cover recreation lego comic panel

Lego comic panel recreation - Heavenly forest

This behind the scenes post is on the recreation of the heavenly forest. Actually, this forest is not as heavenly as Darryl hoped for. At this point in the comic, Amida is not in for a friendly talk with our friend.

Heavenly forest – the original panel

Figure 1 below shows the original panel from episode eleven of the first Foolish Lego Comic.

lego-original before recreation
Figure 1; the original heavenly forest.

The original image – positives

There isn’t too much going on in the image. However, the one thing that is going on, i always liked. I felt the posing of Amida as well as Darryl’s face was spot-on.

The original image – Room for improvement

Again the photo suffers from the lack of proper lighting, i remember shooting this image on a table in front of glass garden doors. I also remember this set was really small, just one green plate large. When I didn’t have much to work with, i used a close-up so I didn’t have to worry about the background. Yet, it did not work, if you look very closely, you can even see the corner of he table in left upper edge of the image.

The set in itself is pretty disappointing too… a baseplate and three trees. Pretty remakable the panel worked in the comic, now that I think of it.

In the next panel, Amida hits Darryl over the head with a stick, however, there is no stick in sight in this panel. Also, there is dust all over.

For the recreation I decided to keep what I liked, the posing of the characters (with a small adjustment), and Darryl’s expression.

Heavenly forest – the recreation

Figure 2 below shows the remake of this panel.

Lego photography forest
Figure 2; the recreation of the heavenly forest

The stage

I still used a small set. But filled it with all kinds of different plants and trees. I wanted the feel of a large, dark forest and the original image was far from that. By by changing the angle and using a printed background I feel I was able to create the illusion of a large forest even with using a relatively small stage. Figure 3 shows the behind the scenes.

Lego-photography-forest-behind-the-scenes
Figure 3; behind the scenes

I also gave Amida a stick (behind her back)… this time she is ready to hit darryl over the head ;).

Composition

In stead of a close-up, I went for a Full-shot, showing a little more of the surroundings. This way, Darryl and Amida go up in their surroundings. I used a lower angle and focused on Darryl’s bedazzled face. As compositional help, I used the Fibonacci spiral, making sure there is also enough negative space in the image.

Figure 4; compositional help by the Fibonacci spiral

Color and mood

Dark, gloomy and green are the main colors. I also added a red glow on the back of Amida and the stick, conveying the danger Darryl’s in.

Before and after

Below are the before and after images joined in one image. You can use the slider to show the one or the other.

In conclusion

You don’t need a gigantic set, to create the illusion of grand surroundings like a forest. Play with the angles, background and lighting and I’m sure it’ll work out.

Happy creating!


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storytelling photography tips tricks

Storytelling in Lego photography

Storytelling is one of the most important aspects of Lego-photography. Photos that are nothing more than beautiful will certainly attract your attention and you may be momentarily awed by them, yet, you probably won’t remember them very long. It’s the images that tell you a story, the ones that speak to you, that will linger in your mind for a much longer time.

How does a single image tell stories?

A (Lego-)photo is an image frozen in time. As such, it does not tell the viewer what happened before or what lies ahead. The art of storytelling with a single image involves persuading the viewers to create their own version of a past or future, based on the image you presented them with. In short; a (Lego-)photo doesn’t tell the story, the photo motivates the viewers to create their own personal, emotional stories! And since all people are different, these stories will differ, amongst other things depending on memories, personality and experience.

This also explains why some pictures will tell an elaborate story to one person and are quiet to another. I cannot give you a straightforward recipe. I mean, storytelling through Lego-photograpy can be really hard. However, I can give you a few basic tips to increase the chances of your Lego-photo telling a story.

I need a hero

First off, who or what is the hero in your image? Is it a person, animal or maybe even an inanimate object (for example an old abandoned car, or a lonely house on the hill)? Then ask yourself if your protagonist is interesting enough to make people wonder.  Simply taking a picture of a tree or Lego-minifigure just won’t do it. You’ll have to provide the viewers with some context concerning your hero and ultimately take control of the entire frame. Thus, inviting viewers to (unconsciously) start thinking.

lego photography - lego wizard home potion
Figure 1; Willy, the one-eyed wizard

For example, Figure 1 shows Willy the One-Eyed wizard. As you might know there is an elaborate backstory on him in the first Foolish Lego Comic, and an even more elaborate backstory in my mind. Yet, I wonder, what is your story for him when you see this image? And maybe this Lego-photo fails to tell you a story at all, but, even that is interesting to think about! Why doesn’t it speak to you, what would you have done differently?

 The story is in the details

Second, it may be a good idea to include details! These may be larger or smaller details. And sometimes even the smallest of details may just be enough to get the train of thoughts of the viewer rolling. And a story is born.

Lego photography - Lonely elderly rain
Figure 2; lonely

Figure 2 shows the photo “Lonely”. There are quite a few details in there. For example, the ring and the closed umbrella even though he’s standing in the pouring rain. That alone could trigger a few (love?) stories. Another detail is that the protagonist is an elderly, so maybe he just became a widow? Besides, what is he doing street side, dressed up with a bow tie, but not caring about the rain? Enough to think about.  There are quite a few stories in there as long as the Lego-photo is inviting enough to make people care to look at the image long enough to find the one stories that appeals to them.

Plastic emotions

Third, storytelling through (Lego-)photography is all about emotions! And conveying emotion can be difficult with our little plastic friends, especially because not every facial expression is present in the Lego line-up. Also, body language can be a challenge.

Lego photography - elderly couple happy sunset
Figure 3; good old times

The first thing you need to do is to find a facial expression that fits your image or find a way to work around the facial expression. Take a look at figure 3; I wanted a loving face for the elderly lady, buy could not find one. Yet, by hiding the lady’s face, I myself create the loving face I wanted. On the other hand, other viewers might feel this guy has to make up for something while she is looking quite angry. Again, there are many stories in this one image.

Also, you need to pay attention to the stance of the Lego-minifigures. That is the closest thing to body language they have. And if there is a stance that seems impossible; sticky tack could be the solution to many problems. Also remember to pay attention to the hands of Lego minifigures; you wouldn’t believe what a difference the rotation of the hands can make for conveying emotions.

Lastly, do not forget the surroundings, lighting and especially color. These three elements can drastically change (or destroy!) the emotion and thus the potential for storytelling by your (Lego-)photo.

Go right… AND left

Fourth, if you’d like, you can add ambiguous or contrasting elements in your images.

In general, there are three types of stories that can be told through (Lego-)photography; personal stories, documentaries and lastly ambiguous stories. Documentaries generally don’t benefit from ambiguous elements. Also, don’t use this tip if you are looking to tell a singular story.

That being said; adding ambiguous elements in your Lego-images could increase the potential of your photo for telling more than one story, potentially reaching a wider variety of viewers.  However, don’t overdo it! You don’t want to completely confuse the viewers… unless you do ;)

Lego photography - Lousy hitchhiker with an axe
Figure 4; Lousy hitchhiker

Figure 4 shows “lousy hitchhiker”.  What happened here? And why is this person (M/ F?) carrying an axe in what looks to be a desert? Besides, why is (s)he still holding on to that axe, etc. Questions bring theories, theories bring stories, stories make a Lego-photo memorable.

In conclusion

Storytelling through Lego-photography is hard, especially because our little plastic friends generally make it more difficult to convey emotions. I hope to have provided you with a few tips and tricks to get the viewers thinking about your image, thus, creating a memorable image. For now, my last two tips on this subject are; be careful naming you image, because a name could guide away the viewer from a story if you’re not careful. And lastly, create technically good photos! People tend to get distracted if there are obvious - non-intentional - technical difficulties with a (Lego-)photo.

Now go and practice, because as you know; practice makes better. I look forward to seeing your creations and if you have any more tips and tricks, let me know in the comments.


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Cover-remake-disappearance-Darryl

Lego comic panel recreation - Darryl's disappearance

This behind the scenes post is on the recreation of Darryl’s disappearance in the first Foolish Lego comic. In a sense this was the point of no return for Barry. When Darryl disappeared, he could not back out of the adventure anymore.

Darryl disappearance – the original panel

Figure 1 below shows the original panel from episode eight of the first Foolish Lego Comic.

Figure 1; The original panel

The original image – positives

This stage was one of the first ones that was a bit larger than the others. I remember putting a more time into building it, yet, I still missed a lot of the building skills that I have today. What I like is that it does look like a library somewhat, and also a library that has been messed up by Amida in search of some kind of letter. Also there are some antique’s in the back, connecting the library to the Antique store. I also love the choice of face for Darryl. Because it’s almost the only thin we can still see of him, it really conveys his fear.

The original image – Room for improvement

As with almost all panels from the beginning the atmosphere in this photo suffers from the lack of proper lighting, I simply wanted to have everything illuminated and that was it.

A thing that also annoyed me, is that the style of this stage was completely different from the style of the shop itself. There was no indication of a connection beyond the few antiques in the back of this stage.

Concerning the perspective, the high point of view is not too bad, however, the use of depth-of-field is (again) confusing. The one thing that is in focus are the books, and they are not that important. I’m guessing the attention of the reader will eventually reach Darryll, but it’s almost as if it is not THAT important. The lack of importance is also somewhat stated by the stance of Barry. He looks like he’s casually walking towards Darryl, not trying to reach him or anything. You might think he is in shock, but then I would’ve expected him to stand in place.

You might also think the right lower corner is wrong; you can see the end of te floor there. However, this did not actually matter. The first comic had a different aspect ratio than the current comic. This meant that I needed to crop all photos in height, and thus, this mistake did not show up in the comic.

Darryl’s disappearance – the recreation

Figure 2 below shows the remake of this panel.

lego-disappearance-dispersion
Figure 2; The recreation

The stage

I use the same style elements in this build, I used for the inside of the store, and even for the storefront; they are all combinations of wood and stone, creating the feeling of looking at on building. I still wanted to have some books, but also displayed a few other elements. The most striking difference in this panel is the addition of the statue. Eventually, this statue will be the entrance to the basement. A small visual hint to this is the key she’s holding. When Strabo speaks his ‘magical’ words, her candle wil light up, and the passageway will open.

Composition

The one and only focus in this panel is the interaction between Barry and disappearing Darryl. Barry’s running towards Darryl, almost able to grab his hand, however in the next panel, he would’ve fallen to floor and Darryl would be gone. I also changed the perspective in such a way that both the faces of Darryl (the same expression as the original panel) AND Barry can be seen. NOW the fear/ fright of Barry shows, while Strabo looks more detached.

Color and mood

Again, the color and mood are brought more in line with the inside of the store. With the addition of the blue color emitted by the (upgraded) effect of darryl disappearing. The effect of course is the same one used for the teleportation of Amida.

Before and after

Below are the before and after images joined in one image. You can use the slider to show the one or the other.

In conclusion

Continuity is important in comics, not only story-wise, or concerning the location of characters and objects, but also concerning styles used. So, always try to build related stages to actually SHOW that  they are related.


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recreating the inside of a lego store

Lego comic panel remake - Strabo's store

This behind the scenes post is on the recreation of the inside of Strabo’s store. This one was more difficult than the first two recreations, because I feel the original Lego stage I build was not that bad.

Strabo’s Store – the original panel

Figure 1 below shows the original panel from episode five of the first Foolish Lego Comic. However, strickly speaking, the panel I created, is not in the original comic. It shows Darryl peeking into the store whilst Strabo is busy. This would’ve been a panel I would have added before the whole episode – “panel zero” – to give a feeling of the store atmosphere, before Barry and Darryl went in. It probably would’ve been a separate episode. Funny to realise how different everything would’ve been if I rebooted the story… or if I’d given the comic a bit more thought back then 🙂

Lego inside the old store
Figure 1; the original

The original image – positives

There are many old objects lying around. I still remember stuffing the scene with all kinds of old-looking Lego items. To me it does feel like a store in antiquities. I also like the perspective of this shot. It’s kind of an over the shoulder shot, the store seen from the viewpoint of Barry. Lastly, I really like the way Strabo is positioned. Casually looking at/ cleaning, straightening the image on the wall. All in all, I’d say, not too bad for the purpose of the comic.

The original image – Room for improvement

This build also suffers from the one thing each and everyone back then suffered from; lack of invested time and building skills. This is really obvious by the look of the wall and the floor. The wall lacks any contrast and some kind of variety in it’s look. It’s also kind of empty (that’s probably the reason for that chain hanging there).

Moving on to the perspective, as I said, I like the viewpoint of Barry in this shot, yet, the use of depth-of-field is confusing. It’s unclear what is important in this panel. Is it Barry or Strabo? The way it is now, only part of the store is in focus; hardly the part the readers should be focusing on. The focus should’ve been on Strabo, especially since the shot has been set up as an over-the-shoulder shot. Furthermore, the atmosphere suffers from the lack of proper lighting, I just did not pay ANY attention to the way the scene was illuminated.

Lastly a nitpick, the location of that gladiator helmet should probably have been more to the front of panel since Darryl will be picking it up when both Barry and Strabo weren’t paying attention.

Strabo’s shop – the recreation

Figure 2 below shows the remake of this panel.

Lego old shop inside store
Figure 2; The recreation of the comic-panel.

The stage

I still wanted the look of a small, crowded and messy store, where all kinds of objects are lying around. And even if there are less objects within the frame, i believe I pulled off the look. Also, to create some depth, I placed several objects, out of focus, near the lens. Lastly, I thought it would be nice to have the door and some windows in the shot so I could play with light-fall.

Composition

There are a two foci in this image, first Strabo in his little shop (this is the main focus), second Darryl peaking through the window of the door. Using the golden ratio, Strabo is positioned quite right. However, if I use the Fibonacci-spiral, this photo should’ve been cropped at the top and right side. I decided against this; the stage is already more extensive than is shown in the image and I didn’t want to loose more surroundings.

Toy photography composition fibonacci golden ratio
Figure 3; Golden ratio (on the original size) and Fibonacci spiral within proposed crop.

Still, playing around with the Fibonacci spiral shows there is a pretty decent flow in the image going from Darryl, via the mouse to Strabo himself (Figure 3).

Color and mood

Even though the outside of the shop, and also the interior, is a bit darker than it was I felt the lighting should convey a warm feeling. So, there are a lot of yellow-ish colors in the scene. The lights through the window should create a bit of a mysterious atmosphere, but I am not convinced that actually worked.

The little things

I changed Strabo’s green sweater to this one, I simply didn’t like the first one. When I first use Strabo I did not know he would play such a large role in the comic, otherwise I would probably have gone for another print. For this reason, I had to change his position, the back of this torso does not have a print on it.

Furthermore, it’s nice to have all kinds of little easter eggs in an image. For example the light grey sword is a genuine antique sword. This one is from one of the sets I got as a kid; the illustrious “Yellow Castle (375 – 1978)“. Also the helmet has a more notable postion, light and highlight. And it looks as if it already caught Darryl’s attention. Lastly, there is one more giant easter egg concerning the (temporary) faith of Barry and Darryl in the first Foolish Lego Comic. Do you know what I am talking about?

Before and after

Below are the before and after images joined in one image. You can use the slider to show the one or the other.

In conclusion

This time I realised rules aren’t rules, at least not when it comes to photography. Looking at the composition of the final image, I’d much rather use the compositional rules and consciously break them too. As long as the final shot feels good to you and you thought about what you wanted to achieve by breaking conventions.


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Creating a lego antique shop

Lego comic panel remake - The old antique shop

For the second recreation I decided to recreate Strabo’s antique shop. Those who already read the comic, know it’s an important location and I never felt the storefront I created back then, did it’s importance any justice. In the old days I build most locations within half an hour. If I remember correctly, this one even took below ten minutes. And it shows.

The old antiqueshop – The original image

Below is the third panel from the second episode of the first chapter of the Foolish Lego comic: “Could be an adventure” (Figure 1). It was published August 24th 2013.

lego old store build
Figure 1; The original panel

The original image – positives

Darryl – hoping for some kind of an adventure – convinced Barry to go to the antique shop to ask about the stolen dragon document. At the very least, this panel establishes the fact that the reached the store and are going in. Also, Darryl looks somewhat more enthusiastic compared to Barry. I personally liked the sign too though it is not very accurate since there is only one shopkeeper.

The original image – room for improvement

Again, I’ll start with the little things. The image is somewhat crooked; it looks as if I wanted a symmetrical image (with the exception of the sign), but it isn’t, besides that the lower part of the image is rotated somewhat compared to the upper part.

Furthermore, because I created a very small Lego MOC as a stage, I zoomed in way to much. Usually a zoomed in panel means something important or intense is going on… but there isn’t. Also, Barry has a very strange stance. It’s like he has a problem with his extrapyramidal tracts; both arms besides his body, almost falling backwards. Lastly, even though some stuff can be seen trough the shop windows, it is kinda dark and there is obviously a plate behind the door.

The old antique shop – the recreation

Below in figure 2 you can see the recreation of this panel.

Lego old antique store storefront
Figure 2; the recreation

The stage

This time, I build a modular-size MOC of the antique store as a stage. I always like to add a few details these days even if they don’t show in the final panel. An example of this is the doorknob; it’s the print of an old fossil, als there is slightly more in the shop windows than can be seen.

Composition

Because of the larger build I could zoom out a bit more and in stead of using a medium-shot, like in the original panel; I could use a long shot (wide shot), establishing the location and immediate surroundings. The camera angle is slightly from above, giving a better view of the situation.

Color and mood

The recreation is more dark than the original panel. Shooting the original image I didn’t have any lighting setup so I shot the image outside in the sun. For the recreation I still didn’t want a dark image, bit also not as bright and sunny as the first panels in the comic. Darryl and Barry are slowly moving towards unknown territory besides I feel the store is a quasi back-alley where less sunlight comes in compared to the main street where the comic started. Color-wise; Barry and Darryl are still bathing in golden sunlight, while the right side of the image is darker, and more blue. Lastly, the small amount of vignetting I did to show a new scene has started (Like in a few old films where a scene ended and started with a circle closing and opening).

The little things

I added a few easter eggs related to dragons. And those who read the whole comic, might recognise the knights’ armor in the window. You can also see the creature (Noldor) peeking around the corner more clearly (Did you know that he is actually present in episode 1 and 2?), raising questions about what is going on.

Before and after

Below are the before and after images joined in one image. You can use the slider to show the one or the other.

In conclusion

That’s it. I hope you enjoyed the post and that it might inspire you to look at past work you did (it could be anything), and see if you can remake and improve that work. Lastly, if you have any feedback on these recreations, please let me know in the comments; live and learn.

 


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lego edit transporting teleport

LEGO Comic panel remake - Teleporting Amida

It is time for remakes! Over the years, my experience in creating Lego comics has grown somewhat and it’s already been over five years ago since the first episodes of the Foolish Lego comic were published. That’s five years of experimenting and creating my brick comic by trial and error. Many times before I’ve written about how I would’ve liked to have written the story differently. And of course, in hindsight, there were more aspects in the comic that could’ve been better than they were back then. However, I have to start with something and that is a recreation of some of the comic panels.

When I started the comic, I mostly concentrated on the quality of photography. So, as long as everything was in the frame, I was happy. Nowadays, there are other things I consider too, each time I shoot a photo for one of the panels. This year I will take a look at past episodes and try to improve some of the individual panels. This will be within the context of the story up until that point and, of course, within the, relatively unimaginative, four-panel-formatting.

Teleporting Amida – the original image

Below is the third panel from the second episode of the first chapter of the Foolish Lego comic: “Thief!” (Figure 1). It was published August 17th 2013.

Lego original teleport effect
Figure 1; The original panel

The original image – positives

Barry and Darryl have just met, when a woman (Amida) steals a document from Barry. Our two protagonists chase her until she runs around a corner and vanishes into thin air. I like the fact that it looks like a sunny day and, considering my photoshop skills in those days, the teleport-effect is not too bad. For some reason i am also fond of the white stripe on the window/ door behind Amida. Finally, i like my use of depth of field. It puts the focus on Amida and shows that Barry and Darryl are behind a little.

The original image – room for improvement

First off, the little things! There’s dust (!) on the tiles, the flower is crooked and even the background is a little tilted. That last part would not have been a problem if it wasn’t by mistake. If it was intentional I should have made the tilt more clear to create a Dutch tilt, thus conveying a sense of ‘uneasiness’. Also, everybody’s happy, I did not pay any attention to everyone’s facial expressions. Even though I kind of like the transportation-effect in itself, it is a little out there. The colors have no meaning (and they look like the colors – red, yellow, green, of carnaval in my city Maastricht). Furthermore, the composition is a bit boring and misses tension. All in all, I don’t believe it’s too bad, but there is some room for improvement.

Teleporting Amida – the remake

Figure 2 shows the remake of the teleporting Amida panel. I changed quite a few things.

Lego dispersion photoshop teleport effect
Figure 2; Teleporting Amida, the remake

The premise

A significant change is that I wanted to show that Barry and Darryl actually saw Amida dissolve. I always felt that the reason for those to going to the antique-shop were a bit weak, and actually seeing the thief mysteriously disappearing might’ve been a stronger incentive to seek an explanation at the shop.

Composition

One of the main changes I made is in the composition. I used a low angle shot to make Amida look strong and powerful. Because of this angle Barry and Darryl sink into the ground a little because they’re a bit further away. This dwarfs them somewhat compared to Amida, adding to her current dominance (it also makes the flowerpot look smaller, which is annoyingly large in the original image). Combined with the depth of field, and the space Amida gets in the frame, she is undeniably the main focus of this panel. Also I tried to balance the composition a bit more by, amongst other things, using the Fibonacci-spiral (Figure 3).

Lego Fibonacci composition comic photography
Figure 3; The Fibonacci-spiral as compositional help.

The teleportation-effect

Obviously, I changed the teleportation-effect. Simply by making it ook a bit more spectacular and coherent, besides making Amida float in the air a little. In the original panel it was not immediately clear that she was disappearing, so I added a dissolving effect in the remake.

Color

There is a distinct difference in color within the panel. On the left we see Darryl and Barry, stil in their own, golden-yellow, warm, sunny world. As opposed to Amida bathing in blue. Blue is seen as cold; conveying contrast in their current worlds/ thoughts. Even so, blue is also the color of tranquility and faith. And red is not used within this image… maybe she is less violent and/ or evil than Barry and Darryl might think at the moment?

The little things

The facial expressions are different, a yelling Darryl, a stunned Barry and a relieved-that-it-worked Amida. The specially observant readers might notice the glowing blue necklace; might that be the transportation-device?

In conclusion

The remake would (mostly subconsciously) have brought much more emotion and tension to the story, besides conveying more visual information and possibly even questions. Usually I don’t have the time to think about panels this way, however, recreating this panel was a real eye-opener to me, mainly because it all came together relatively easy. Next time a new panel. For now, thanks for reading.


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camera angles lego comic

Camera angles - a guide for Lego comics

This post on camera angles follows the post on camera shots. I will discuss the basics of camera angles int he context of Lego comics. Though you can also use this information for Lego photography not related to comics.

What are camera angles

The term itself says it all, camera angles are the angles at which a photo of a subject is taken. Using different angles can effectively add subtext to an image. By using you camera-angles carefully you can, per example, make characters look like giants or dwarfs, cool or insecure. Also buildings can look larger or smaller than in reality, making them look very impressive or insignificant. Just like minifigures. Besides you can influence the atmosphere of a panel or person. Is everything okay, or is something/ someone off. Choose you angles carefully, you probably don't want to inadvertently convey these kinds of information if you don't intent to.

Types of camera angles

Below are the most used angles

High angle

At high angle, the camera looks down on characters or objects. This makes them less impressive, small and insignificant. The readers seem to dominant the depicted character. Sometimes you can even make the character look scared or like a loser. Figure 1 shows an example, but its impact would've been significantly higher if I shot Willy from a little further away. This would've made him disappear in his surroundings a bit.

On the other hand, this is also a good shot to use to establish surrounding (for example combined with an (extreme) long shot. Also I've been seeing a lot of images from antman recently, these photos also benefit from high angle camera positions.

camera angle high angle lego photography
Figure 1: High angle

Overhead shot/ birds eye/ God's eye shot

An extreme version of the high angle shot is the overhead shot. A very unnatural view of a scene. It makes the readers look down on the characters and surroundings as if they were a bird or in a plane.

It is a distant, remote point of (world) view and sometimes conveys sort of philosophical thoughts and ideas.

Another thing to remember is that it can make characters or objects unrecognizable or look strange from this angle (like hats, parasols or anything for that matter).

camera angle overhead shot lego photography
Figure 2: Overhead shot

Eye-level shot

Eye level is the camera angle which is mostly used. Especially in conversations. This is the most natural angle to most readers and have no real dramatic power. If you deviate from this angle, make sure you think about the why. For example in a dialog scene, you can make a character look more or less significant than its conversation partner.

camera angle eye level lego photography
Figure 3: Eye level

Low angle shot

The low angle shot makes a character (or object/ building) look strong, powerful, gigantic and/ or ominous. You can also use this angle as a point of view (POV) shot from a character. In those cases the readers might share a feeling of awe with the character whose point of view is showing.

Examples in movies of this angle as point-of-view is in dog-movies or the ant-man. In those movies you instantly know you are seeing through the eyes of the dog or small antman whenever a low angle camera shot is used.

camera angle low angle lego photography
Figure 4: Low angle

Dutch tilt

The Dutch tilt is a camera angle that makes the reader feel there is something off or wrong. It's a confusing viewpoint for most readers. Usually we strive for straight lines in a photo (like the straight horizon for example). This is important because apparently human perception is very sensitive to off-levels, especially off-level verticals than off-level horizontals. This means that off-levels will create some sort of tension or confusion.

This angle is used just for that; to create confusion, anxiety, paranoia, danger, mall-intent or mystery. Below, figure 5 and 6 show examples. In itself they may not be as powerful, yet, combined with other angles these Dutch tilts camera angles become much more effective indeed.

camera angle Dutch tilt lego photography
Figure 5: Dutch tilt

 

example camera angle Dutch tilt lego comic
Figure 6: Another example of a Dutch tilt

What angle to use

Under normal conditions try to shoot a eye levels of your characters. Many lego comics out there are shot with high angle shots and doing so makes the Lego minifigures unintentionally look small, make everything look much more artificial than it already is and can take the reader out of the story.

However, it can look dull only photographing at eye-level. I myself change the angle of a shot a little to add some visual diversity to my comic. In these instances I'm always careful not to overdo it because I don't want to inadvertently add subtext to certain panels.

Camera angles vs. lenses

You can use any camera or lens. Especially smartphone cameras are so small they can easily be set at the angle you'd like. Yet, this (currently) still comes at the price of lowered quality of the image and I'm quiet attached to my RAW-images.

In the Foolish Lego comic I rarely use a low angle shot. And when I do, it's mostly not that effective due to technical issues. My camera (a Pentax K1 with f100 macro lens) needs to get very low and close and is often too large to get it where I want. And when I do get it in place, it's usually too close to be able to focus. In future I'll try to still use these shots and post-process them (for example shoot from further away and then crop so the character seems to be closer), that's what I did to get the low angle shot in figure 4.

In conclusion

There you have it. These are basically the most important camera angles to know. When thinking about shooting the scenes for your Lego comic make sure to use the right shots and angles. Combine camera shots and camera angles to make the best of the composition of your Lego comic panels besides adding all kinds of subtext.


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cover guide to camera shots lego comic

Camera shots - a guide for Lego comics

Your Lego comic will consist of one or more scenes. Of course, these scenes need to build. And the actual building blocks of scenes are the so called camera shots. In this post I will discuss the basics of camera shots in the context of Lego comics.

What are camera shots?

Camera shots are camera positions related to how much of the subject and its surrounding area is visible in a panel. Not be confused with camera angles. Camera angles provide the shots at different angles. I discuss camera angles in separate post.

Choosing your shots and angles carefully will help you convey information about the story you are telling. Like, where you characters are, who is present, how everybody is positioned related to each other, if there is anything going on besides the main action, any emotions that need extra attention, etc. An example of conveying information is combining a full-shot (see below) with a shallow depth of field (remember your aperture settings!) focussed on a specific character or purpose, can tell your readers who is present in this scene whilst also directing the readers to the person or element you’d like them to focus upon.

Besides these functions you can also alternate camera shots to make your comic visually more attractive. Some Lego comics out there have very static panels which, in my opinion, make comics visually less engaging.

Anyway, you’ll want to try to keep the readers of your Lego comic engaged in multiple ways so choose your shots carefully.

Types of camera shots

In general, there are two types of camera shots; framing shots & function shots. Framing is defined by how much is included in the shot; function about what the purpose of the shot is.

Framing shots

First; any shot that includes only one character is called a single. Furthermore, a shot with two character included is called a two shot, one of the most essential shots of storytelling.

example two-shot lego comic
Figure 1; Example of a two-shot (ch 2 ep 8)

If the shots are focused on characters; there are usually called character-shots. Figure 1 shows examples of several character shots.

character camera shots lego comic
Figure 2; Character camera shots

Below, I listed a few of the more well know camera shots. However, the naming and definitions of all these shots might vary somewhat.

  • Extreme long shot, shows the general area of the current setting. For these shots you would have to build a large stage. This shot all about scenery and gives your readers some idea of the geography your scene takes place in. I haven’t used these shot in my comic yet, simply because it is too much work to build such a large stage. However, I might use it in future using micro builds of a city or forest for example.
Example extreme long shot lego comic
Figure 3; Example of extreme long shot. Establishing shot, showing the geography, general mood and more (ch 2 ep 1).
  • Long shot, (wide shot); still is about scenery, more  specifically showing where the action in the scene takes place. This time however, there (mostly) are characters present in the shot.
Example long shot lego comic
Figure 4; Example of a long shot (ch 2 ep 51)
  • Full shot; a complete view of a character. There may also be more than one character in this shot, showing what the relationship between characters is.
Example full shot lego comic
Figure 5; Example of a full shot - single (ch 2 ep 148)
  • Cowboy (American shot); a variation of the full shot, where the character is in view from the wast up. This comes from the western genre to show the gun-holster on the characters.
  • Medium shot (social shot); the character(s) from the waist up. For example characters at a table or behind a counter/ bar. This shot brings your readers closer to the characters and into the action.
example medium shot lego comic
Figure 6; Example of a medium shot (ch 2 ep 7)
  • Close-ups (personal shot);  there are many variations of the close-up and brings you readers up close and personal with your character. With Lego there are no subtle emotions that can’t be seen from a medium shot, however mostly it does change the feel of a frame if you move in real close. The variations of a close-up are;
    • Medium close-up: mid-torso and up. In my comic, this is the tightest shot I used up until now. The tighter close-ups did not seem to bring me any extra.
    • Choker: from the throat up.
    • Tight close-up (big head): just below the head, cutting of part of the hair.
    • Extreme close up (Italian shot): even less of the head is visible in the frame. You can also use this for objects; for example only a knife, or part of the character.
example medium close-up lego comic
Figure 7; Example of a medium character close-up (ch 2 ep 131)

 

Example close-up object lego comic
Figure 8; Example of an object close-up  (ch 2 ep 18).
  • Over the shoulder: a shot where we are looking over the shoulder (close-up) of one character to another character/ object (medium shot or close-up). It ties two characters or a character and an object together.
example over the shoulder shot lego comic
Figure 9; Example of an over the shoulder shot (ch 2 ep 60)

Function shots

  • Establishing shot; A shot that shows the readers of your comic where the action is taking place. Besides giving the readers a ‘where’, it can convey much more information; what’s the weather, is it a busy, hectic place or the opposite, are we in a rich environment, is there a lot of police in the street and much more. The possibilities are endless. Usually an extreme long shot or long shot is used.
  • Reaction shot; shows the reaction of a character to some kind of event or text. Usually a medium shot or close-up is used.
  • Insert; a part of the larger scene that gives your readers extra information about what is going on. For example a clock showing time or a name on a name tag. Usually a close-up is used.
  • Transitional shot; A shot between scenes that is not a part of either scene. This can help for atmosphere or give some information. For example a sunset or sunrise, or a busy street indicating that the workday has begon.

Camera shots vs. lenses

If you’d like to get all the shots straight out the camera you will need a macro-lens, certainly for the medium shots and close-ups. Alternatively you can photography your scenes as full shots or bigger and crop the images in an image-editor (for example: Photoshop or GIMP). If you edit afterwards, use the highest quality images you can shoot with your camera to prevent having too much noise in your images after cropping.

For the really tight shots, you might need a combination. I use a f/100 Pentax macro for most of my comic photography and should I need anything tighter than a medium close-up, I’d probably need to crop in post-processing after getting in as close as I could with my lens. Thos Lego minifigures are really small after all.

In conclusion

When I started my comic I had no idea of camera shots. I only varied shots to make the panels look different from each other so the comic looked better. Over the years I started thinking about my panels and the shots more and more. I have to admit, it makes shooting the comic more amusing, thinking about how you want to shoot the frame to use as a panel, how to get information across. Yet, I still have a long way to go, especially because Lego is a very different medium than the more classical comics out there and I have to figure out how to use these camera shots in Lego.

Are you a Lego comic creator? Do you ever consciously use camera shots?

Next time: camera-angles


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Shadow on book

The premise of your story

Shadow on book

The premise-line, possible consequences of not having one

Story-wise, the first Foolish Lego comic was written on the fly. I just shot my episode and got stuck somewhere near the end. Also I started wondering what my main character -Barry- was actually doing, he was more or less riding the waves in stead of causing them.Far to late a learned about the concept of a premise-line.  You need to know what  your story will be about and the premise line is THE primary guide  for developing your story lateron. It was too late for my first comic. However, I decided to write one for the second chapter of the comic. Yet, I abandoned the premise-line before fully developing it, because of time-constraints. Eventually, I did have a notion of where I was going, but the faulty premise-line is now the cause of difficulties writing the later part of the story.

What is a premise-line?

I really suggest you start developing your premise line before you start writing your story or script. At this moment I am working avidly on the premise-line of the third comic-chapter and I know it will pay off when developing the story itself. The premise contains, amongst other components, the primary story structure, important character(s), the conflict and ending. If you develop a good premise line, you can always return to it if you’re stuck writing your story.

The Seven components of a premise-line

A brilliant book on the premise line is: “Anatomy of a premise line” by Jeff Lyons. It comes highly recommended. Basically the information in this book will help you identify the core structure of your story.

In short; there are usually seven components that you need to identify:

Character:

Who is the main character, your protagonist?

Constriction:

Your protagonist is inhibited in some way. Maybe material, usually a deep belief or moral. Whatever it is, this is what’s driving him in his daily life (even if your protagonist doesn’t know this is what is driving him; a moral blindspot).

Desire:

Your main character wants something. And his/ her actions are directly or indirectly related to this desire.

Focal relationship(s):

Usually there are one or more persons your protagonist talks to. And through these conversations your readers will get a deeper insight into the thoughts and desires of your main character. These relationships are part of the dramatic focus of your story.

Resistance:

Of course there is someone or something that is the opposing force!

Adventure:

Because of all the elements mentioned before, your protagonist will (choose to) end up in an adventure.

Change:

And in the end, the adventure will be over. Your main character will have changed… will have a better understanding of him- or herself… for better or for worse.

As you can see the first chapter of my comic missed a few elements; Barry being the main character; there was no constriction, no real desire, he didn’t really choose anything in the adventure part and he never changed. If anything; Amida or Darryl would’ve been much better candidates for a main character.

The structure of the actual premise-line

After you identified all elements, you can create your premise line:

When some event provokes your main character to act (not react), your main character joins with one or more people acting on some desire until your main character’s actions are met by opposing force - creating the adventure - leading to a transformation of your main character, for better or for worse.

  1. When some event provokes your main character to act (not react)… [combine Character with Constriction]
  2. …your main character joins with one or more people acting on some desire… [combine Desire with Focal relationship(s)]
  3. until your main character’s actions are met by opposing force - creating the adventure - [combine resistance with Adventure]
  4. leading to a transformation of your main character, for better or for worse. [Change]

Take you time developing

Developing a good premise-line can take a long time. Yet, in the end it’ll all be worth it. See it as a map to your story, a map to find your way when you get lost writing. And remember that if your premise-line doesn’t work, you’ll probably get stuck writing your story too. Besides, thinking, developing and tweaking the premise-line turned out to be a lot of fun. Especially, when suddenly all elements fall into place!

 


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lego man stepping out of comic

Definite guide to creating a Lego comic

lego man stepping out of comicHow to create your own Lego brick comic?

Last updated: August 28th 2018

Have you been thinking about creating your own Lego comic? This article can help you get started and will discuss the most important elements needed  to create a Lego comic (or brick comic as it called within the AFOL community).

Eventually, all that is written here is what I learned working on the Foolish Lego comic. So you don't need to make all the mistakes I made during the course of my own comic. Although, to be honest, maybe making mistakes and learning from them is the best way to go. My workflow certainly changed over the years.

Table of contents

This article is meant as a general overview of the process and will be regularly updated to reflect the latest insights. Also, over time I will discuss most subjects mentioned in this post in separate more in-depth articles.

1. What budget do you need to create a Lego comic?

To decide what budget you will need, you will have to decide first wat quality comic you would like. Afterwards you can think of the amount of money and time you will need to budget to create the comic according to the standard you'd like.

1.1 What quality do you want your Lego brick comic to be?

The quality of your Lego comic is important to consider early on. First of, there are many aspects where quality comes in; the core story, the photography, composition of the comic, your website and consistency of publishing being amongst them. And all elements ask for differing skills. Ultimately, in the beginning you are probably going to have to prioritise and concentrate on one or two elements. Eventually, over time, the quality will improve when your comic is up and running and you start adjusting here and there.

Consequently, the level of quality you want to bring to your comic will determine your budget. Many people will only consider the financial budget. However, there is another, arguably more important, commodity you will need to budget; your time!

Man thinking about the budget for his comic
Contemplating the budget for his comic

1.2 What will your financial budget be?

First of, you don’t have be a millionaire to create a Lego brick comic. For example; you could create a brilliant comic with a couple of minifigures in a ‘normal world’ backdrop. For this, you can use natural lights or the lamps you have lying around. Also, you can use your smartphone as a camera. Furthermore, there is free software available to do some post-production on your photos as well as for creating the actual comic. Finally, you can publish your brick webcomic on a free website. There are quite a few awesome Lego comics out there made on a small to modest budget.  And some, if not all, of them started small and grew over the years.

On the other end of the spectrum you can go for professional cameras including several objectives, studio lights combined with smaller specialised lights, soft-boxes, tons of Lego, a computer with premium software, etc…

Ultimately, Keep in mind you can make it as expensive or low-cost as you want. I recommend start small, focussing on one or two elements. And, eventually expanding over time, each time focussing on a certain aspect of your comic.

1.3 What amount of time are you willing to spent?

Anticipate the time you want to put into creating your Lego brick comic! At first, I myself gravely underestimated the time that went into creating my comic. Especially since I am a real nit-picker.

I assume the end of all Lego comics have to do with time-constraints. So, balance your time and be realistic about it! Basically, you will have to accept there will be mistakes and not everything will turn out as anticipated.

2. What equipment do you need to create a Lego comic?

There are some essentials you will need to get your Lego comic up and running. I can advice you on what kind of equipment you’ll need. However, I can’t advice you on exactly what equipment to buy. A lot depends on your specific needs, location and funds. Besides, there are many specialised reviewers out there that can do a far better job than me on advising you on the incredible quantity of equipment on the market.

So, what equipment do you need to create your Lego comic? Listed below are several options.

Lego: goes without saying. Though, surprisingly, there is an example of a Lego comic produced without the use of Lego. The artist uses the Lego Digital Designer (LDD) software. He's still working on it and I'm hoping he'll publish his comic somewhere next year.

Photo Camera: Anything goes; a smartphone, compact camera, system camera or a Digital Single Lens Reflex-camera (DSLR). Each camera has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some equations you can ask yourself are: What quality do you need?  Should your camera be pocket-size or can it be larger? How flexible should your camera be? What configuration options would you like? And of course, what is my budget. Arguably, if you decide on a DSLR I also recommend getting a macro-lens. The moment I got my first macro-lens resulted in a landscape shift of quality of my photography. Before I forget, one of my favourite accessories is the camera remote! First it helps with keeping the image stable. Second, it sometimes provides me with a extra hand, since I can operate the remote with my teeth (not recommended ; ) ).

Tri-pod: Crucial to get the sharpest pictures! A tri-pod is also essential for some of the trick photography if you are into that.

Lighting: My favourite light comes from natural light sources. But if you want to have any control over your lighting I recommend using artificial lighting. At first all sorts of light in and around your house will suffice. If you want to step it up; it is good to get daylight lamps. These lamps emit a spectrum of light near that of emitted by the sun. And the use of the right lamps is important for consistency and post-production purposes. Other options for lights include smaller specialised lighting.

Softbox: Is helpful for decreasing reflections on your Lego minifigures. Besides, using light boxes creates a more diffuse, softer lighting of your Lego scenes.

Studio: Well, not exactly a studio, but it helps to have a dedicated location in your house to use for your photography. A place where you can leave everything as it is between photography sessions.

Computer + software: I know some people create and upload their comic only using their smartphone. Yet, a computer with image-editing-software, comic-creation software, or other software you might want to use is much more superior. Especially if you want to upgrade your technical quality. Also a computer is essential if you want to create and maintain your own website.

‘Other stuff’: tape, fun-talk, paper-towels, clips, backdrops, a bit of wire, etc…

3. How to get ideas for a Lego comic

Finding ideas for your comic can, at times, be challenging. For me at least, this is one of then harder parts. But first things first.

3.1 What kind of Lego comic do you want to create?

First you will have to decide what kind of Lego comic you want to create. Will you develop short stories, or long epic stories? Maybe an ongoing series with specific characters or will it be one specific setting? A soap-opera maybe? Or would you rather create short 3-4 panel gags? A combination? There are many possibilities. Each of these options will have different consequences for the way you want to develop your story.

3.2 Story idea, character and conflict.

To start with you will need an idea that will enable you to create a story out of the idea. Essentially a useful story idea consists of two parts; character and conflict. Essentially conflict is your story or at the very least drives your story. Furthermore, the conflict needs to be directly tied to your character, he or she needs to play a central role and be essential for moving the story forward.

3.3 Write down your ideas for a story

Ideas for stories come at the most peculiar times. So I’m always prepared. Sometimes I cary a good old fashioned notebook with me, yet mostly I have a cross-device-syncing writing or notes app. Many people use Evernote, also great for research. Yet, my favourite writing app is Bear (Apple only). Many simple note taking software will do. So, as long as it synchronises fast between your phone and your computer, you’re good to go.

3.4 How to get inspiration for a story

There are many approaches to discover useful story ideas and I will present you a few of my favorite techniques.

The most obvious advice is to simply watch a lot of movies, read books and comics/ graphic novels! Whilst doing this look at the story on a higher level, aiming to find out what the movie, book or comic really is about? Are all these stories really different, or can you find the common themes amongst them? When using this technique be sure to create your own story, do not simply copy/ paste the story itself. Nevertheless, you can copy the basic story structure, as many storywriters will probably have used a commonly used structure themselves. More on story structure will follow lateron.

The aforementioned technique is a great way to get inspired. However, to do this on a regular basis you need a lot of time, which I don’t have. So, alternatively, I read the flaps of books, abstracts and such. Concerning movies I scroll through the synopsis on the net, like IMDB or wikipedia. Both of these can be done anywhere, however I prefer to read the flaps of the books in an old-fashioned bookstore (over here in Maastricht we’ve got a great bookstore), in the process, just for fun, buying a few books too.

You can also combine the basic ideas of books, films and comics. For example; “A zombie run bar” = Walking Dead meets Cheers; “Two bad-ass cops blow thing up in space” = Lethal Weapon meets Star Trek. There are endless possibilities.

Popular amongst Lego brick comic creators is using a well know setting and creating a Lego counterpart. There are for example Harry Potter Lego Comics out there, or comics based on a mixture of Star Trek and Star Wars. This is a simple way of starting out in fleshed out world with established characters, though, mostly, during the course of your comic most things will probably change according to your own personal preferences.

Another possibility is doing research on things you like. The Internet makes this very easy, there is soo much (obscure) information to be found. For me subjects would include; Mythology (I particularly love Greek Mythology), mysterious places in the world, local folklore, secret organisations, etc. Reading up on subjects you like, will probably spark basic ideas.

What I sometimes do is set an alarm clock for ten minutes and then just start writing, ideas words, connections, names, ect. It does’t really matter what you write, there is no right or wrong. You need to keep writing for the whole ten minutes, don’t stop, don’t cross anything out, don’t think. Then, after the ten minutes are gone, you may take a look at all the stuff you wrote down. And only then make connections and see if anything viable is in there. Most of the times, you will be amazed by what your brain can bring up!

In conclusion; there are countless techniques to get inspired for your comic of which I mentioned only a few possibilities. However, using (a combination of) these techniques should get you going.

3.5 Character-driven story or plot driven-story

Besides stories (in this article character-driven stories) there are situations (plot-driven stories). As you will read about in Paragraph 4, a character-driven story needs all kinds of elements to be classified as a character-driven story.

The main difference is the your central character. In a character-driven story, your character drives the story and as a result (s)he undergoes a substantial change. Your protagonist at the end of the story is a different from the person at the end. In a plot-driven story (situation), your protagonist gets into a situation (s)he has to solve. The story is driven by the plot and not by your main character. (S)he mostly reacts to what is happening, but does not  really change as a result of that adventure. In the end, everything is essentially the same as in  the beginning.

The story-development-section of this article is mainly about character-driven stories, however, maybe you'd rather have a comic about a situation/ plot-driven story (as many brick-comics and blockbuster movies and series are).

4. How to develop a story for your Lego comic

Developing your story can be done in several ways. However, not all believe this is necessary.  Some develop no story at all and simply start shooting their comic, seeing where it’ll end up. Others write a basic story-line and leave the minor elements for later. Lastly, some develop each and every detail before starting shooting pictures.

I tried all of them. The first Chapter of the Foolish Lego Brick Comic was written on the fly, the second one has a basic story-line. The third one will probably be fleshed out relatively well before I start shooting it. All the methods have their own pros and cons and it’s up to you to choose. Be flexible though. I mean If you start with a story, you might want to change the script on the fly. This will most likely improve the story you had in the first place.

Whatever option you choose, I would like to give you one specific recommendation; ‘write or create with the end in mind’. Try to think of an ending of your story right at the beginning. It’s good to have a goal to work towards. The first chapter of my Lego comic was created without an end in mind and, oh boy, did I mess up the ending.

4.1 Premise line

I suggest you start developing your premise line before you start writing your story or script. You need to know what  your story will be about and the premise line is a primary guide for developing your story. The premise contains, amongst other components, the primary story structure, important character(s), the conflict and ending. If you develop a good premise line, you can always return to it if you’re stuck writing your story.

A brilliant book on the premise line is: “Anatomy of a premise line” by Jeff Lyons. It comes highly recommended. Basically the information in this book will help you identify the core structure of your story.

The basic template for a premise line is as follows;

When some event provokes your main character to act (not react), your main character joins with one or more people acting on some desire until your main character’s actions are met by opposing force - creating the adventure - leading to a transformation of your main character, for better or for worse.

Developing a good premise-line can take a long time. Yet, in the end it’ll all be worth it. See it as a map to your story, a map to find your way when you get lost writing. And remember that if your premise-line doesn’t work, you’ll probably get stuck writing your story too.

4.2 Story structure

Then develop the story; write the outline. For this purpose you might want to take a look at several proposed story structure templates that are out there. Some are written for movies -like ‘Save the Cat’- and some are more general -like ‘The writer’s journey’.

I myself like using the structure as described in ‘The writer’s journey’ by Christopher Vogler. This book also comes highly recommended.

Some people argue that using these templates may lead to formulaic writing. While that may be partly true, many of the stages described in such a template can be very broadly interpreted leading to numerous variations. Beside, you must keep in mind, that you can always deviate from templates, you can change hem, add elements or leave parts out. Nobody will force you to use all components. In the end, these templates are here to help you, and if you get stuck in your writing, it is nice to have some structure to fall back to.

Man developing the story and writing the script of his comic
Developing the story and writing the script of his comic

5. How to write a script for your Lego comic

In a script you will write the field of view, action and dialogue, including key elements that need to be in a panel or on the page. And at this point my individual panels come to life in my brain. I can see the photographs before I set them up and shoot them.

The most essential component of the script is getting the dialogue clear. Knowledge about how many and who’s dialogue goes into what panel is crucial to the composition of the photographs. Will person A need to be on the left or right from person B (who talks first?), how much room will I need in the photo to be able to place my intended dialogue, etc.

I usually don’t have the script for the whole story ready before shooting. But it is good to have at least minimally one complete scene scripted before shooting one or more episodes within that scene.  Sometimes I stray a little from the script when need arises, but mostly it is pretty accurate.

6. How to build stages for a Lego brick comic

Once you know where the characters in your comic will be going you are going to have to build one or more stages, assuming that you will build your stages from Lego bricks. Sometimes it won’t be necessary to build Lego stages; for example when you situate your comic in a real world environment, or when you only use existing lego sets.

When building sets, think about what will be in the panels. Don’t build the stages too large if you will only use a small part of them (you will be amazed about how small some stages can be), on the other hand, don’t make them too small if you plan to use long shots or have a lot going on.

Also, think about how many sides you need to build. Usually two sides/ corner is enough, but these days I build complete rooms with four removable walls, so I have the freedom to shoot from different angles.

Finally, think about the amount of details necessary. This will will partly depend on your planned camera shots and angles besides aperture settings.

I build Many stages in the past, some better than others. I wrote a blog on The stages I build for the first chapter of the Foolish Lego brick comic if you want some examples.

7. Photographing Lego

How to photography Lego is a much heard question. Essentially, it is not that different from 'normal' photography. However, photographing Lego for the purpose of a comic comes with a few extra issues to keep in the back of your mind. Of course you can choose to ignore all these issues if you want too. Simply because you are the boss. However, using guidelines to work with these issues can really improve the technical aspects of your Lego brick comic. Following are a few aspects to keep in mind when shooting the panels for your comic.

7.1 Camera shots and angles

Changing the field of view, using differing camera shots and camera angles is at first good simply for the purpose of making the episodes look a bit more attractive. Many Lego brick comics have episodes showing multiple panels with nearly the same photo, whilst only the dialogue changes. Thus, visually not very  stimulating.

Yet, there are more compelling reasons for changing your camera shots and angles, they are very effective for adding subtexts to your panels. For example, you can help the readers focus on the elements in the panel that are important for the story at that moment. You can also create tension, drama. Also, you can manipulate, deliberately confuse or mislead your readers.

Camera shots are about how much of the subject and its surrounding area is visible in one panel. Using the relatively well-known long shots, medium shots and close-ups will take you a long way. Camera angles provide the camera shots at different angles, adding the subtext. At first remember to try and photograph the minifigures mostly from their perspective/ eye level and not from above. So, get down to their level!

7.2 Composition

Composition is the way you arrange your scene. Again, there are several compositional guidelines you can use to increase the impact of your scene. Remember, these are not rules and you may deviate from them if you want. As a matter of fact, sometimes the deviation from photo composition guidelines is what makes a particular scene come to life.

Many people can create amazing photo’s without knowing anything about  compositional rules. However, I often hear or see that people unknowingly/ instinctively shoot their best photos keeping to one or more of these rules.

Some of the more well-known guidelines are: the Fibonacci-spiral, rule of thirds, golden ratio, centred composition/ symmetry, leading lines, rule of space, balanced elements and the use negative space. If you’d like to step up your photography, at least knowing these guidelines exist is welcome, but they are not essential. However, for the shooting of comic panels the following elements of composition are crucial;

7.2.1 Have your subject in focus.

See to it that the main subject of your panel in focus! It’s a small effort, but makes your photos look so much better! It is one of the first things that readers will notice, even if they don’t care about anything else described in this blog. Blurry faces of the main character within that panel looks as if you did a rush job and don’t care about quality. Of course there are exceptions, but remember that exceptions are intentional!

7.2.2 Make important subjects stand out.

Isolate the subjects. Thus, making it clear from the beginning what or who the main subject in a panel is. You can use several methods to achieve this. An important one is controlling your depth-of-field, by changing your aperture-settings. For example; you can give lesser elements in the panel a more shallow depth of field. Or by using a shallow depth-of-field combined with a minifigure in focus will make that minifigure really stand out of the hazy background.

Other methods for isolating your subjects include the placing of the elements in your panel, exposure and background-elements. For instance, busy backgrounds will make your subject stand out less.

7.2.3 Pay attention to your background

Try and make the background as fitting to the story you’re telling as possible. It’ll help engage your readers. Of course, you can also play a little with the background; are there lesser stories in the background for the readers to find? Maybe you want to include something that is important to you, or a bit of inside information in a panel. Maybe there are people or objects that will play an important part later on in the story. Anything goes.

7.2.4 Dialogue

As mentioned earlier, do not forget to leave room for dialogue! it helps me to create the text-balloons before i shoot the pictures. That way I can already visualise the space necessary for text, besides helping me decide if I should cut back on text.

7.2.5 Relationship between panels

Finally, when dealing with multiple panels within one scene consistency is important too. Remember where everybody should be from panel to panel. And don’t forget to move the the world along with the central characters within the scene. If you only move your characters and leave everyone else untouched it will look like time has stopped.

man photographing Lego for his comic
Photographing Lego for his comic

7.3 Lighting the scene

In the beginning it is mostly important to see to it that your central subjects are well-lit and not too dark. Second, you will want some consistent lighting between panels and episodes of your Lego brick comic. And when you’re getting more experienced you’ll be wanting to do more. Below are a few elements you might want to keep in mind.

7.3.1 Lighting setup

There are many guidelines describing how you could light your scenes and characters. A the very least see to it that your main characters are well-lit. And pay attention to the background too, especially if there a re important elements in the background, see to it that these elements stand out, for instance by putting an extra light on it.

7.3.2 Exposure

Exposure deals with the amount of light captured by your camera and is directly related to the bright- and darkness of (parts of) your panels. Normal exposure is similar to what our eyes see, overexposure happens when too much light is reflected into the camera, resulting in a brighter panel and underexposure happens when little light enters the camera, resulting in a dark panel.

However, the right exposure is not the same as normal exposure. Maybe you purposely want to over-or underexpose (parts) of your panel, related to the mood you want to create in your panel.

The three factors you can use to control exposure are; changing the amount of light on (parts) of your stage, changing aperture settings (also influencing depth-of-field) and changing shutter-speed. Remember, slow shutter-speeds combined with using a tri-pod are mostly no problem since your Lego  scene overall will be pretty static. Changing your ISO-settings can also brighten your photo. However, it is not a part of exposure itself, since it does not influence the amount of light that reaches your camera sensor. It solely brightens the image after the sensor has already been exposed to light.

7.3.3 Color temperature

Color temperature is crucial to convey the mood and atmosphere of a scene. You can use color to influence your readers. For example; if you shoot a panel in yellowish light, you will convey a sunny day, maybe even happiness of your characters. Shoot the same panel in white blue-ish light and you will convey coldness (or a distant relationship between characters). Red may convey warmth or danger, a minifigure shot in a green environment might look sick (or it might seem like the environment is sick or something is terribly wrong).

7.3.4 Dealing with reflections

Lego bricks have the annoying tendency of overly reflecting. Especially the heads of Lego mini figures have this problem. Just when you think you’ve got your scene lighted correctly the reflections are posing problems. I try to get them out of the shot by moving the lights ever so slightly (or tilting the lights), or by turning/ moving/ tilting the object that has the annoying reflection. You’ll be amazed how often it helps to tilt a minifigure just a little bit. Another option is diffusing the lights, for instance with a light box.

In the end, you probably can not get rid of all unwanted reflections. In that case, just see to it that no crucial parts show the reflection (like the middle of the face or some other important printed part). Thereupon, you can get the reflections out by using software like photoshop.

8. What post-production is necessary?

After you have photographed all your scenes. Mostly you’ll want to do a little post-production. I always use Adobe Photoshop -combined with one or two plugins- but of course there are various options to choose from. A high quality free solution is  the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP). Eventually, using the software of your choice, there are several aspects you might want to take a look at.

8.1 Cropping

Through cropping you can correct or fine-tune a panels’ composition if need be. I don’t do this very often. Usually, I try to get the composition right in camera. Lastly, note that when you resort to cropping, your photo should be large enough in pixel-size otherwise you might loose quality.

8.2 Removing reflections or other imperfections

I discussed the reflections in the paragraph on cinematography. Mostly the ‘other imperfections’ comes down to removing specs of dust. Especcialy macro lenses suddenly show dust  I often didn’t notice with my bare eyes.

8.3 Color correcting

Color correcting is necessary whenever I don’t have the right colors available as lights. If your camera has a RAW-setting, shoot your photos in RAW. Thus, the most (color-)information is incorporated in the photo which is important for post-processing. If not available, always shoot in the highest quality.

8.4 Lighting corrections

Sometimes a photo doesn’t come out like I wanted with respect to lighting. I try and correct those issues in post-production. Sometimes lighting up certain parts of the image to get more attention to that part, or darkening some part(s) of a picture. This takes some practice, and if done right it looks pretty good. However, never as good as lighting a scene correctly ( in my case ;) ).

8.5 Special effects

Special effects are always cool to incorporate in a comic, as long as you don’t overdo it and keep it related to the story. Ghosts, lightsabers, light-beams, lightning, rain, flying objects/ minifigures, explosions, walking through walls. Whatever you can think of, it is possible. From time to time I will be posting (Photoshop) tutorials.

9. Put the Lego comic together and save it

In the end everything comes together when you create the actual comic. You have the script, you thought of a basic panel layout, you have for photos and you have the texts you want to use. In this step everything comes together. Tweak each page and panel until you’re happy with the result and you’re good to go.

Again there are several options to put the comic together.  Some use photoshop, GIMP or similar software. But, these come with a learning curve. I myself use specific software to create my comics: ‘Comic Life’. It’s not free, but it saves a lot of time for me.

After you have your comic completely to your liking, consider adding copyright-information, save it and don’t forget to optimize the image for the web!

10. How to share your Lego comic

I presume you want to share your comic with other people in stead of keeping all your awesomeness to yourself. Again you have several options, each with their own advantages and disadvantages:

10.1 Your own website

As the creator of a Lego brick comic, I believe you should try and set up your own website. Sure it can be a lot of work at first, and it may be difficult to get some traffic towards your website. But in the end your Lego comic deserves its own little home on the Internet. A home where you as creator are in charge and you are not dependent on how others believe your creation should be treated.

These days it is fairly simple to get a simple website going. There are many options for websites. You could also work with a (low-cost) provider. I recommend using Wordpress with the comic-press or panel theme or another theme of your choice combined with the comic-easel plugin.

10.2 Social media like instagram

There are a few Lego brick comics published media. Yet i myself am not a fan of giving all control of my comic to a third party.

I only know that there are Lego brick comic on Instagram. On the one hand, there are a few disadvantages. For instance, instagram messing up the chronological order of the comics. Besides, there is no adequate navigation. Just try and get to the first episode of each Lego comic listed below as fast as possible. On the other hand I hear it is easy to build a large audience fast. Currently, I don’t recommend social media for posting your comics. But who knows what the future might bring.

10.3 Forums

I have seen a few comics shared on a forum. This outlet may be nice if you have a few experimental comics and you want some feedback from likeminded people. However, if you are getting serious about posting a longer run of Lego brick comics, you should go for one of the other two options.

11. Go and get your Lego brick comic up and running!

I’ve given you an overview of many aspects to consider if you’d like to create your own Lego brick comic. Not all aspects are equally important and of course it is up to you, how  you want to organise things. The most important aspect, of course, is to simply have fun! Enjoy conceiving, creating, publishing your own comic.

So, what are you waiting for? Go off and create your own comic! And don’t forget to let me know if you do! That way I can read your comic and add your production to the ultimate list of Lego brick comics.

I will update this article periodically and link to in depth articles on several subjects.


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