Transformers conventions can be the highlight of the year for many fans and collectors, whether BotCon, Auto Assembly, HasCon or TFNation. Enthusiasts look forward to the opportunity to spend time with their friends in the community, meet and speak to artists and creators in the industry who work on Transformers and use the opportunity to buy figures and art for their collections. The next big Transformers show on the horizon is TFNation 2018, taking place next weekend in Birmingham, England.
As well as preparing a few toys to hand to collectors in person that I’ve sold, arranging meet-ups and travel plans with those I normally spend time with at Transformers meets and conventions and even coming up with a small wants list for myself, I have the pleasure of co-presenting a Transformers toy photography panel with Sixo at this year’s TFNation. The organisers have not only gotten some excellent guests yet again for the show, they have also called upon community members to talk about their involvement in the fandom on topics such as toy photography, dealing toys, specifics of the toy line, creative image-editing software use and more. They also opened applications for fans to pitch their own panel ideas that could be approved.
So what needs preparing, other than one’s hair and wardrobe? There are lots of articles and even videos on the subject of convention prep, but here’s an insight into my own personal list of things that I have to get ready. On the subject of selling toys, many collectors will relish the opportunity to see items in person and skip postage fees by collecting toys at TFN for a slight discount compared to online sales. It’s also a nice opportunity to meet the person you are dealing with as opposed to the occasionally impersonal online purchase.
Bearing in mind that many fans save up for conventions and wish to spend their money at the show, it can be hard to come up with things to attract them with just prior to the show, so I’ve focused on taking and offering Transformers that are potentially an expensive pain to ship. I made my various Titans Return and Transformers Legends Fortress Maximus and Trypticon toys available for sale at quite a way below their original import price and also offered some collectors the chance to buy huge Transformers Movie store display items I’ve had for some years. I’ve already sold two of my three Fort Max figures and one of the Trypticons. The displays have not sold yet, but often those need to be seen in person before someone breaks down and decides to go home with them!
In terms of buying, my budget almost always depends on what I can sell just prior to the show. This is not what most collectors do, as they prefer to have a set and known budget that they can rely on with which to purchase the toys on their wants lists, or anything new that gets a special release at the show, exclusives etc. With me, my wants list has become so particular with regards to condition that often I am better served making purchases online, but I always like to have some change available for impulse buys or surprise gems that surfaces at these shows. I also love to get art commissions from the attending artists, so I make sure I’ve got that covered in advance. Nick Roche is preparing something rather wonderful for me as I write this, I’m certain!
Over the last few years, I have almost always gone home with more artwork than toys, and a stunning page from IDW’s Optimus Prime drawn by Kei Zama was just out of financial reach for me, or it would have been brought back to Iceland along with my Nick Roche Diaclone Dia-Battles head shot and full body Greatshot commissions. There’s always the obligatory haul of art prints too that I constantly dream of finding wall space for. Make sure you bring something to take those prints and pieces of art back home in so that they don’t get damaged in transit. I can honestly say there are few bigger thrills than seeing an art commission for the first time after you’ve dreamt of getting it from one of your favourite artists for so long; it’s always a show highlight for me (even if the grumpy bugger tells you how much he hated doing it).
Sixo and I were both extremely honoured to be approached by the TFNation organisers to present a panel on photographing Transformers toys. We’ve been setting aside photographs from the last few years that we feel best represent our work, as well as those that best illustrate the concepts we want to discuss on the day. Obviously, with only 50 minutes between us and allowing time for questions, there’s no chance we can cover every element of what we have learned about photographing Transformers, but we do hope to communicate the basics and give the most relevant tips from our experience. Considering the fact that I have much less of a photographic or theoretical education than Sixo, I hope to be able to share some of the discoveries I’ve made (some accidentally) and how I’ve made the best use of my own ability to get results that people have occasionally enjoyed.
My preparation for this panel was dealt a significant blow when my hard disk drive containing all of my Transformers photography died a horrid noisy death last weekend. I had back-ups from January, but nothing more recent, and there’s nobody to blame but myself. A number of nights spent trawling the web and forums for hi-res examples of what I had lost have yielded just under 500 recovered Transformers and Diaclone photos, so at least I will be able to represent some of my recent work at the panel. I’m extraordinarily privileged to be sharing the duty with Sixo, who is far more organised and was smart enough to back up his library of photographs in a more sensible way than I have, as well as carrying the weight of constructing the slideshow while I’ve been away over summer. Cloud storage for me, going forward!
The one aspect of these conventions that always stands out beyond anything else is just how much fun it is to socialise with my fellow community members, even those outside of my usual friend groups. That magic tends to happen in the evenings after the main show schedule in the lobby of the hotel or at the nearby restaurants, and it’s what I certainly want to leave the most time for. There’s not much I do to ‘prepare’ for this apart from making sure I’m not too committed to other things going on in the evening that require me to be away from my friends or the gathered masses. I’ve chosen to skip the Stan Bush concert, for example, as I think my Friday evening time will already be compromised by panel prep for presenting on Saturday morning, therefore, I want to maximise the time I’d have to hang out. Living abroad means I get to see my TF buddies even less nowadays, so everything from the drive up to Birmingham to the hotel breakfasts are moments to cherish.
See you all at TFN!
Many kind thanks to TFNation for the use of their official show photos.
All the best