Supporting Elements in LEGO Photography

Posted: September 3, 2021 by Yuri Badiner

This month, I’d like to talk about how to bring static LEGO scenes to life. How to make your minifigures and parts fly, float, and fall convincingly in frame by using supporting elements. There are several methods for fixing the parts and making it unnoticeable for the viewer. This is what the September tips will be about.

Build a supporting element with LEGO parts and place it behind the model

Take a look at the room where time is frozen. In the twilight, you can make out an old wooden table hanging in a cloud of dust, as well as a golden goblet from which a white liquid is pouring. It’s very simple to make such a scene. With this first tip, I’ll show you the easiest way to hang your model and hide the support made of LEGO parts.

I thought in advance of the position of the table model in the frame and the shooting angle in such a way that the supporting element would be hidden from the viewer right behind the model. After the composition has become clear, you can think about how to fix the table. I tried to place the table as far away from the wall as possible so that it does not look unnaturally “sticky” and is approximately in the center of the room.

The supporting element is assembled from a long 1×12 plate and a pair of modified 1×2 plates, together forming a hinge built into the wall. Thanks to this design, I can move the table along several axes at once and adjust its position in case I want to slightly change the shooting angle.

You may also be interested in a goblet of milk.  In fact, it is not fixed and does not actually float in the air. I assembled a very simple construction of white pieces and just set the glass upside down on the horn. I’m sure you’ve seen this many times before. I think it’s a simple, but elegant.

This way I created the illusion of a flying object, using a few LEGO parts and a good camera angle. No complicated designs and no photoshop to hide your trick.

Support your minifigures with floral wire and hide it in the environment

Seems like a patrol of a couple of Black Falcons has been ambushed by the undead. We see how brave knights repel the attack of skeletons right on the run. In this example, there are no parts floating in the air, but there are minifigures that take positions that would be impossible without the use of supporting elements. With this tip, you can depict your characters running, falling, leaning, and so on.

In this scene I used DIY environment, so it is inappropriate and difficult to use a LEGO support element in this case. To keep the minifigures in these positions and not fall over, I used my favorite tools: floral wire and sticky pads.

The sticky pads are a cross between plasticine and gum. They are good because they do not leave marks on LEGO and you can use them as much as you like. You can purchase these from an office supply store.

I placed the wire behind the tree bark so that it would not be visible from my shooting angle and gave the minifigures poses that hide the attachment points behind their backs and legs. This process takes patience, but if you are careful enough, you will definitely succeed. Remember: you don’t need to hide the wire at all, you need to make it so that it is not visible from your viewing angle. First, set up a rough scene, decide on the shooting angle, position the camera securely, and then proceed with the final laying of the wire in the scenery.

This is how I managed to give interesting poses to several minifigures in the frame at once and bring the scene to life.

Hide your supporting elements using special effects

Strange messages comes from the satellite of Jupiter, they say that an explosion occurred there and the droids are unable to cope with the elimination of the consequences. It is not known for certain what exactly led to the emergency at the Ganymede outpost, but we will try to figure out how to make the tiles float in the air and do it imperceptibly using special effects: light and steam.

To hang the tiles, I again used wire and glue pads, but this time part of the wire is clearly visible in the frame, despite the fact that it is out of focus, and something needs to be done about it. Since the visible part of the wire passes through the wide opening in the gate, it is impossible to hide it in the environment.

Bright light and smoke effect will come to help. I positioned the flash directly on the back of the gate and illuminated the wire, making it almost invisible, but if you look closely at the photo, you can still see the wire. Then I sprayed a jet of steam from the face spray through the gate. Combined, the light from the flash and the steam produced a very striking effect that obscured not only the wire, but also its reflection on the floor.  Look at the photo below: on the left there is only flash light, on the right there is light and steam.

Also, I would like to show you how to hang the blue-headed droid minifigure. I assembled a small support element from the LEGO pieces, attached the minifigure to the leg, and covered it’s base with a 2×2 tile.

I hide the wire that supports the other droid on the left side of the main frame using Photoshop, but we’ll talk about that in the next tip.

Hang the parts on a floral wire and hide it with a photo editor

Somewhere on an abandoned stretch of highway, right in the middle of the desert, there is a roadside payphone still working.  Rumor has it that with the help of this payphone, you can call on the other side of life and talk to the passed away people. However, no matter what number the enthusiasts and lovers of old tales dialed, they never managed to get through anywhere. But the day came when someone on the other side picked up the phone, paused for a long time, exhaled cigarette smoke and slowly said: “Who is this?”

In some situations, I need to capture small parts, but the environment in the frame does not allow hiding the supporting elements with the help of a good angle or the use of special effects.

In such cases, a photo editor comes to the rescue. I use Photoshop, but you can use any editor that has the Repair and Stamp tools. Try to place the wire in the frame in such a way that the background behind it is not too difficult to edit, so as not to create additional difficulties for yourself. In my case, only sand is visible in the background, which is very good for simple editing. Despite the fact that in addition to the wire I need to remove from the frame the flexible flashlight that illuminates the payphone, this is not difficult due to the simple background.

The Repair tool is good for spot editing and removing fine lines, but it can leave some noticeable footprint. The Stamp tool copies a portion of the selected area and places it in the desired location. I alternate between the two depending on the situation. It takes some time to understand how it works if you haven’t done it before, because at first glance it might seem that there is practically no difference between the two tools.

Conclusion

In these tips, I showed you two types of support elements – built from LEGO parts and made from floral wire and adhesive pads. Unfortunately, there is no universal and best solution and you will have to apply different types of support depending on the situation, perhaps you will use something completely different.

The LEGO support is reliable and sturdy, and the studs do their job great (as you would expect from a LEGO). Building such things is interesting. However, you can fully apply this method only in environment built from LEGO. Wire support requires more dexterity and patience, is less reliable in terms of grip, but can be used for everything from LEGO environments to DIY decorations. This method is also useful when shooting outdoors.

Whichever option you choose, remember that the better you work on the scenery and supporting elements before shooting, the less time you will have to spend in the photo editor afterwards.

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