Photographing Your Doll, Made Easy
One Hopes...

Indoor Lighting

In the photo above three clamp lights are used to illuminate the doll.
25 watt bubs are used and the digital camera is set to adjust for tungsten lighting.
(If you don't have such a setting, Reveal bulbs by GE are said to not cast the yellow light that regular bulbs do.  It may be worth a try)
A large roll of paper found at a school supply store is used as a backdrop.
A large cardboard display board, used for school projects and found at an office supply store, is used to give added support to the backdrop.
Several squares of white cardboard (one covered with aluminum foil) are used as reflectors. These are angled up to cast light on the doll's face for the photograph.
Clothes pins hold a sheet of paper over the light(s) closest to the doll to diffuse the direct light. 
This mini photo studio is set up on a table high surface that is out of the way in a dark corner of the house. A permanent set up is great if you find yourself taking pictures weekly.


Indoor Lighting Set Up

Photography 101, Simplified Basics
Look closely at your doll.  I mean really close.  Is every hair in place? Is the posture pleasing and realistic? This all seems pretty evident but it's amazing how much can slip past you.  So look before you shoot. This will give your photos a more professional polished look.
Your eye is an unmatched piece of technology.  While cameras are trying to match the complexity of the human eye they still have a long way to go.  One thing that an eye can do that a camera can not is adjust for a variety of colors and lighting so that we see a clear and vibrant image.  A camera has more difficulty making these adjustments.  This is one reason why a white fair skinned doll in a black dress is so difficult to photograph.  To help your camera with this task try to reduce the extremes in tones that your camera is "seeing".  Remember that your camera is "looking" at more than the doll.  Your camera "sees" a lot of backdrop too.  Use this to your advantage by always choosing a backdrop that equals out the tones found in your doll. 
Notice the two example photos below.  Using a white or black backdrop creates too many extremes for your camera to effectively compensate for.  However, the blue background is half way between the white of the doll's skin and the black of her hair and dress. So your background, though usually unnoticed, can play a vital role in effective photographs. 
One more note about backdrops...keep in mind this little artist's proverb when arranging your photograph, "The simpler the line, the more direct the focus".  A busy background will bury your lovely doll so keep the background simple and your doll will become the star attraction of the picture.

Lighting: It took me ages to get it through my head that regular house lights just don't work for lighting your photos.  The light bulbs in our household lighting fixtures are known as Tungsten lights.  That means that they will cast an unpleasant yellowish tone to your photograph.  Unless you have a camera that can compensate for Tungsten lights you will have to use photo lights for indoor lighting. I don't know much about indoor photography lighting so you may have to ask around at some photo stores for advice.  If you can find a good digital camera that has a setting for Tungsten lighting then whoopee!,  most of your indoor lighting problems are solved. If not, I have heard that Reveal light bulbs by GE do not cast the yellow light.  It may be worth a try. 
Composition: Once again, keep in mind the artist's proverb, "The simper the line the more direct the focus".  Decide (that means give a moment's thought to) what you would like your audience to focus on.  But, how do you get the eye of your audience to focus on what you would like to highlight?  While their are many techniques found in many good books on photography here are two simple formulas. 
Formula One: Keep the background simple.  This does not mean the background has to be a bare sheet of paper such as in most of the photographs seen on this page.  Keeping it simple means avoiding any unnecessary clutter.  Avoid excessive "stuff" that does not relate to your doll.  "Stuff" can refer to color, lighting or other objects that will take the eye off your doll. 
Notice the example below. There are several objects in the photo but none of the objects introduce colors or ideas not found in the doll and her gown.  Imagine how a purple background curtain would have disrupted the composition of colors.  Also, each object relates to the Russian doll herself such as a framed picture of a Russian Czar and a Russian Samoyed dog. 
Here is a side note. Remember the earlier advise to look before you shoot.  Notice the wrinkles in the curtains behind the doll,  they should have been ironed out before the photo was snapped, darn it! 
Now on to the second formula...

Formula Two: This simple formula is called the "Intersection of Thirds".  This means that your photograph is broken into vertical thirds and horizontal thirds.  The focal point of your subject is then positioned on one of the four intersections of those thirds (see the diagram below).  
Here is a drawing of the grid that will help you better organize your photos. The pink areas represent one of four Intersections of Thirds.  The focus of your subject can be placed in one of these intersections. It sounds silly and looks kind of technical but it is a very simple tool that gives you a great start to composing wonderful photos.  

Below is an example of a photo taken using this "Intersection of Thirds" tool.  Notice the focal point of the photo is the dog's face.  The dog's face is placed in the upper right intersection of thirds and the rest of his body is slightly out of focus. Look again at the photo of the Russian doll.  Notice what intersection the doll's face is placed in.  Next, notice where her white dog's face is placed.  Yes, for that photo two intersections where used for both a primary and secondary subject.

Now, let's take a look a your next option for effective photos using outdoor lighting.

Tip from doll artist Barb Alexander
"mostly I take my pics inside my room using nothing but an
overhead shop florescence light.. works great!! don't even use the flash at
I think you will like the florescence lighting.. I learned about it when I was painting.. it makes the oil and pastel colors look "true" and it does the same for pics...  of course I touch up the brightness/color in Paint Shop Pro.."

Thanks for the tip!  Reveal bulbs by GE may work well for indoor photography too.


Outdoor Lighting

Using outdoor lighting is a great way to get the lighting right for your doll.  
For this photo a roll of paper was supported between two lawn chairs on a yard stick.  Rolls of construction paper can be found at school supply stores in a variety of colors. Again, use a backdrop color that will even out the tones found in your doll and her clothing. 
The doll was placed in a shady area of the garden but a sunny room in the house will work well too. The idea is to get a lot of ambient light bouncing all around.
A reflector or two is the crucial element to outdoor lighting for your doll.  Angle the reflective cardboard up to cast light on your doll's face. This reflector is made from two pieces of poster board taped together.  
This is a quick and easy set up that can be stored and accessed quickly and easily.  The only difficulty is crouching down to take the photo.  A little throw rug can help give you a little cushion.


Outdoor Lighting Set Up


Reflectors and Diffuse Lighting

Since every doll and ever pose is different you will notice your lighting needs changing often.  Moving your doll around in your mini studio will help you capture the best lighting for your doll.  However when simply moving your doll and angling your lights doesn't do the trick why not try reflectors and/or diffuse your lights.  
White cardboard squares work well as reflectors.  You may also cover a square with foil to create a more powerful reflector.  I've used mirrors occasionally and sometimes you can achieve a "spotlight" look if you can angle it to illuminate your doll's face or hair (mirrors can sometimes give you too much light and wash out your subject).
To diffuse this light a sheet of paper was attached to the clamp light with clothes pins. But, be careful! You don't want to start any fires. A 25 watt bulb is used, all lights are turned off after the photo session is done and the paper is checked every few minutes.    


Some simple software editing can add a special touch.  These bubbles were added using a paint tool from a photo editing program.  An airbrush setting set on gray created ethereal bubbles in various sizes.  It's worth the couple of extra afternoons it takes to get familiar with the tools we probably already have on our computers. 

Close-Up Cheating

For those who create dolls with a lot of fine details zooming in is a must if you are to present the quality of your work in photographs.  They say that necessity is the mother of invention and I found this to be true while photographing one of my dolls that would be submitted to a jury for a contest.  I did not have access to a good micro lense but needed a good close, close, close-up of my doll.  
"I wonder..."  I thought and went searching though my junk drawer for a magnifying glass.  To my amazement the crazy idea actually worked!  While it can't beat a professional micro-zoom lense it's a great cheat in a pinch.

Placing a magnifying glass in front of your camera lense is a quick fix when you do not have access to a good micro-lense.


As you look though the viewfinder on your camera you can use a magnifying glass to get a close, close up of your doll.

Not too bad!

Close up tip from doll artist C. Jones: 
"most have a "macro mode" either in the menu or a button on the camera itself - it looks like a little tulip. An easy way of doing closeups is to set that and put a small piece of white paper (on or two sheets) to diffuses the flash - just tape it over the flash. This will make it so the flash is not as bright..."
Thanks so much!


Creating a Light Box

Light Box Ingenuity
Ah, the joy of a light box!  What is a light box.  Basically it's a controlled photography environment. By creating a white box that allows light to penetrate you will have more control over the colors and textures that your camera will pick up.  It's also lots of fun to create mini dioramas inside!

Your light box can then be placed out side or clamp lights can be positioned outside the light box (on either side and above) to create and even lighting ambiance. 

This light box was created using a cardboard box with all sides accept the bottom cut out. This created a cardboard frame. White kitchen trash bags were then taped with shipping tape around the frame. It was then stacked on a shorter box. The result was a serviceable light box.  With this trick you can create a light box in a variety of sizes. With a roll of paper inside you can pull down your back drop and avoid wrinkles in your background.  

Notice the even tones and shadows.

Here is the same light box with different decor and artificial indoor lighting.


The Cameras 

35 mm automatic
The simplest camera type, much used by casual amateurs, has most of these features; lens, shutter, viewfinder, and film-holding system and a light-tight container. Present-day equivalents are pocket cameras taking easy-load film cartridges or film disks. Typically, a fixed shutter setting gives about 1/50-second exposure; the lens is permanently set to record sharply all objects more than about five feet (1.5 metres) from the camera. Provision for a flash may be built in. Though simple to handle, such cameras are in daylight restricted to pictures of stationary or slow-moving subjects.

35 mm single-lens reflex (SLR)
The ground-glass screen at the back of the camera slows down picture taking because the screen must be replaced by the film for an exposure. This camera has a screen, but the film remains constantly in position. A 45° mirror reflects the image-forming rays from the lens onto a screen in the camera top. The mirror moves out of the way during the exposure and back again afterward for viewing and focusing the next picture. The image on the screen therefore temporarily disappears from view during the exposure. Present-day single-lens reflexes are either 35-mm cameras or advanced roll-film models. Most 35-mm reflexes have optical prism systems for eye-level screen viewing, built-in light-meter and electronic exposure-control systems, interchangeable lenses, and numerous other refinements. Often the camera is part of an extensive accessory system. Advanced roll-film reflexes are even more modular, with interchangeable viewfinders, focusing screens, and lenses.

Digital Cameras
Digital cameras, make it possible to bypass the film/paper step completely by capturing the image into the camera's random-access memory or a special diskette and then transferring it to a personal computer. Since both technologies produce a graphics file, in either case the image is editable by means of suitable software.
Mega pixels: The more mega pixels the higher the quality and larger you can blowup your photos.  However, for use on the internet more is not necessarily better.  A photo with a high PDI (dots per inch) will take forever to load and take lots of room to store. And, since a variety of computers will be reading your image, simpler is often better. After all, eyes will be viewing your digital photo from a digital screen which will only present it in terms of "dots per inch" anyhow.  So don't knock yourself out saving for the highest mega pixel count.
DPI: (Dots per inch) Here is a simple way to understand DPI and the very low down, simple basics of digital images.  Go get a magazine and a magnifying glass.  Now, look at a photograph in the magazine.  What do you see?  You see lots of tiny little dots.  When you step back you don't see the dots at all.  Now, if you could count how many dots are in a square inch on that photograph you could tell how many dots per inch make up that photo.  Next, get a newspaper and your magnifying glass.  Find a photograph and look at this under your magnifying glass.  If you could count the dots per inch you would probably find less dots per inch.  Holding your magazine photo next to your newspaper photo you can see the difference in the quality.  The photo with more dots per inch is clearer.  Digitally speaking this is how an image is translated onto your computer, as a series of dots.  The more dots, the sharper the image and the bigger the file.  Again, A photo with a high PDI (dots per inch) will take forever to load and lots of room to store, so it's always a trade off.
MB Megabytes and Memory Cards:  Now, where are you going to put all those dots? All those dots that make up your picture will be stored digitally and graphics can take up a considerable about space. This means that for every byte of information, you will have to find a place to put it.  The higher the MB (megabytes) the greater your storage capacity.  My camera's 16 MB Memory card can store 30 photos while a 4 MB memory card would store considerably less and have to be unloaded or emptied onto your computer more often. 
Here is the technical scoop; An image is divided into minute picture areas called pixels and produces an array of binary digits, each representing the brightness of a pixel. The resulting stream of bits is enhanced and compressed and is stored on a magnetic or optical medium. A large storage capacity is required, because it takes about 45,000 bytes to store a typical compressed text page of 2,500 characters and as much as 1,000,000 bytes to store a page containing an image.  The computer's memory stores an image as individual dots, or pixels. Each pixel is encoded in the computer's memory as one or several bits (binary digits represented by 0 or 1). A 2-bit pixel can represent either black or white, while a 4-bit pixel can represent any of 16 different colours or shades of gray. The constituent bits that encode a picture in the computer's memory are called a bit map. Computers need large processing and memory capacities to translate the enormous amounts of information contained in a picture into the digital code of a bit map, and graphics software programs use special processes to perform these procedures. 
JPG: Your digital images will be stored on your computer.  How does your computer to know what to do with the disembodied pixels you just dumped into it. You will notice that your image files end in .JPG or .JPEG.  These suffixes tell the computer that this data is a graphic. Unless specified, your computer will not know where to find or what to do with your digital image.

Referenced by Encyclopędia Britannica Copyright 1994-1999 

My Cameras
I use a Kodak DC4800.  I love this camera because it's so easy to use and reliable.  Plus, I can adjust for tungsten lights and take wonderful photos indoors. 
For 35mm shots I use a Minolta X-700.  This little work horse is also simple to use.  I hate a bunch of confusing gadgets so these cameras are really straight forward and easy to figure out using ordinary common sense.


Photography Links


I hope that this will be helpful. Please excuse any lack in these explanations.  I'm still a student of these crafts myself.  It seems that those making dolls today have to wear a lot of different hats and have a diverse range of skills.  One day your a fashion designer and the next day a web designer.  One day your a seamstress, the next day your an accountant. Author, promoter, painter, sculpture, computer operations, photographer, public relations etc, etc, etc. Any little tid-bit that helps simplify one of these skills has been of great help to me. So, here are some links that may be helpful on the day you have to wear the photographer's hat.

Photographer's Dictionary

Digital Camera Pointers

Kodak's Education Recourses

Stats About The Digital Camera I Use

More Photo Tips

I hope this helps...
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