personal photo project: toys

  • toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

Personal Photography Project of Melissa Gibson


toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

What is/was your personal project and what inspired you to start it?

My personal photography project revolves all around my girls’ toys.  I spend my days documenting their lives and I wanted to include all of what THEY love, not just what I love about them.  Things like their smiles, her new braces, the first day of school; all of those are important to document, but there is so much more that the girls love, too.  Just simple little kid things that are often overlooked and outgrown too quickly.  Choosing to photograph their toys was an obvious choice for me.  I mean, hey, I see them everyday as well and I pick them up out of the floor A LOT.   However, soon they will be too old for them or move on to something else in their little lives.  I’ll miss these days.  They will miss these days.  That’s what led me to decide to shoot their toys.  I see this as a little gift to my girls, too.  I want them to look back on their childhood toys with sweet and silly memories.

toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

Are there any challenges or ruts you faced during your project and how did you overcome them and keep a creative eye?

Yes!  To shoot without tipping the Creepy Scale.  Mainly, I wanted to shoot the toys in creative ways; however, I didn’t want it to come across as “scary”, I guess you could say.  I wanted whimsical and humorous.  That’s the reason I stayed away from baby dolls and Barbies.  I didn’t want to humanize them so much so that they came across as too creepy rather than fun and silly.

Also, sometimes I’d get frustrated that I wasn’t able to see what I wanted the character to do.  How I wanted the toy to act in the shot.  In those instances, I’d ask my girls what they wanted the toy to do.  I’d ask a child to set up the scene for me and then I’d just wait for the light.  That was the case with the mommy elephant and her babies.

toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

What have you learned through your process with your personal project?

Light!  I’ve learned how to see light so differently.  Using the toys gave me a lot of time to play and really see what was around me.  I didn’t have any kids urging me to hurry up.  The toys never asked me to give them candy or money.  I was able to slow down and really study the light in each shot.  I could see the reflections, the shadows, and the lines in my own time without feeling pressured.  I also learned that my vision and style transfers over to still life photography and it’s not just a random sort of look that I like to see in my images.  It’s a vision that moves all over; from my girls to my personal at-home style and even to the way I see toys.  It’s just….me coming out.  Shooting the toys most certainly helped me see that about myself.

toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

Is there anything additional about your project that readers may find interesting?

I often let the girls choose the toy each day and sometimes, as I mentioned before, they helped me come up with the ideas for the shots.  They really enjoyed getting involved with the project and even the editing as well.  Because of that, I see just how meaningful this project is to them AND me.  I can surely see how much they will love this shots when they are looking back in a few years.  It’s a blast for all of us.  Even the toys don’t complain.

toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

toys, the personal photography project from Melissa Gibson

About the Author:

Melissa is a proud MWAC who gears up with a Nikon D700, prime lenses, and edits her “fun, childlike, and whimsical” photography solely in Photoshop Elements. Melissa's goal both now and when she first began her photography journey in 2005 is to, in her own words, “remember my girls’ lives for them. They are so young yet growing so quickly. I know they won’t remember it all so I feel it’s my job to document it for them.”


  1. Linda Dec 27 2013 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    These photos are genius! So creative and so inspirational!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Elise Dec 27 2013 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    What a great project!

  3. Lindsay Dec 27 2013 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    I LOVE this! <3

  4. Astrid Dec 27 2013 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    I love this. I loved it in the breakout and this just brings it back.

  5. Kristy Dec 27 2013 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    I loved following this project of yours Melissa! Your girls will treasure these images!

  6. Melina Dec 27 2013 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    Love these so so much Melissa!!!! <3

  7. Shari Dec 27 2013 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    Love this Melissa! You are the first Clickin Mom that I came across and made me realize that I could love photography with my kids and not go into business (taking photos of what others wanted me to take). This changed everything for me. Thank you for continually inspiring me to follow my heart and dream! It has been a gift to be able to just photograph my children and family in a way that makes my heart sing.

  8. Melissa D Dec 27 2013 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    I absolutely love this Melissa!! What a fantastic personal project!

  9. Marsha Dec 27 2013 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Love!! Love!!

  10. Megan Dec 27 2013 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    I love how you brought these toys to life, Melissa! Such a fun project! <3

  11. Meghan Dec 27 2013 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Fabulous idea– that you for sharing!

  12. Mabel Dec 27 2013 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    This is a seriously awesome project! A toy story comes alive so creatively!

  13. Jen Conley Dec 27 2013 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    LOVE this idea!!! And your shots are absolutely gorgeous!

  14. Jenna Dec 27 2013 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    love your creativity!

  15. Dawne Dec 28 2013 at 1:02 am - Reply

    I’m beyond inspired and impressed Melissa! Wow! My daughters don’t have “toys” anymore … Off to look through their rooms for objects to photograph … You rock!

  16. Nina Dec 28 2013 at 8:55 am - Reply

    so creative, Melissa! i absolutely love this!

  17. Melissa Dec 28 2013 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Thank you Clickinmoms! And thank you everyone for the nice comments here. 🙂 I have had such fun with this toy project and my girls have as well. Hope it’s inspirational to you all and that you go for it, too!

  18. sarah carlson Dec 28 2013 at 9:55 pm - Reply

    Loved reading about this, Melissa! Such a fun project!

  19. Ana Reis Dec 29 2013 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    Awesome !!

  20. Kate @ Songs Kate Sang Dec 30 2013 at 12:15 am - Reply

    Love this!

  21. Dana Dec 30 2013 at 11:22 am - Reply

    As a kid at heart who still holds on to a lot of her childhood toys, I absolutely love this. I am a 30 year old big-kid with a 3,000 piece Mr. Potato Head collection– I think you may have just inspired me to look at those spuds in a new “light” 🙂

  22. Joyce Jan 06 2014 at 6:09 pm - Reply

    These photos are wonderful! Thanks for the inspiration.

  23. trishannc Jan 06 2014 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    Absolutely awesome and inspirational. I needed some inspiration and now…I want to find my own personal project idea.

  24. Shell Jan 29 2014 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Amazing! I am inspired to do the same for my children.

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