recognizable as buildings in a city without revealing the ploy.

Point of View

Another step along the path of forced perspective is playing with point of view. Shadows and aerial angles can both be used in photography to create unusual perspectives. Fortunately with LEGO you don’t need a drone for aerial photography!

Just standing into a high position can present you with a whole new angle and allow you to snap scenes in a different light. This shot, for example, uses both shadow and aerial perspective to create something interesting. The shadows are cast perfectly on the road which gives the impression that you are looking at them from a straight-on angle, instead of the actual top-down angle.

Using the Environment

The last step is interact with the environment.

Play with the environment and merge your minifigures with the surroundings. Use that bokeh as something unexpected coming out of a bottle or catch the sun in a minifig’s hands during a romantic walk. Rich McCor used a cutout of a LEGO minifig upper body and held it in front of his camera so that it looked like the Arc de Triomphe was its legs!

The only limit here is your imagination, you can play with focus as long as the result match your expectations and create an optical illusion that makes people wonder “how did he do that?!?!”

2 Replies
Posts: 103
Core Team
Joined: 2 years ago

lovely shots - especially the wasteland and the vet minifig ones. I've been tempted to try forced perspective shots before, I'll have to get out of my comfort zone and try it

1 Reply
Marco Zanconi
Core Team
Joined: 2 years ago

Posts: 126

Do it! It's easier than it looks like ????