Your Toy Collection How to Photograph

Condition Grading
Throughout the site all models are given a condition grading. The first letter applies to the model and the second to the box or packaging.
  • A+ = Mint
  • As new Condition
  • A = Excellent
  • Only the slightest faults
  • B = Very Good
  • Some signs of wear
  • C = Good
  • With obvious wear
  • D = Fair
  • Possibly parts missing
  • E = Poor
  • Restoration project only
  • NB = Loose
  • No box or packaging

In order for ToyMart or indeed any other potential purchaser to value your collection accurately you will need to provide some quality photographs of everything you are hoping to sell.
Your pictures must enable the potential buyer to accurately determine the condition of all the toys/models.
The good news is that this is not as hard as it sounds if you follow these basic tips.

enlarge picture

Camera, what camera?

In short you should use the best camera you have got or can lay your hands on.

However don't think that you need to go out and buy a fancy top of the range Canon "Do it all".

Because with a little care a smartphone or point and push camera will still be able to produce perfectly acceptable pictures.

Above is a picture taken with our usual studio camera and below is exactly the same shot but taken with an iphone6. The iphone struggled a little with the light but still perfectly acceptabe for our purposes.


With regard to settings, top of the range cameras will have more buttons, knobs, levers and switches than you can shake a stick at whilst at the other end of the scale many smartphones will have little or no facility for getting clever with your pictures at all. So in the interests of simplicity unless you know what you are doing set everything to automatic.

Let there be light, light and more light!

The most important consideration when photographing your collection is the lighting. It is not possible to have too much light as your camera can easily compensate for this. However there is virtually nothing your camera do about insufficient light except reduce the quality of your pictures (by raising the ISO) or slowing the shutter speed so that you cannot hold it still and everything then gets blurry. Lighting is even more critical with point and push cameras and smartphones.

If you do not have banks of very bright studio photographers lights and lets face it most of us don't then the best thing to use is daylight. Simply set up a table near a window on a bright day but without the sun shining directly on your subjects and almost any camera will be happy. A white background will also help.

You can use a flash but only do so in conjunction with the best lighting you can arrange or you will just end up with a lot of shadows.

window lighting
Here is an example taken with an iphone6. Daylight is coming from the window behind. Acceptable but the light coming from behind leaves the front of the models a little dark.
window lighting
This has the same lighting coming from behind but a flash has also been used to show up more detail in the front. Again this was taken with an iphone6.
Hold still, compose yourself and focus!

As mentioned if you do not have enough light then your camera shutter will operate at a slow speed and unless you hold the camera dead still you will get blurred pictures. If you have one always use a tripod or a monopod. Some might consider it bad manners but getting your elbows on the table also works. Try to compose your shots with the subject filling about 3/4s of the picture with an equal border on all sides.

Take care to get your pictures in focus. It is very easy to snap off a lot of pictures and then only after you have loaded them onto the computer do you discover that they are all out of focus.

One of the main causes of out of focus pictures is holding the camera too close to the subject. Most cameras have a minimum focusing distance below which they will not focus.

A tripod helps keep things sharp!
Eliminate camera shake with a tripod. If using a smartphone get your elbows on the table!
The more the merrier! (well within reason)

If you have a large collection, photographing every single item individually will start to take a long time. For the purposes of a valuation group photographs are fine.

For small items like matchbox and Dinky toys, 20 items in a group is about the maximum. For larger toys reduce the number of items in each picture to about 10. Please make sure that you take about 4 pictures from different angles so we can see all sides of all the models.

With boxed models, unless they are definitely in perfect as new condition, it is imperative that they are shown out of the box. The box itself must also be shown. For modern boxed items in perfect condition it is fine to photograph them in the box but if possible take pictures that show the model numbers and name.

Group picture
Group picture
Up to 20 small items is fine. Please take pictures from multiple angles to show all sides.
Group picture
Group picture
No need to take multiple pictures of guaranteed never been out of the box modern items like these, but a shot of the end of the box showing the models details is very helpful.
The bigger the better? (well yes and no)

The bigger the image (the more pixels in it) the easier it is for us to zoom in and get a close look at your toys.
However, large images are difficult to move around electronically and some email servers will not let you send them at all above a certain size.

Presuming that we want big pictures (and we do really) then there are a number of solutions to this problem.

Smartphones have an advantage here as they are designed to enable users to easily send pictures to one another or uplaod them to the internet. All you need to do is select the photographs that you want to send us and email them direct to our email address valuations@toymart.com. Your phone will probably give you a choice of file sizes and one step down from full size will usually be OK. However if you have problems try another size down.

Other Cameras (compress or Zip?)
With other cameras (DSLR, Compacts etc) the simplest thing to do is just set your camera so that it produces an image suitable for emailing. However this can result in a small poor quality image which will make it very difficult for us to give you an accurate valuation.

In our experience it is best to take your pictures at maximum size and then compress them with a bit of free spacialist software. We use this great bit of free software for the job https://saerasoft.com/caesium/ and we love it.

The advantage of proper compression is that the file size can be reduced by up to 80% with very little loss of quality!

Zip compression keeps all the data but dismantles it and stuffs it into a smaller file for easy transmission. More free software at http://www.7-zip.org/ .

An alternative method of getting your pictures to us is to simply upload them to an online image storage site like https://www.flickr.com/ and then send us a link so we can download them.

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