Ball Jointed Doll Art: The Making of a Photograph

I want to explore a concept with the ball jointed doll that a favorite quote of mine describes which comes from photographer Ansel Adams. He said, “You don't take a photograph, you make it.” Making anything requires planning, materials, set up, creativity, and experimentation.

The plan for this first photo was to create a look of childhood wonder or delight. I got the idea when I came across these prank bubbles in a magic shop. They were unique in that they came out relatively small in good proportion with the dolls and didn’t easily pop. I could blow a few bubbles and set one on the boy’s hand and it would stay there.

The boy ball jointed doll in the following photo is a Luts Cutie Delf Cory. The girl is Teenie, from Happy Doll. I posed the two dolls in such a way as to have them stare at the bubbles with a sense of awe. The background was kept plain to avoid any distractions. Once the dolls were posed, I focused my camera on the bubbles, and set the aperture wide open to give the photograph a small depth of field. Thus the boy and the bubbles are in focus, while the girl and the background are not. (Depth of field is a term used to describe how much of the photograph is in focus. Aperture is how far the shutter opens when the picture is taken. If the aperture opens wide, the depth of field is small.)

“Adobe Lightroom” is one of the two main editing software programs I use. Photoshop Elements is the other. I used the “vignette” feature in Lightroom to darken the outer edges of the scene to further direct the eye toward the center.

Photo titles or captions are important ways in which the photographer can tell you more about what he / she is thinking or trying to convey. In this photo, I imagine the children wondering what it would be like to travel in a bubble. Thus I would title the photo…... “What if…

For another photo, I created a room to resemble a rustic bedroom loft by building a floor out of spare fencing boards in my tool shed. It was next to a window which provide a funneled source of light. I rummaged through our large selection of props for things one might find in an attic. One of the items was a sort of wash tub. After putting it all together, it reminded me of a room where one might find Cinderella, only this one is right out of the Old West. I entitled this picture, “Frontier Bath”.

Ball Jointed Doll photo art 2

I brought in some incandescent lights to illuminate the scene. The articles in the room greatly enhance the mood and I wanted them to show up in the picture. Posing Enya, my ball jointed doll "Freezia" from the Iplehouse doll company , (her face-up and freckles by Christy Johnson), in the tub, I positioned the lights to highlight the background and used the light coming from the window as my source of light for the girl.

Photoshop Elements has a photo effect called “liquify”. I used this effect to make the tub look like it had water in it. I then cropped the photo the way I wanted it, made some adjustments in brightness and contrast, and sharpened it slightly.

When photographing out of doors, it’s always a challenge to make the natural surroundings look proportionate to the ball jointed doll. In this third photo, my goal was to portray a "kung fu" master in a solitary place refining his katas. A solitary place defines this location very well.

When going on a shoot such as this, I bring more equipment, props, and dolls than I can possibly carry, and many of our shoots we trek quite a distance from our car. Some of our props are pretty large considering the size of the dolls. I have a bicycle trailer that we used to pull our children with on our Sunday afternoon bike rides that I load with blankets, props, and photography equipment. This way I can get everything I use easily to the location.

In my search for the perfect place for this photo, I really liked the pier piles sticking out of the water and envisioned my martial arts expert balancing on top of one of these. The water around the pile was about 2.5 feet deep The ball jointed doll is pretty expensive and I wasn’t about to loose him in the river. Wading out to the pile I stuck a straight sturdy stick into it, leaving about 6 inches exposed.

The subject of this photo is my wife’s ball jointed doll "Gentle Soo Ri" also from the Iplehouse doll company. She did his face up and blushed his body. She also made the karate outfit. Bringing him to the pier pile, I slipped his pants leg over the protruding stick and was able to pose him with ease and peace of mind. I then got my camera and photographed many poses from various angles. I particularly like the building in the background in this photo because it appears small enough to look proportionate to the doll. (This ball jointed doll is in the SD size category, which is a 1/3 scale size.) I did remove a telephone pole coming out of the building in my photo editing phase as well as cropping the picture to my liking. I title this photo, “A Matter of Balance”.

This next shot from that same shoot reminded me so much of something out of a Bruce Lee movie. “Enter the Dragon” could certainly be a descriptive title for this one.

Ball Jointed Doll Karate Master

Sometimes it’s the location that inspires the photograph. I was out hiking with my kids when we came across a beautiful field of flowers complete with moss covered rocks and bands of shade and sunlight. It looked like it came right out of a dream.

Ball Jointed Doll in field of flowers

Elena, my ball jointed doll "Ruru" from the Elfdoll doll company, has two heads. One is normal and the other is a sleeping head. (My wife did the face-up on both these heads). The combination of the flowers in the field, the sleeping head, the bed, plus a gorgeous day inspired this photograph. Loading up the bike trailer, off we went.

Taking pictures in full sun is always a challenge. Besides the basic crop of the image, I did a little more work photo editing with this one. Utilizing a little trick I learned from the pros, I duplicated the photo layer in Elements, used multiply and gaussian blur to soften the harsh sunlight and create a glamorous effect.

One item in my tool bag that I use quite frequently is a small reflector. It reflects the light to where I need it somewhat like a mirror. If the ball jointed doll has the sun behind it or is in a shady area, I can easily bring light to her eyes and face with this handy accessory. Once again the nightgown and the pillowcases are my wife’s creations and the bed was purchased from the My Twinn doll company. I’ve titled this photograph Dreamscape”.

Vampire ball jointed doll

Having a character totally unique is very common in the world of the asian ball jointed doll. Clara, a good friend of ours, asked me to take some shots of her vampire Lishe “Draculina” created by Karen Kay. So off I went searching for inspiration. I visited graveyards and other places one might consider fitting for a vampire scene.

I took this photo in a clear cut area of the forest which was full of dead stumps and branches. It was dusk and the evening sky threatened rain. Converting the image to black and white seemed like a very natural thing to do. A little sharpening and cropping completed my editing work. To me the title “Vampire” describes this photo well.

I love the digital camera because the expense of developing pictures would not allow me to experiment as much as I do with my photography. Combining photography, my wife’s love of sewing, her wonderful artistic talents, and our love of writing, we enjoy doll collecting, writing stories, and maintaining this website of tips, tutorials, and information for those of you that outfit and photograph your dolls.

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