Inside Look: The Making of our Toy Story Themed Shoot

The Behind-the-Scenes Scoop!

With my son Dean’s first birthday fast approaching, I knew Toy Story was the perfect theme for his milestone photos. Naturally I began with the first step anyone would take when brainstorming for a themed session--I began to watch Toy Story! Carefully watching, listening, and taking it all in, I immediately knew I had to use Andy Davis as my subject. The opening scene Andy is wearing a bright green shirt, blue shorts, and a red cowboy hat (shown below). This was it. This was the outfit I was going to use! Certainly not your average outfit for a Toy Story theme, but hey, I like things that aren’t average.

With the outfit in mind I quickly started to search the interwebs for these items. It didn’t take long before I found the perfect outfit in the perfect sizes. It seemed to all be coming together. That was until I began searching for the original Toy Story toys from the 1995 film…

I quickly turned to eBay for items like Bo Peep, Treasure Troll, See ‘n Say, and Hamm. I turned to Toy’s R Us for the Bucket of Soldiers, Mr. Potato Head, the Magic 8-Ball, Barrel of Monkeys, and Rex. I drove to the Disney Store for Woody and Buzz Lightyear. I luckily found Slinky on Amazon for a great deal, and even found the Etch a Sketch at Target on sale! Needless to say I did some digging around, and was fortunate enough to find a good chunk of what I needed for my theme.

The cardboard boxes were hand drawn by my teenage son Timothy. He has done all my “kid drawings” for many projects in the past. There is just such an authentic quality when a child draws something VS an adult. I am very grateful for his help, he did a great job replicating the boxes in Andy’s room. 

Once I had all the toy props, boxes drawn, and outfit, it was showtime!

That day I had my husband Anthony entertain our son Dean, behind the scenes with a talking-singing robot puppy. Lucky for me Dean is not afraid of the camera, I’m sure he’s gotten used to the big ole’ thing in front of my face since the day he was born! Getting his attention to the camera, took a simple call of his name, getting him to laugh or smile took a few silly phrases or the push of a button to his talking-singing robot puppy. The biggest struggle during shooting was how quickly he changed head direction, and general movement. There was a lot of “repositioning”, he would crawl away from the set, or try to take off his hat. For half the session I switched to ‘continuous shooting’ mode in order to compensate for how quickly he’d move away from the position we wanted him in. Thankfully I never set my shutter speed below 1/125 for very small children. This helps heaps when trying to nail that photo without the blurry hand etc. And as much as I love to shoot wide-open, I was forced to shoot at an f-stop average of f/4 to capture my son and the Toy Story set we worked so hard to put together.

I also added a few detailed images inspired from scenes that caught my attention during the movie. One of my favorite detailed photos is the intro with Woody laying on the floor, and Mr. Potato Head’s ear and arm laying near him (image below). Nothing spectacular, but it’s such an organic part of the film I really wanted to add that to this collection. To me, it’s the details that really “glue” things together, and they tell a story all their own! 

I think I watched Toy Story every day for a week and a half before the session took place. I used this time to not just delve into the world I wanted to recreate, but used it as a time to bond with my three boys over a classic film.

And just like that, I went from watching a movie with an idea in my head--to tangible photographs!

Until the next adventure! Don’t forget to “hold on to the magic”!

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