Sunday, March 16, 2008

Photographing Dolls

Recently I've had a few people ask about photographing dolls, which can be challenging because a doll's skin reflects light differently than a human's. I've been taking digital photos of my dolls for several years, but before that used my 35mm SLR. I love the instant gratification of digital photography, because it has enabled me to take step-by-step photos to include in my patterns or post on the web.

I use one of two digital cameras. The most expensive is a Nikon 5700 (about $750). It's fairly big, bulky and currently isn't working. So I'm using my little Fuji Finepix (under $200). It's small and takes great photos. It's the one I take on my bike trips, vacations, and keep in my purse at all times.

On weekends, I have a friend who stays with us and sleeps in my photo room during the day - so I can't take a photo of my setup right now. Having a "photo room" may sound excessive, but I got tired of repeatedly setting up and taking down photo lights and background in my sewing room (they just take too much room). Now that my kids have moved out, I have two spare bedrooms - one for my main studio, and one for taking photos.*

There are three issues on which I focus when photographing dolls:
Lighting
Shadow avoidance
Background

LIGHTING:
1. Never use a flash. It just washes out the doll.
2. Don't direct your lights directly toward the doll - this will wash out the doll, too. Aim the lights away from the doll and reflect the light off the ceiling or walls.
3. I used to take my dolls outside on overcast days in order to photograph them. Sunny days were just too bright, and washed out the dolls. If you do this, remember to keep the background plain.
4. Now I use 2-3 photo lights (very bright, hot, short lifespan), with one fluorescent light above and behind the doll for a backlight.

SHADOW AVOIDANCE:
1. Shining your lights directly toward your doll will increase shadows. Use reflected light.
2. Position your doll away from the back wall. Placing it close to the background increases shadows.
3. Move your lights around until shadows are minimized.

BACKGROUND:
1. I invested in a "seamless paper" photo background several years ago. I found the photo store on the Web and called the number to order it. I bought a "vinyl varitone graduated background." It was $45 in 2001. They come in a variety of colors and sizes. My taupe background is 42 X 62 inches. Using a seamless background eliminates the line where the back wall and surface on which your doll stands meet.
2. If you use a sheet or similar for your background, IRON it. You can see every little wrinkle in the photo, and it looks less than professional and is distracting.
3. Avoid clutter and unnecessary props. These just take the focus away from the doll.

Also, take LOTS of photos at different angles. Then you can weed out the bad ones. Use your macro setting if getting close to the doll.

Hope this helps. I'm sure real photographers out there have many more pearls of wisdom for you.

3 comments:

Robin's Egg Bleu said...

They always seem to come back! Those darned kids. I told mine they got one 'return' trip home after they left the first time. After that, no more. So far it seems to have stuck.

Great photo tips! Now I know what I've been doing wrong all this time!

Kaci said...

Hi Deanna, I'm from ADO and just linked to this post from the "Selling on ETSY" thread on ning. Since I'm fairly new I'm still getting caught up on the past threads and information, I'm loving it! Thanks so much for this post, I'm going to look into seamless paper and lights for photographing my dolls. I'm listing my first items in ETSY today and I'm so nervous that my photos may not do them justice, we'll see :)
-Kaci

jasmoon-butterfly said...

wonderful info, inspiring blog...thank you for sharing x