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Photographing Paper Figures

Updated on September 7, 2013
(CC BY 2.0
(CC BY 2.0 | Source

I remember that as a young child I would often be given magazines from which I would often cut out pictures that seemed interesting and used them as if they were real toys, often laying them flat on the floor and pretending that they were interacting with one another like boats sailing on a pretend ocean, soldiers fighting a pretend war and so on.

You can do a photographic project using the same method that I used as a child and I'm sure that many other kids did as well too. However, it will not be as simple as just cutting out pictures from a magazine and just laying them on the floor. Your creativity must also be allowed to shine through.

Select those pictures of people, cars, boats houses or whatever you so desire and follow it by making a duplicate replica of the silhouette of the corresponding cut out picture on cardboard. This is what will allow the cut out to be stood up. Remember to cut other thin strips of cardboard which will be used to prop the figures up.

Next pose the figures against real subjects like the ocean, the sky, real people or whatever background seems to be appropriate and that goes with the cut out figure. Keep in mind that you will probably need to pose your cut out figures against a backdrop that is some distance away while focusing closely on the figure.

This gives the appearance of your figure being the same size as the background much like the technique used in many conceptual photographic shoots where a person appears to be holding the Sun for example.

A lot will depend on the angle and the perspective that you choose to pose your paper figure against, so experiment with various angles and various perspectives by looking through the viewfinder so see which one looks better and then shoot the photo.

CC BY-SA 2.0
CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

When creating the cardboard backing it is a good idea to lay the paper cut out against the cardboard and carefully trace its shape thus making it easier to cut out a replica of this shape. Also glue the paper figures by using a small amount of glue and spreading it out evenly so as not to create "glue" bumps or trapping air pockets which may give your paper figures an odd looking texture.

Try not to use a flash unit aimed directly at the paper figures as most of the material on which they are printed is very reflective and can create hot spots of light and this same reflection will also show up on the final images.

Better to use available light and light that has been diffused by either a reflector or by having the light bounced form a white surface such as a ceiling or a wall or even a photographic umbrella.

Zoom lens are very suitable for this project since you can play with the distances and still bring your subjects closer to you plus they also let you crop the image as you work rather than doing so later with the aid of a digital editing software program.

There are several variations to the technique such as using only silhouettes, drawings of comical characters instead of actual photographs and laying real photographs such as a photo of a face upon a drawing.

The best method is to practice using various samples and experiment to see what you find acceptable. The technique itself is rather simple but often you can find yourself using subjects that may not be up to your standards thereof not worth using in a photographic project.

Be selective and have a scene in mind before you proceed with all the cutting. It is also worth pre-selecting a suitable background and cut out the figures to fit it instead of cutting the figures and then selecting a backdrop that fits them.

There is another alternative albeit not that cheap. It is to take your photographs and submit them to any of the many services that will make a custom cut out for you and then use this cut out to use for the project.

CC BY-SA 2.0)
CC BY-SA 2.0) | Source

© 2012 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Richard Murray: Thank you

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I agree, the bicycle is nice:)

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Petersavage: Thank you

    • petersavage profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      Great read! I love the bicycle.


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