Kingdom Doll Star and Turn on Your Lights

The third in a series of three Kingdom Doll "Angel" dolls, Star, arrived last week and I am very happy with her.

She is super photogenic. Here's a shot taken with my iPhone.

She is wearing her own lingerie and wig. Her necklace had opened which escaped my eye during the picture taking.

Her beautiful silver shoes zip up the back. I have a vague memory of being told these are her 'signature' shoes. They are the same style that Liberty came with and the pink suit from the Liberty event also used this style.

 I never leave my gals dressed in lingerie and Star's first redress was into this beautiful, slinky dress from one of Sandra's conventions. It's a favorite of mine and looks great on many of my girls.
The wonderful, curly wig is a Cheryl Wood creation. You may recognize Tonner's Snow Leopard from his Golden Compass line.

 The whole scene is very jungle-tropical. I really didn't plan it this way. These days most of my studio photos use very simple backdrops and props. I'm too lazy to do elaborate dioramas.  But I do have a bunch of different artificial greens and in this case, I just pinned a few to the huge bulletin board I have in back of my shooting table. There were some empty spaces and I Photoshopped that away. I also used PS to darken the background because I thought it competed too much with the foreground. I kept the focus on the doll's face to draw the viewer's eye there.

I see loads of indoor photos in which there is barely any light on the dolls' faces. So many people with beautiful dolls don't know how to light their photos. I just want to scream, "Turn on the damn lights!" You don't need professional equipment.

There is a false belief that using a flash is anathema. Seriously? Have you ever been to a professional studio? We're not aiming for Annie Leibovitz here; we just want to see your dolls!

As I stated, the top photo on this page (and the shoe shot) were made with my iPhone - using it's built in flash. In many cases, the phone's flash doesn't do what I want it to, but there's a way to make it work. Admittedly, it was daylight in room - actually it's in the bedroom. I opened the shades and the room was pretty bright but I knew I'd need some highlights and the only way to do that was with some direct light. I didn't hold the camera directly aiming at the doll, instead I angled it a little off to one side.

Here's a shot that did not work:

 The angle is all wrong. Her hair is too bright. It's a discard.

The beauty of digital photography is that you can keep going until you are satisfied. You get instant feedback. In my studio, I constantly move the lights and change their power and/or the settings on the camera until I'm happy (or until I'm so tired I can't go on.) You can take multiple shots with your phone as well. But do us all a favor, don't post all of them. Pick out the three best,  then toss two of those.  I look back at the last 15 years of my own doll photography and really should toss 80% of the images but I'm keeping them as a record of what I've had in my collection. Of course there are days when I can't take a decent picture no matter what.


There are websites, books, ezines and loads of information out there. The problem is, you may not even know you need one.

A great all around source of tips and tricks:  http://www.digital-photography-tips.net/


  1. I think my favorite flash "fix" for doll photography was to tape a wad of bubble wrap over the flash -- it acts to diffuse the light so you don't get so much blowout brightness. I'm not sure how doable that would be on something as small as a phone, but it worked well enough on a little point-and-shoot camera.

    One of these days I'll get a table set up for doll photography again. It's been several years since I've done any doll portraits, and that was all large-scale ABJDs. These little fashion ladies will be a new challenge.

  2. Nothing irks me more than seeing a gorgeous doll wasted in a shitty photograph. The light is very important, as you say, but also the angle and overall composition. I am truly amazed at how utterly proficient some people are at taking bad pictures. And dont even notice it. When I see pics like that I almost want to yell into the screen "YOU ARE RUINING THIS DOLL, PLEASE STOP TAKING ANY MORE PICS". :) Aargh...it is almost like I feel the doll is wasted on someone who takes crappy pics.

  3. Your photos are great, although I do not really like these dolls

  4. I know I take crappy doll photos...for that reason I don't take and post many of them. Ideally I wait to get the doll outside so she or he can be shot in natural light (which is how I get the best results) and I admit I don't spend a lot of time thinking through backgrounds or editing. But I'm about playing with my dolls. If I'm shooting a pic it's likely because it's a doll I'm going to re-home and I want a potential buyer or trade partner to get a realistic idea of the doll I have to offer.

    There are plenty of great doll photographers out there (like Terri) and thank goodness for them so I can decide whether or not I want to buy dolls I don''t yet have. There's definitely a place for very artsy doll images but I mostly want to see what the flaws or assets of a particular doll are (and what fits who) and so while I like to occasionally look at dreamy doll photos, I'm okay with being able to see the doll reasonably well.

    That said I hate artsy doll images in catalogs or sales materials...yes I want what I'm considering buying to look good, but there have been people who photoshop too much or use that low mood lighting and filters and stuff so I can no longer tell what I'm getting.


    1. It's true that when it comes to buying and selling, a clear and detailed photograph is essential. I like to see the back of a doll as well as her fashion. Most sellers will send more but not necessarily better shots when requested. Some just can't. They are talented in other ways! :-)