By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung
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You would be forgiven for thinking that the following images are created using Photoshop - but complete with real fire and coffee splashes, Mitchel Wu’s images are all shot in real-time.
Using plastic toy characters from family-favourite films such as Toy Story, Star Wars, ET and The Muppets, the California-based photographer puts the plastic characters into surreal situations.
The art school graduate said: “There are three main components that I always try to hit with my toy photography - story, emotion and effects.
“I like to create images and stories around a variety of characters and toys, I probably have one of the more diverse bodies of work out there today.
“One day I might photograph Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, the next I might do something with some Marvel characters or Star Wars, and then the next day I might photograph Kermit the Frog. It really depends on my mood and the type of story I want to tell on any given day!”
All elements in Wu’s photos are captured in real time, including the messy liquid splashes, toothpaste shots, and smoke scenes.
Each image can take Mitchel anywhere from two to six hours to complete.
He said: “A simpler image might take a total of an hour or less from start to finish - setup, photography and then editing.
"But a more complex image - like the image of Woody cracking an egg into a pan - can take much longer. Just the setup on that image probably took two hours.
“To get a shot that I liked where the egg and yolk seemed to pour smoothly out of its shell and into the pan…in reality it was not smooth at all haha!
"Once that yolk clears the edge of the shell it seemed to move at the speed of light...very difficult to capture in a satisfying way that matched my original vision.
“So when all is said and done, a really complex image can take six hours or more from start to finish.”
For Wu, the most challenging images to create tend to be the scenarios that feature splashing liquid.
Mitchel explained: “From a technical standpoint, the images with splashing liquids can be the most challenging to nail. I'm using real water, real coffee, and real milk in these shots and you really can't control exactly how something is going to splash.
“This generally means it's going to take multiple takes to get the splash I like. These also tend to be the messiest images to create, and require a lot of cleanup!”
Wu, originally from Salt Lake City, started his career as a wedding photographer and was introduced to the world of toy imagery by his nephew.
He said: “It seemed like the oddest thing to me - kind of weird, but also kind of cool.
“I mean, we all played with toys as children, but most of us eventually grew out of them and moved on to other interests.
"I was a full time wedding and portrait photographer at the time, and my nephew invited me to go and shoot some toys with him. I eventually took him up on his offer and once I did I was hooked. Never looked back.”
Mitchel’s wife and 16-year-old daughter are also big fans of his creative toy photography and often help him to create scenes.
And it’s not only his family that are keen for his work, with over 12,000 followers on Instagram, Wu has received nothing but positive feedback.
He said: “The reaction is always overwhelmingly positive! And the pattern is always the same - first they try to take it in and process what they're seeing. Then the jaw drops, followed by incredible excitement and enthusiasm...which is almost always followed by, 'How?!’"
“Most people have never seen creative toy photography like this. They are more familiar with the static toy photography often seen in catalogues and store advertisements, but nothing where the toys seemed to have come to life.
"Even the most serious, hardened "adult" can't help but smile and laugh when they see my images.”
To see more of Mitchel’s incredible photography, follow him on Instagram or Facebook: