Like many people, my picture-taking skills are confined to the point-my-camera-at-something-pretty (usually my son), press-the-button, and hope-something-turns-out variety. In all of my 22 years of collecting dolls and photographing them (jeez, I’m old), it’s never gotten more sophisticated than pointing and shooting. I began taking pictures of my dolls back in the Dark Ages, when people actually had to drop rolls of film off at the pharmacy, wait three days, and then pick them up. It was not uncommon to spend $15 to get a role of 24 photos developed only to find about three that were half-way decent.
I recently came across some of those decades-old photos while cleaning out my garage. I uncovered dozens and dozens of blurry doll pictures. I hate to think how much I had spent on getting that crap developed. Nevertheless, those blurry pictures brought back memories, and it really hit home how long I’ve been in this quirky little hobby of mine. When I took my earliest doll photos, I was living in a college dorm room. And now I’m a middle-aged soccer mom in Florida balancing a full-time corporate career I never imagined myself in with raising a gorgeous, precocious little boy.
I had plans after cleaning out the garage to photograph a new doll that had arrived that morning. Those decades-old, blurry photos served as a reminder that 20-year-old Barb and 42-year-old Barb were enjoying the same hobby. Reflecting on that, I realized that dolls were probably all those two people had in common any longer. Life had changed me. But–for better or worse–I retained my passion for dolls.
So I tossed those blurry photographs back into the box I found them in so 52-year-old Barb can discover them again and reflect on her life as a doll collector and the mother of a teenage boy. Will she still be as passionate about the art of doll-making and see beauty in miniature sculpture and couture? I’m guessing so. For many of the most committed doll collectors and artists I know, this is a life-long passion.
But I digress.
The photos I found inspired me to push myself a little to see if I could improve my picture-taking skills just enough to do some justice to the dolls I was photographing. So I visited eBay and selected a backdrop to scale with 16″ dolls that cost me $17.25 (shipping included). It took two weeks to arrive from Shanghai.
The backdrop arrived rolled in a tube. The image was printed on a durable fabric parchment. Well worth the price.
I took the backdrop into my son’s room in the afternoon, just when it is filled by afternoon sunlight. I taped the backdrop to the wall behind his dresser and arranged a couple dolls selected for the occasion. Then I took my camera phone and started experimenting.
These were the best four out of the dozens of shots that I took. My biggest mistake, I see, was in my placement of the backdrop. In this setup, I’ve hung it too high, so the floor begins on the wall. It also might have helped to move my subjects back a bit to enhance perspective and place them deeper into the scene.
Once I cleared up my photo shoot, I got to tinkering around with Alma’s wardrobe, and I found a Gene outfit (“White Hyacinth,” I believe) that went beautifully with her complexion. Rather than set up my backdrop again, I just shot a couple of photos of Alma on her shelf.
I friggin’ love this doll. She looks amazing in anything.
Anyway, such went my first foray into putting some actual effort into capturing the beauty I see when I look at my dolls. I invested in a couple of books about doll photography a while back, and I’m going to dig them out and see if I can make some more progress.
Stay tuned. And Happy Valentine’s Day!