Matt Middendorf – aka, @cincymitt on Instagram.

Matt is the force behind the OhioToyKick and a photographer with an instantly recognizable style. He’s also one of the many toy-photographers I’ve come to admire. I found Matt during a ToyPops session and he was an instant follow for me!


courtesy of Matt Middendorf


It’s been a pleasure to watch Matt’s style develop, as well as watch the OhioToyGroup grow. I asked Matt to tell me his story and he obliged.

If you’ve noticed a theme developing here concerning the artists featured here, you’re correct. Originality, passion, modesty and the ability to speak to an audience through images are some of the qualities I’ve found that the artists I admire all possess.

Here’s Matt in his own words:

I began my journey into toy photography a couple years ago after stumbling across several photos on Instagram. I had resisted social media for a very long time until the women in my life suggested Instagram as a more visual and artistic alternative to Facebook. I was amazed at the content I found.


courtesy of Matt Middendorf

The passion and creativity that artist were putting into these “toy pics” just floored me. Then it hit me, I love photography and have a collection of toys just sitting on a shelf staring at me. I’m gonna give this a shot! Well, it fit like a glove.


courtesy of Matt Middendorf

For me, toyphotography is the perfect combination of art and pop culture. Other than music and my family, they are the two things I’m most passionate about. There’s a feeling I get when working with a concept/shot outdoors. It’s the same feeling I had at ten years old, lying in the grass setting up an epic battle between the plastic forces of good and evil. This feeling of nostalgia is no small part one the biggest joys that come from this medium for me. Aside from all this I think it’s also important to recognize the friendships, and amazing people I’ve come to know and love over the last few years. Artist who share the same passions as I do, and folks I’d never have met if it wasn’t for the world of toyphotography.

        – Matt

The bounty hunter.. Working on my night photography all this week, I wanna thank my friends Nick @shakem78 and Grant @grantkilgard for helping me sharpen my night game up ... #OhioToykick #bokeh #DisneyInfinity  #BobaFett  #STARWARS  #EpicToyart #ToyOutsiders  #_Tyton_ #starwarsblackseries  #ToyCollective  #toysaremydrug #wheretoysdwell #toyelites #justanothertoygroup #toyslagram_toyartistry_dual_feature #toyunion #guardiyan  #toyplanet #toyartistry #toptoyphotos  #toycrewbuddies #toygroup_alliance #toyartistry_elite #toyphotography  #cincinnati #ohio #tga_sneakysneaky #tcb_beatit

If you aren’t already following @cincymitt,  Boba would like a word with you



There are a few people on Instagram whose images impress me every time and with out fail. If you follow @the_whaler_ , you know exactly what I’m talking about.


courtesy of @the_whaler_

Rather then me going on about how much I enjoy his work, I’ll let him do the talking. Garth was kind enough to write up a bio explaining how and why he got into toy photography.

When Matt asks you if you want to be a featured artist on his blog/website you say, “Hell YES!”

Before I can say anything about myself, I first have to say how much Matt’s influential work has helped me over my journey through toyphotography. 

A few years ago, when this hobby seemed much smaller and you knew everyone, there were a few guys that were pushing the boundaries of what we all see as the popular trends  today in toyphotography. 

Matt, without a doubt, is hands down one of the pioneers of this hobby and where it’s at today. 

I started off taking (admittedly crappy) iPhone photos of “custom” (I say “custom” loosely, because it was just a black washed figure) Ninja Turtle figure.  I had seen Al_Figures’ videos on youtube and was determined I was going to be a diorama maker. I desperately needed a creative outlet, and I found myself on Instagram. 

I’m not a social media guy, so IG seemed like a far stretch for me to even dive into. 

It wasn’t long before I stumbled across Matt’s page, and instantly knew–I knew dios weren’t my thing, but OUTDOOR toyphotography was what I wanted to do!!

Holy cow –was I blown away! The creativeness I saw on Matt’s page, and a few other guys just captured my attention. How were these figures flying by holding onto leaves? (I’ve still never seen anyone even attempt to replicate those genius shots Matt did so long ago). How were these explosions taking place within shots? And people really went outside in the hot, cold, wind, and mosquito filled lands to get a figure with a beach sunset in the background?! No friggin way!!!!

Yes. Yes way!

So, I did some research into DSLR starter kits. (I hadn’t owned a camera since my Pentax film camera of high school days). It was like toyphotography and the stuff I was seeing reminded me how much I loved photography as a whole!! 

I had basic compositions down and simple stuff like that, but I fumbled around for months before I felt like I got stuff I was happy with. 

KABOOOM! I figured a way to get a setup, practical effects, and everything all in one shot all by myself with a remote trigger!! 

I felt like a champ when I pulled off these (admittedly bad) early shots. But not too many people were pushing the boundaries at that time, and I felt like I had made some of the greats of IG proud. 


courtesy of @the_whaler_

From there I just tried to pull off different things. When I felt like I tackled a certain skill, I tried to move onto other ideas so I wouldn’t get stagnant. 

It took me a while, but I realized that I needed to create my own “style” within the community. 

Style is a funny thing. Some people will shoot the same figures all the time, and in today’s oversaturated IG world, it’s hard for me to tell people’s work apart from others, but certain people stand out no matter what they shoot. 

I can ALWAYS tell certain artists’ work without even seeing their screen name. Those, to me, are the true artists. I’ve learned over time that that’s what’s important to me. Being able to know right away that, “Hey, that’s totally XYZ’s shot!” just by the style and tone means you’ve differentiated yourself from others (which can be a task in and of itself). 

I have a long way to go before I’m ever truly happy with something, and I think seeing the spectacular work of so many artists in the community pushes us all to step outside of our comfort zones (or at least I hope it does). 

I’ve had quite a few people over the years come to me with questions, tell me I’ve inspired them, and just treated me like a brother within this community that I hold it in a special place. I can always retreat to this hobby when I’m having a bad day (or good day!) and just get lost in everyone’s work, and for that, I say thank you to everyone who’s been a part of this community and hobby. 

– Garth –

If you aren’t already following @the_whaler_ he’s most certainly one of the premier toy photographers that you really ought to be following. 


courtesy of @the_whaler_


Instagram User of Interest


I’m completely taken by this shot from Instagram user, long time friend and follower, @action_figure_addict .

He has a behind-the-scenes, follow up shot posted as well. The amount of time and ingenuity it took to pull this shot off was well worth the effort.

Whether you’re just starting out on Instagram, or a long time user, this is a perfect example of a shot that will inspire others to try the same techniques used here. Be sure to give his feed a look and a follow.