BTS: Stranger Things 3 Funko Photo Shoot
When I first heard Jenna Marbles, the queen of Youtube (and my life), claim that she had something she called the “too much” gene, my life genuinely changed. Never before had I heard a term that accurately described how I tend to operate in, well, everything.
Jenna’s use of the term was not to describe having too many things or too much of something, but actually spending too much time, energy, and effort on something, and/or making it too big or too crazy. And while a few of my various collections are quantifiably overflowing, I, too, have this “too much” gene, and it is the driving force behind this very website.
I cannot take mild interest in something. If I, for even a moment, like or want to do something, anything, I am obsessed with it and anything related to it, so long as it is the thing that I’m focused on, and I can’t not focus on it until I get it thoroughly out of my system.
If it’s a show or movie that I love, I have to watch every interview I can find of the cast and crew. If it’s an actor or comedian, I have to watch everything they’ve been in or every one of their specials.
If it’s a collection, not only do I have to have a relatively complete collection but they have to be stored or displayed aesthetically and organized meticulously. If it’s a task or a project, I’m making checklists and a color coded spreadsheet on how best to tackle it.
Or, most specifically, if I’m taking some aesthetic photos of a few Funko Pop Figures and decide that I need a white tile wall that looks like it belongs in a mall in the 1980s, my “too much” gene is not going to let me sleep until I can find a white tile wall that looks like it belongs in a mall in the 1980s.
These were my reference images for why I wanted said wall:
Once I decided that this was the look I was going for, I would settle for nothing less and began the grueling search for the perfect wall. And I looked everywhere. I looked all over town and I looked online for places in town or just outside of town that may have the perfect wall, but I found nothing.
There were maybe 2 or 3 that fit the description, yes, but they each had problems that made them impossible to use, such as awful lighting, inaccessibility, or just being too crowded to get the shot.
There was also the issue of scale: many tile walls would have looked great if they were to be used as a backdrop for a person-sized person, but when you place a Funko Pop in front of it, the tiles would appear to be too big and the effect would be lost.
After a failed search and realizing there were no solutions to these aforementioned issues, I still had to satisfy my “too much” gene and was left with no other choice…
So I made a white tile wall that looks like it belongs in a mall in the 1980s.
And honestly, this project in itself was indicative of just how incessant my “too much” gene is: I combed the floor and wall tile sections of three different stores before I even found a tile that I was happy with. But after a trip to Home Depot with my very patient mother, $28, and approximately 60 hours (2 hours of actual work, 58 total hours of curing), I had the perfect wall and sweet, sweet relief.
Full disclosure: I am not a contractor, carpenter, or professional, and I have absolutely no idea if the following method would actually be successful if I were to try to tile an actual wall in my home. This is a 2’x2’ board that will only ever be used as a backdrop for photos, and is not going to come in contact with water, steam, etc in a bathroom or kitchen. Please do not attempt to duplicate these steps to create anything other than a moveable, temporary backdrop, and seek the advice of a professional if you are actually tiling a wall/room in your home.
So without further ado, here is a behind the scenes look at how I made my tile wall and shot the “mall” photos!
Step 1: Prep
From Home Depot (not sponsored) I purchased:
– 4 sheets of the Permatones Glacier Ceramic Mosaic Floor and Wall Tiles ($2.57 per sheet)
– SimpleFix Pre-Mixed Adhesive & Grout in the color Alabaster ($10.47)
– 1 2’x2’ hard board ($3.99)
– 2 plastic putty knives ($0.98 each)
(I only needed one putty knife, but had gotten two so I had a back up just in case)
I laid out one large trash bag as a drop-cloth and laid the hard board on it (with the side I wanted to tile facing up). I also used some rubber gloves I had to keep grout from getting on or beneath my nails, and I also dampened a washcloth and kept it nearby so that I could wipe down the tile after each phase.
Step 2: Adhesive
Using a pre-mixed adhesive and grout product saved me a lot of guesswork (and physical work). For cure times, I simply followed the instructions on the back of the container, which may vary between brands and types.
I used one of the putty knives to spread a thin layer of the mixture onto the board the size of one sheet, and then laid the sheet onto the layer. I made sure to firmly press each tile to make sure the entire sheet settled evenly into the adhesive and would be secure. Using the putty knife again, I scraped up any excess mixture that squeezed through the gaps or out of the sides, and then wiped the tiles down with the damp cloth. I repeated these steps sheet by sheet, doing one complete sheet at a time.
Per the product’s instructions, I gave the adhesive layer about 48 hours to fully cure before proceeding with the grouting step. I washed the putty knives so they could be reused and made sure to secure the lid on the mixture container so it wouldn’t dry out.
Step 3: Grout
After the adhesive layer had plenty of time to cure, I replaced the trash bag drop cloth with a fresh one and then proceeded with grouting the tiles lines.
Going row by row, I scooped out some of the grout mixture with the putty knife and dragged it along the line, keeping the putty knife at a diagonal angle so that it forced the mixture into the gap. Then, I scraped off any excess with the knife, and then wiped the tiles down with the damp cloth in circular motions.
I repeated these steps row by row both vertically and horizontally, and then made sure to thoroughly wipe down each tile one last time with the damp cloth.
After about 12 hours the grout was fully cured and I had the perfect white tile wall that looks like it belongs in a mall in the 1980s.
The Photo Process
Sometimes the photos I take of my Funko Pop Figures are super easy and require nothing but my phone like Eleven in her battle outfit on the beach, or Nancy, Barb, and Jonathon on the edge of my swimming pool. I can just set them where I want them and just shoot a few different angles with no extra support, props, or lighting needed.
However, that is usually not the case. Typically my photos involve some sort of base, backdrop (ie the tile wall), and possibly a prop or two, plus using various devices for different lighting effects.
I am in no way a professional photographer and I do not have professional equipment. I currently shoot all of my photos on my Google Pixel 2 XL, use various apps on my phone to edit them, and then optimize them for web in Photoshop. So more often than not, my photos are being shot on my bedroom floor or my dining table.
Here are some behind the scenes of the “mall” shoot:
I propped the tile wall against a sturdy surface that had plenty of floor space in front of it (so my Funko shelf). I used an old laptop tray table for elevation, and used a wood shelf as the actual base for the photos because I liked that specific tone of wood.
I also wanted to play around with a plant for the photo of Steve, so I recruited Philbert (my Philodendron, who I have had for about 3.5 months, the longest I’ve ever owned a non-cacti plant, and he seems to be thriving and growing!) for those shots.
Outdoor shots are my favorite to take because of the bright, natural lighting. But depending on the vibe I’m going for, sometimes I have to rig some things to make it work.
For these mall shots I wanted to incorporate colored lighting, reminiscent of the neon lights and signs of the 1980s. To do this, I searched for a color swatch that I liked online and then made it full-screen on my Macbook Pro. I then angled the laptop so that it cast the most light for the desired effect and voilà! Colored lights without an extra lamp or overlays.
I’m really happy with how the wall turned out- I think the tiles are a great scale for the Funko Pop Figures, and at the same time the tile type is versatile enough that I’ll be able to reuse the wall in later shoots.
Bonus: Behind The Scenes of the Will the Wise Photo
Typically when I’m preparing to do a shoot of a collection of Funko Pop Figures, I know right away what I want each image to look like and have a general idea of what props I’ll need. But sometimes I’ll draw a total blank and struggle to even think of where to start.
And that’s exactly what happened here with Will the Wise. For the rest of the Stranger Things 3 Pop figures, I was able to find reference photos or clips in the trailers that I could go off of (since the season hadn’t been released yet at the time that I took the photos). But Will specifically in a wizard costume was nowhere to be seen in any of those photos or trailers, and my only helpful hint was that the Funko blog post said he was “dressed for a Dungeons & Dragons session”, which still left me with little to no ideas.
After examining every frame of the scenes where Will and his friends are playing D&D, I eventually found enough elements that I could pull from/implement without having to spend any more money or crafting time. For the base of the photo, I opened my copy of “Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down” to this orange page- which is Will Byer’s player character sheet- and then stood the Will the Wise Funko Pop figure on top of it.
For the background, I just used a scrap piece of cardboard to emulate the cover of the DM binder that Mike used in their campaign in Season 1 Chapter 1, which appeared to maybe be a brown craft binder. It took way less time and effort than building a whole tile wall, but even easy little details can give aesthetic elements to a photo that are much more visually appealing and exciting (to me, at least) than just a plain wall and table top.
I hope this behind the scenes look at how I shoot some of my Funko Pop Figures was helpful to anyone who may want to take some shots of their own. You really don’t need professional equipment and elaborate props to get a good, fun shot- sometimes it just takes some creative thinking and a good angle!
If you have any questions about how I took any of my other Funko Pop figure photos, have any suggestions or requests for photo collections, or have taken photos of your own Funkos, tweet me!
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// GEEK :
(noun) obsessive enthusiast, or (verb) be or become extremely excited or enthusiastic about a subject
// ABOUT :
Morgan of House Geek, First of Her Name, Mother of a Ton of Funkos, Collector of Things, Writer of Stories, Designer of Websites, Watcher of Films, and Player of Games.
INTJ. Libra-Scorpio Cusp. Slytherin.
Jack of all trades, master of none.
// FUN FACT :
I prefer purchasing trades & volumes more than single issues. I find them to be more durable, so I can enjoy them more and they can easily stand on my display shelves without boards.