Written by | Artists, Exclusive Shoot, Themed Series

We’d been following the work of Texas photography Matt Gehlman for a while through our Instagram platform and so we reached out and invited him to create an original series based around the word “Rivals” to stimulate the flow of exciting new content. The series centres around the DragonBall franchise and is of a high ocatane nature.

Matt Gehlman @bleepjk

When I was given the theme “Rivals” I was really excited and knew immediately what figures I wanted to use. Dragon Ball Z is one of my all time favorite shows. So why not do the biggest rivalry in the show; Goku vs Vegeta. Originally I had thought I would do two different sets of rivals for this, but then I said “No. I never give my DBZ figures any love, and they are some of my favorite figures to collect so lets do this!”.

Now this photo shoot was a bit of a challenge for me. I knew I wanted to do action shots but that isn’t really my style or speciality. I’ve been wanting to get better at fighting poses and thought this would be a good opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone. I started re-watching the classic fight scenes over and over getting ideas for poses.


I was determined to use this diorama I had made specifically for DBZ figures, unfortunately it was not working out for me the way I had planned. The ground was pretty uneven, and my backdrops were not as large as they should have been. So it made the camera angles/positions pretty difficult, but it was what I had to work with. Avoiding tangents was also really difficult with this diorama set up. I kept having to settle for cutting off one of the figures hair or knee, or their fist.

The figures would constantly fall over so counter-balance was a big help in this shoot. If I had the lighting right, the camera angle was off. If the pose was right, the lighting was off. If I had everything perfect, my knee or elbow would accidentally hit the table and I’d have to start over again. I was getting very frustrated with myself. There would be moments I would just have to walk away and come back to it another day.


I kept thinking to myself: If I had decided to shoot Star Wars figures or anything else, in an environment I’m comfortable with, I would knock this out of the park. I wouldn’t give up now though. I had already invested so much time into this series of photos, I had to make something decent!

In the end, I’m not that happy with how I did in this series. Like many of us toy photographers, I am my own biggest critic. I feel like I could have executed better, done more exciting poses, better angles, improve the diorama..etc. With out a doubt this was a good learning experience. Just gotta take what you can from the good and learn from your mistakes.


Matt has injected some much need variation into our platform whilst also creating an incredible trio of images that very clearly reflects the nature of the theme word. Be sure to check out Matt’s larger Instagram portfolio via @bleepjk and leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts on the images.

Last modified: March 6, 2017

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