Happy Star Wars Day! From its humble beginnings as a terrible pun, this day has become a modern tradition of celebration for sci-fi fans – and a wonderful way for Star Wars community to express its love of the space opera that began all the way back in 1977.
While the actual birthday of the franchise is 25 May, the day on which the original film was released to theaters in the United States, pun-loving fans couldn't resist saying, "May the fourth be with you!" on 04 May each year.
Of course, fans with more of an inclination towards the Dark Side choose to celebrate 06 May – a day known as "Revenge of the Sixth", in homage to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
Still, 04 May has been officially embraced by Lucasfilm as Star Wars Day, making it the perfect time for photographers to express their franchise fandom through their images (and for our very own writer, Beth Nicholls, to marathon the entire Star Wars film saga over the long weekend we've just enjoyed in the UK!).
Star Wars has inspired photographers ever since it launched into theaters, from its direct impact on cosplayers to its broader influence on science fiction fanatics.
So, to celebrate, here are four of the best Star Wars shooters around. (And now is as good a time as any to remind everyone that Han shot first!)
As Sgt Bananas (opens in new tab), Johnny Wu carved a reputation for himself on Instagram as a toy fan who not only didn't care about taking his figures out of the packaging – he was quite happy to immerse them in water, cake them in sand or blast them with fireworks to get an amazing image in-camera.
“A lot of toy collectors… once they read that that’s not Photoshop and that those figures are actually getting water on them? And flour? And now they’re going to hear about the fireworks? They’re going to cringe," the Sony shooter told StarWars.com (opens in new tab).
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The sacrifices – even of highly prized Hot Toys figures that cost in excess of $200 – have been worth it, though. Today Wu not only has 83.6 thousand followers on Instagram, he is also a Lumecube ambassador and even has his own book, Ten Frames Per Second: An Articulated Adventure.
"As a lifelong toy fan and collector, I've always had wild ideas in my head about how toys can tells stories," he says of the book, "and it wasn't until I started taking photos of them that I realized my true passion in life."
Robert Lance Montgomery
There's a very high chance that you saw the incredible The Force Awakens cosplay shoot that a couple did with their baby a few years ago, as it exploded on social media like a good meme gone viral.
The photographer behind that shoot was Robert Lance Montgomery (opens in new tab), who not only created these incredible Star Wars-styled images but also went on to photograph the real-life couple's wedding.
"We went all the way to the desert planet of Jakku, which is located about an hour and a half South of Salt Lake City, Utah," recalled Montgomery. "Their cosplay is legit! Not only because they look the part in their hand-made costumes, but they've also got a real live BB-8 (baby-8)!"
Cosplay photography isn't typically a service that he offers but, given that he's the man behind perhaps the most famous cosplay shoot ever, we'd love to see him try his hand at another Star Wars scene.
A photographer who definitely offers cosplay among his services is Ken Pearson (opens in new tab), a Nikon user based in Texas (the state that Peter Mayhew called home later in life) whose portfolio is rich with ornate shots of Stormtroopers, Sith lords and bounty hunters.
In addition, he's also a dab hand at shooting miniature vehicles to create set-pieces and battle scenes. His Facebook page (opens in new tab) hasn't been updated in a while, but there's a tantalizing shot of a finished Star Destroyer model complete with fibre-optic lights that we'd love to see featured in a shoot.
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A commercial photographer by trade, Pearson has been a fixture at events like Dallas Comic Con – which no doubt helped him sharpen his skills at shooting painstakingly crafted cosplay scenes.
As great as he is at cosplay, though, we hope to see him turn out some more Star Wars vehicle shots soon!
If Sgt Bananas is the king of realistic Star Wars toy photography, Japanese shooter Hot Kenobi is the king of injecting toy images with heart, humor and personality.
With 147 thousand followers on Instagram – including Robert Downey Jr, who occasionally shares his images on social media – Hot Kenobi is undoubtedly the most famous of the figure photographers. And for good reason, as his shots are as creative as they are hilarious.
The Osaka-based photographer has gravitated more towards Disney's other mega franchise recently, as with most people who shoot toys, as Avengers: Endgame is rich with colorful characters to create his patented scenes.
With Star Wars Episode XI: The Rise of Skywalker out this December, though, it's only a matter of time before the Japanese Jedi returns to his roots…