“The Prototype Hunter” by Spencer Witt
We were so impressed with Spencer Witt’s toy photography that we actually approached him about a feature before he ever snapped a single photo of a white-armored Boba Fett, a distinction that he alone holds. “Thanks! I actually don’t own the proto Boba… I want him badly tho!” was his friendly response. Nearly a whole three months passed by when finally, an image of a Black Series Boba Fett prototype figure appeared on his Instagram account. During that time, Spencer was also announced as a #HASBROTOYPIC Fan Figure Photo Series finalist who got his work showcased at the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con AND was interviewed on StarWars.com. Needless to say, we were glad we had made contact with Spencer before he made it big!
We are joking, of course. Spencer is as friendly as they come, and the fact that he has agreed to a post-StarWars.com interview with us is dramatic proof that success has not gotten to his head. The quality of his work betrays the fact that his venture down the toy photography rabbit hole began only in January of 2016, less than eight months ago. Along the way, Spencer has established mastery over a variety of shooting conditions from indoor studio sets to the great outdoors while retaining his signature style that results in crisp, solid compositions. A few of our favorites include the intense stare down between Kylo Ren and Darth Vader, a post-rainstorm portrait of a scout trooper and his speeder bike, this fantastic shot of Jango Fett against a double sunset, an iconic image of Kylo Ren aptly titled “The Bridge“, and the hauntingly brilliant “Before the Fire“.
Like any accomplished artisan at the top of their craft, Spencer does not hoard trade secrets and will regularly post behind the scenes photos of his shoots. For beginner toy photographers, they can be an invaluable resource on how to achieve certain shots that may otherwise seem too daunting to try. Or for other accomplished photographers, perhaps teach a trick or two on how to improve on a certain setup or lighting technique. As for the rest of us, we can further gain an appreciation for how top level toy photography is done and perhaps one day be inspired it try it for ourselves.
What was your earliest Star Wars memory? Was that how you became a fan?
I don’t remember a time not knowing or being a fan of Star Wars. I grew up watching the VHS of the original trilogy and loving them as a kid. I remember seeing The Phantom Menace in theaters, I was about 9. I remember pretending to be like Darth Maul using a broom. Star Wars has always been a part of my life and I have always been a fan.
What inspired you to get into toy photography?
I’ve always enjoyed photography. My older brother is a big nature photographer. And my wife also is big into photography, but it was only this past year that I’ve started getting into toy photography.
It was with the hype of Episode 7 coming out. On my train commutes to school in the morning, I stumbled upon the @starwarstheblackseries account and other Instagram photographer accounts who shot toy pics using the black series. I thought they were awesome, and I wanted to try it out. So that Christmas time I started buying figures and got quite a few for Christmas from my wife and parents, then I started to do my own pictures. It’s fun to look back and see how far I’ve grown as a photographer. I have really enjoyed this new hobby of mine.
Well, Isaiah (@blksrs) and I actually started our accounts on the same day back in January of 2016. Kind of funny. Eventually we began chatting via Instagram and became great friends. I told Isaiah one day that I thought working together would be fun. Isaiah had a similar chat with Jason (@workmoreorless) and then we just started an IG group message. We would talk about what kind of collaboration we wanted to do. We had the idea to pick a theme and all of us shoot pictures related to that theme. So far the theme has just been characters, but eventually we may try some more “abstract” themes that are connected. Jason and Isaiah are great friends and it’s fun to collaborate and talk about our photos. They give advice and critique my work. It helps me become a better photographer. They are great friends. The toy photography community on Instagram is awesome, and I have made quite a few good friends who share the same interest as I do.
When you first posted the featured photo on Instagram, I jokingly asked you who he was shooting at. You don’t have to answer, but would you be able to offer some insight on what inspired the image? Did you have a general story or scenario in mind?
Well, I’m not sure who he’s shooting at. But I have been inspired by certain photographers who have mastered the battle scenes using compressed air cans, and I think they are awesome and wanted to try some. I like to think that Boba Fett has seen his share of battles and usually wins those battles.
And of course a big congratulations on being chosen as a finalist in the Star Wars Hasbro Toy Pic contest that was on display at the Hasbro booth at the 2016 SDCC! Anything you’d like to share about the accomplishment?
Thank you! I think it’s really cool that a company like Hasbro has noticed this community and honored quite a few of us by displaying our work at SDCC this last year. I hope it continues and they and/or other companies do more things like this in the future.
You followed that up with an equally big (if not bigger!) achievement by being interviewed on StarWars.com. Tell us all about it!
I’m still in shock that I was interviewed by Dan Brooks at StarWars.com! It’s cool that Lucasfilm too is noticing this kind of photography and wanted to talk to me about a few of my photos. He wanted to know about my creative process and things that I do before I take a photo. While sometimes I have a specific shot in mind, many times I don’t tho and just pose and shoot. It was a really cool experience and if you haven’t already, check out the interview at: http://www.starwars.com/news/black-series-magic-instagram-swittpics-star-wars-toy-photography
Lastly, what advice you would offer to someone who is new to toy photography?
Just have fun! It’s easy to get caught up in the worrying about likes and followers and features – but don’t let that distract you, just have fun. I’m still learning and am inspired by the toy community. Don’t be afraid to go out and try it. I’ve taken figures to national parks, and people have stared at me… But I still had fun! Try to learn from other photographers, but also try things that are unique to you.
About the Artist
Spencer Witt resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is about to start his third year of law school at the University of Utah SJ Quinney College of Law. He began toy photography at the start of 2016 with his biggest supporter being his wife, whom he married in December of 2013. She enjoys going on hikes together and being with Spencer as he takes photos, always providing critical feedback. Spencer’s full portfolio can be found on his Instagram account @swittpics.