Q: How did you find out about figure photography?
A: I believe I first came across it briefly on Instagram in 2012, but I’m honestly not sure if it was just an idea I had back then as Instagram was so new at the time and I didn’t know how to navigate it well.
Q: What made you want to get into doing it yourself/what drew you to it?
A: I originally started taking photos of my figures in 2012 but really put a lot of effort into it starting in 2014. In 2014 I may have seen it in a Facebook group called Articulated Comic Book Art where I saw people doing it on a much higher level, but they were doing comic book characters than wrestling. I believe that’s what made me want to try it with a nicer camera than my phone. Being the big wrestling fan I am I figured I could do this with wrestling figures like I had been, but on a more professional level. I had started sharing my pics in the ACBA group, but it wasn’t getting much of a response as a lot of people in there just didn’t know what they were looking at (wrestling), plus I was still a novice then.
Since nobody was really interacting with it much I reached out to the very few artists I saw trying wrestling figure photography and formed the popular Facebook group Wrestling Figure Photography, which really started the movement we are all familiar with today. It’s really amazing to see how much wrestling figure photography has taken off throughout the community as well as how much the toy companies like Mattel, Jazwares, Ringside and others take notice of the craft. I’m so happy to see it be so accepted and become such a huge part of our beloved community. There’s so many amazing artists in the community, too!
Q: What were your struggles early on?
A: Early on I struggled with lighting especially. Lighting can be very tricky but I’ve definitely improved heavily over the years. Posing could be tough and still is sometimes, but I’ve also gotten much better with that. Developing a proper setup took a lot of time, too. My setup was very simple back then compared to how elaborate it is now, but things like Extreme-Sets didn’t really exist then either. String work (aerial moves) was very tough, too, but I developed a contraption with a tripod that a ton of photographers use today to make it much easier, which is really flattering to see. That’s how I truly know I made an impact on the community as I developed that back in my animation days back when I was 15-years old, I’m 29 now.
What equipment did you need to get started?
A: Granted you could use a smartphone to do it, and most phones today are much better than those then, but I also needed a tripod, a table, wrestling figures/ring, lights, and my own string contraption I developed to help do aerial moves.
Q: What did you spend more money on or a piece of equipment you had to replace as you went further on with your photography?
A: The camera is the most expensive no doubt as I invested in a DSLR camera, which is a high end camera that gives you much more control over your images. I just recently upgraded to another new camera, which has a lot more megapixels and abilities in general. My setup as well has been a huge investment. From lights like LumeCube to all the figure accessories, props, crowds, etc. Even the editing software. People don’t really realize how much goes into these setups if you truly take the time to upgrade it and make it look as legit as possible. I’m always finding ways to upgrade my setup to make my work that much better if I can. It’s an obsession no doubt.
Q: If someone wanted to get into figure photography, what advice would you give them?
A: My advice is to find real pictures on Google or WWE.com or wherever of the moves you want to recreate and pose your figures as closely as possible to how they’re posed in the photo. This is a great posing exercise. When it comes to equipment, you can just use a smartphone and a tripod as most smartphones are very good quality these days. You don’t need to have all the high end equipment to do this as that comes in time. Have a table to make it easier on your back. Buy cheap desk lamps at Walmart to light your set. You can also just use black poster board as a backdrop and poster board as floor to make it less distracting where you’re truly taking these photos in your house as you want to go for realism and have a nice, clean look. And most of all be creative and do your best to think outside the box. That’s how you find your voice in the community and the craft in general. If you want to stand out don’t copy others, yet find your voice by figuring out ways to be original and stand out. It’s not about the likes or the followers, it’s really what you bring to the table.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to me for tips/advice/critiques as I love helping others with this. My inbox is always open and people take advantage of that a lot. I never had someone helping me in the beginning and I’m eager to help those so they don’t experience that if they desire assistance.
Q: Is there one picture that stands out/means the most to you and why?
A: One of my favorite photos is my Fiend entrance. The figure itself was a custom made by so many talented artists in the community as well as my first photo really stepping out of my comfort zone. I utilized a fog machine in this one as well as started using visual effects to truly capture the essence of his entrance. He’s also my favorite WWE superstar in the last decade so creating an awesome photo of him that truly captures his personality really resonated with me.
Q: What are the best and worst parts of figure photography?
A: Well, at my level, in terms of being in the community so long doing photography, I’ve gotten so OCD with my work that I’m my own worst enemy. I’ve always been a perfectionist but I’m super tedious with my shots. I want them to be as perfect as possible. I use real photos for 99% of my photos to help me capture them as accurately as possible. I’m very critical of my own work.
The best part of it though is the result. I love seeing the outcome and then seeing people’s feedback. It’s a huge thrill for me and when people don’t respond as heavily, which isn’t very often, it makes me wonder what can be improved.
For photographers in general it can be a very tedious craft. It depends how anal you are about your work really. I believe my quality of work has improved heavily over the years as I’m always pushing myself to try new things and step outside my comfort zone. I believe this has led to a lot of opportunity with toy companies, magazines and the like with my work, which is a huge payoff to the overall commitment.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: If you desire to bring your figures to life and want to pursue the craft you definitely should. Everyone is at different levels, different ages and different points of their life, yet it doesn’t matter where you are in life to take up this craft. There are some pretty young photographers that are great while there are much older photographers also very talented in the craft. There’s people of all ages participating and everyone is welcome to take part if they desire, no matter how many figures, accessories, etc. you have!
If you’re on Facebook be sure to join Wrestling Figure Photography where you can meet and share your work with artists of all ages from all over the world. If you share your pics on Instagram use #WrestlingFigurePhotography and use #WFPShot for a chance to be featured on the @Wrestling_Figure_Photography Instagram ran by one of the talented photographers in the community.
And lastly, as I mentioned before, feel free to reach out to me. I may have a decent sized following when it comes to photographers in the community, but I always make time to reply to people in the comments and in my inbox. I love giving back to the community so please don’t hesitate or be afraid to reach out because of that. I’m always here to help as it makes me happy to give back to those whom helped me get where I am today!
You can see my popular wrestling figure photography over on my Instagram at instagram.com/mbg1211 as well as every month on my photography behind the scenes show on WrestleZone.com called Figure 2 Photo! Not to mention if you’re looking to add an arena crowd backdrop or backstage set to your photos be sure to pick one up on Extreme-Sets.com and SAVE 15% with code MBG1211 at checkout!
You can reach Matthew at these links: