Imagine this: a Victorian setting in London where a young professor is studying old books and discovers a curious mention about an unnamable and ancient horror. Curiosity gets to him: he leaves the city on a rainy day and treks through the countryside to the coastline and finds a cave. Within the cave there are signs of recent activity -- cart tracks and some sort of footprint, but not a print from any living creature. Eventually the professor finds a doorway and upon entering discovers a hidden laboratory with strange machines -- machines on legs, armored like tanks -- and using electricity.
It sounds like Steampunk -- Victorian and robots and the mysteries of electricity. The storytelling for a steampunk setting has a lot of potential. Elements of a noir mystery that eventually leads to high technology, dimensional travel, and in some cases, super technology bordering on magic. Steampunk, when brought into the realm of toys, offers some very interesting possibilities.
Action Figures are Second
A number of toy lines fit well into a Steampunk setting. The "Legends of Cthulhu" action figures are perfect for it, but also Acid Rain World and Indiana Jones. To be more accurate, though, Acid Rain World fits better in a Dieselpunk genre than Steampunk, but it works.
However, the element that really brings them all together are props. Without the appropriate prop an action figure just looks nice, like a posable statue. It needs a setting -- a scene where the atmosphere is painted into the viewer's mind. And that is done with props.
Use props and sets like an artist uses a paintbrush. When painting the image of your scene into the imagination of your audience you will need various elements to set the ambience. They are vital and are one of your most important tools.
Props are the Missing Element.
Steampunk is not for everyone. However, for this article it sets a good example of what is possible with the right action figure line and the right mix of props. Props are the missing element from many efforts of toy photography, but it's important not to overlook them. In the scene described above several prop elements are hinted at: robots, electricity, cart, and cave. Electricity implies a source to make it: a generator, and robots, well, that's obvious. A cave implies a diorama set: rocky walls, floors, cavern-like ceiling. Other elements play in the background: crates denoting supplies, devices for monitoring, cabling and piping. DioWarriors supplies much of this stuff, and some things like the cave walls and floors, are coming later.
So, the next time you're out to make a diorama scene for photography, think of the background elements, the things that set the atmosphere. Articulated figures come second, and since they are posable they can adjust to the items in the scene. But think of the props first because it's that which paints the scene in your viewer's imagination.
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