To Darryll Jones, toys are more than just inanimate playthings for children. The whimsical photographer regards them as subjects with depth and important stories to tell. Take his muse Eric, for example – a Star Wars Stormtrooper who basks in everyday human experiences. He takes relaxing bubble baths, rocks out at Pearl Jam concerts and indulges in a glass of wine after a long day. And Darryll captures every moment.

eric the stormtrooper

His passion for highlighting Eric’s adventures has cemented Darryll’s status as an Instagram influencer. He shared with Curalate what it takes to transform a silly idea into a fascinating image that audiences just can’t look away from. Here’s what he recommends.

1. Spawn inspiration by doodling.

Finding the inspiration to produce great work can be tough. To get the creative juices flowing, Darryll etches “silly, little ideas into the night.” He recommends that aspiring photographers do the same: “Keep a sketchbook on you at all times. Make notes of ideas and do little doodles of setups.”

darryll jones sketching

While Darryll considers doodling to be a huge help, he doesn’t adhere himself to the sketches when actually taking photos. Staying fixed to a particular idea throughout the process can eliminate the organic feel from an image. Stories often end up telling themselves, and it’s to the photographer’s benefit to let that shine through as often as possible.

The bottom line? Have fun. “If you’re enjoying it, others will too.”

2. Invest time in your craft.

Patience and practice are major factors that determine whether or not a photographer will produce successful work, according to Darryll. People will often tell themselves they don’t have the time to hone their craft, but getting on a repetitive schedule can lead to amazing results. “Spending just an hour or even a half hour each day on something builds into an amazing amount of time doing it,” he says.

darryll jones toys

Take time during the photoshoot itself, too. Rather than hastily shooting a subject, Darryll recommends building a relationship with it first: “Play with your toys, your food, your cats. Talk to your toys, listen to them and give them their own personalities. Compound interest every day, and you will have the best life story clips of all freakin’ time.”

3. Never get complacent.

Photography starts with the basics, and every photographer should know them. “Learn to use your camera settings. Look at the light, look at the colors, look at the story … and click,” Darryll says.

darryll jones evolving

The learning process shouldn’t end after taking a stellar image, though. “Don’t think ‘Boom! I’m a photographer.’ Even the best photographers are still learning, evolving and adapting their art form. We need to understand it, to be a part of it.”

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Interested in learning more about Darryll’s process? Get his tips and more from 12 top Instagram influencers to learn how you can build stronger connections with your followers.