Tomopop is a fan of many of the amazing toy photographers out there, and Singapore's Kodomut (a.k.a. Mark Soh) is one of the best. Often featured in What Toys Are Up To, Kodomut's photos are full of life and emotion. He's become one of the better-known names in the toy photography business (so to speak) and he was kind enough to talk to Tomopop about how his blog came to be, what figures he likes shooting best and much more.
Tomopop: When did you start Kodomut.com and what inspired you to start it?
Mark: I actually started out as a personal blog back in 2004 on the blogger platform just blogging random stuff in my life, mostly the usual teenage angst and rants. Later on I picked up an interest in anime and had some posts about it.
This life + anime-centric posting on blog continued all the way until early 2009 when I stumbled across quite a couple of Japanese culture, figure and anime blogs. I got exposed to figures which was quite the turning point. I order some figures and before that I had an interest in photography; and later on I moved to a personalised domain name and the rest was history.
Tomopop: What was the first toy you ever photographed?
Mark: According to my Flickr account, that (Orchid Seed's Soniko) was the very first figure that I owned, which arrived in April 2009. She is quite the voluptuous figure and I had great fun just aimlessly pressing my shutter button.
Tomopop: Do you believe a person needs high-end photography equipment to produce beautiful results, or can it be done on a shoestring budget?
Mark: That depends on what one wants to achieve. A good set of equipment enables one to do some certainly impressive photos, but most of the time it isn’t how technically good a picture is that makes people go “woah” but the composition and the ‘feeling’ it gives out. Photography is an art form that comes from the heart afterall, not a science of lighting.
Tomopop: What do you shoot with? Do you recommend those products to aspiring figure photographers?
Mark: I started out with a second hand Nikon D40 and the standard kit lens and it's more than enough to get really decent shots. After using it for more than a year I upgraded to a D90 and took up a 50mm prime lens which I still use today for almost all my shots.
I always recommend this route of DSLR purchase and upgrade to many people simply because a second hand D40 is really cheap now plus it's so easy and simple to use. Personally I don't see the need to pay a little more for some new spunky functions with the new generation of entry level DSLRs. The D40 is all you need if you are just starting out not knowing anything about photography.
Tomopop: What do you recommend for DSLR users by way of lenses, camera settings, basic tips, etc?
Mark: I think a 50mm prime is a really good all rounded lens, if you don't mind the inability to zoom and instead have to physically move to get closer or further, which doesn't really matter when you are indoors. It’s also dirt cheap for all brands of cameras. I got mine second hand for SGD 150. However a good zoom lens would be very helpful if you want to take outdoor figure shots because you don't have the luxury of having too much mobility at times.
I'm not really an expert in the handling of a camera, all the science and technical jargon that some folks discuss just makes me confused. You know a good picture when you see on. But that being said I guess the most important thing is to avoid low light and focus on the subject properly. I've seen lots of pictures that are blurry and looks like a pizza flung onto the wall. Table lamps are a good choice. I've got lots of them from IKEA, helps in taking figures.
If you venture to outdoor photography, you'd realize that the natural light from the sun in the outdoors is really nice and you don't have to worry too much. The tricky part is during dawn or dusk when the sun rays can really create nice shadows and effects which can make really spectacular pictures. I like the sunset hours, but the sun sets too fast all the time.
Tomopop: What inspires you when it comes to how you set up a shoot?
Mark: The awesomeness of a figure has a huge correlation with inspiration. I mean, if you had something nice, you'd naturally want to make it look good.
Tomopop: How long does it take you to create a custom backdrop for a shoot?
Mark: The longest time spent creating a custom backdrop was 3 nights, which was the Good Smile Company's Cannan X Alphard. It had the idea for it since I saw the Figmas but I don't think there was an Alphard Figma. So anyway that had lots of custom features and small details which took up quite some time. But that's about it, the rest of my shoots were set up pretty quick, less than 10 minutes to arrange everything. The trick is that I collect lots of junk and that makes sourcing for the stuff much easier.
Tomopop: What are your favorite figures you've ever shot, and why?
Mark: In no particular order, Narika from Alter, Drossel from the Figma line and Saber Lily, from the Nendoroid series. Narika is an excellent figure, and who doesn't enjoy shooting a great figure that looks good in every angle. Drossel is the most dynamic figure that I've ever handled and that posing her and taking pictures of her is akin to taking a real human. Nendoroid Saber Lily just looks good on the body of other Nendoroids and it makes for some really great synergies.
Tomopop: What was the most challenging shoot you've ever done, and why?
Mark: To me the challenge in every shoot is getting the inspiration or the idea spark and not so much of the push of the shutter button. But one of the most challenging and tiring shot was the ION Drossel shot. Was difficult because the timing of the water fountain was erratic and sometimes the jets of water would hit Drossel into the ground. Got really wet trying to get the shot!
Tomopop: Do you have a favorite Nendoroid?
Mark: This is a tough one but I think the title has to go to the lovely Saber Lily Nendoroid. The possibilities is endless with her when you factor in body swapping. She's one of the few Nendoroids in my opinion that can portray cuteness and/or sexiness which is pretty rare as more of the Nendoroids live in sugary cuteness wonderland.
Other favorite Nendoroids are Marisa, Theia, Rin and Kagamiku. I use them very often because the 4 of them cover a range of expressions that can be used for storytelling purposes.
Tomopop: If you could see any Nendoroid created that doesn't exist, which one would you want?
Mark: I don't watch a lot of anime so my list of known characters is quite limited, plus sometimes a character Nendorised won't look as good as you'd expect it to be, which is why my purchases of Nendoroids and figures is based on the sculpt and not the character. But nonetheless I'm quite a fan of the Monster Hunter franchise and would kill to see a Nendoroid of a hunter in KIRIN armor.
Tomopop: Thanks so much for your time, Mark!Photo Gallery: (12 images)
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