Vintage Playmobil Space

It took quite a few eBay auctions and connecting with collectors all over the world, but I finally completed these two vintage Playmospace sets from Playmobil. I have plenty of time right now so I worked to replicate the general look of the 1980s catalogs in the studio. Click below to see more 80s playmobil goodness!


I started off with a flash at a low, extreme angle so the light comes straight across and produces dark shadows. This is the typical set-up I start with when shooting any space toys. It reminds me of the look of the famous Apollo moon landing photos.
I like this look, however it wasn’t giving me the warm fuzzy feeling the classic 80s Playmospace catalog photos did. I liked the brightness, and lack of shadows. These photos (which I believe I was first introduced to with a McDonald’s Happy Meal insert) made me want these toys. I re-arranged the lighting, and had two strobes bouncing off the ceiling. I wanted to minimize the shadows and give the overall look a more cheery, plastic feeling and invoke the feelings of desire of a five year old, in a contemporary viewer.


I prefer using kinetic sand in lieu of sandbox sand, it’s a bit easier to manage and sculpt a bit, and it cleans up much nicer. It’s very difficult to find gray (for the Moon) or red (for Mars) kinetic sand. I have this white kinetic sand I use, and I also have a batch of natural colored sand I use for beach or desert photography. I also added some rocks for set dressing like playmobil used. Also you can get some sweet tire tracks with kinetic sand.


I had the rover since I was little, but I never owned the Space Station. A friend or two had it, and of course I drooled over the photos in the catalog, but that’s as close as I got. A few years ago I won a shockingly low priced auction to get the space station.


The reason why that particular auction was so low was because of the little pieces that were missing. In true death-by-a-thousand-papercuts fashion, if I purchased each missing part separately on eBay I’d be broke. So low and behold I recently found another Space Staion auction, won it at a nice low price, but it was mostly missing pieces I already had from the first Space Station auction. Put the two together and grab a handful of pieces from a playmobil collector in France, and I was complete!

I love the interior as much as the exterior (but it is tough to shoot other than top down. There are two airlocks, crew quarters for eating and sleeping, and tons of consoles and work stations. I love how in true playmobil fashion, there are no laser guns or blasters on the ships or in the hands of the astronauts. They are here to explore!

I mentioned it’s tough to photograph the interior, but I did enjoy experimenting and seeing if I could nail this the shot of the blinding light coming from the alien space craft. With the removable dome I was able to rest a remote flash upside down and play with the strength and exposure. I feel that even though it’s more dramatic, it wouldn’t look out of place in a catalog.


I’ve been on a kick trying to stick to wholly original parts (this is a habit from my Civil War card game photoshoot), but I love this super-accurate lunar rover, that happens to be in scale with playmobil astronauts. I spied it at Toy Fair many years ago and spent months tracking it down. It was from a nondescript line of space toys called Galaxy Quest (but had nothing to do with the Tim Allen movie). The rover looks great with both contemporary and vintage figures.


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