Posted in doll photography, Dollmore Manuier, Granado Udell, How to

Make your doll part of the crowd: Using Photoshop to add your doll to a scene

The Betwixt characters seem to spend more time out and about then any of my other dolls, so I’m forever figuring out ways to make them part of the scene.

Marta and Marcelo joined the crowd in the subway in their first episode.

and later we caught up with them crossing the street:

The tricks in both of these photoshops are to match their general coloring to that of the background image, and not to make them overwhelm the scene they’re in. That is, don’t use the scene as a backdrop to a portrait, but rather make your dolls look as if they’re part of a larger scene.

For the episode I’m working on, I’m working the Maskcat Ester doll (Faye) into some animal conversations. For this, I’m going for a slightly different strategy – although I want her to be part of the scene, I also want to draw attention to her (often necessary because she’s so darn tiny).

To do this, I started playing around with hue and lighting within Photoshop. Here’s a sample of the kind of shot I want her in:

So, I’d like to add her so that she looks like she’s having a conversation with the butterfly, but I also want to draw the attention to her in the shot.

I started by grabbing an image from a previous episode where she’s sitting and facing left and paste her into the image with the butterfly in a semi-realistic pose. Here’s what that looks like:

So, cute, as she always is. But the profusion of color in the shot draws you eye to everything but her. I tried just making everything other than her B&W (actually, tinted yellow B&W, but now the photo looks too drab, and she’s still disappearing in the shot since her full color matches the background tint:

To make her pop a little, I copied the blue sky in the original shot and made it it’s own layer, and then I tinted the butterfly and flower separate from the blue sky. Here’s what the finished shot looks like:

Now your eye is drawn to her, but the blue of the sky makes the overall image seem bright and happy. I realize the focus isn’t right – if she’s sitting on the flower and *she’s* in focus, then the flower should be in focus too. But, you can’t have everything 🙂

With this basic strategy, I made a bunch of shots of her visiting with things-that-fly:

and that’s how you make your doll part of the crowd, while still making her stand out.

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Posted in BJD, Characters, doll adventure, doll photography, Dollsbe Strawberry, graphic novel, Iplehouse Amy, miniature adventure, miniature photography, miniatures, On Our Own, photo novel, Photography, Photoshop, Supia Aasta, toy adventure, toy photography, toys

On Our Own 03: Fern’s Story

*****

Fern is now my official representative in the 1/4 scale dolls. I love Willow’s quiet grace, but I am neither quiet or graceful. I love Olive’s take charge spirit, but that’s not me either. Fern, little as she is, is someone I completely understand. Which is why I knew, when she was sad and missing her mom, that a dog would be just the thing to cheer her up. Turns out I was right.

I’ve enjoyed spending time with the On Our Own family so much that I think I’m going to spend an extra week or two with them and see how Olive’s story turns out. Olive reminds me very much of my sister, Melanie, so I’m going to send her on the kind of adventure she would have loved when she was a kid.

***

I mentioned last week that many of these pictures come from the Columbia Gorge. Fern’s brave sword stance is by the creek at the top of Multnomah falls, while the pictures of her holding onto a rope on a trail are on Eagle Creek Trail (the center of last year’s Columbia Gorge fire), and her plunge in the water takes place in Punchbowl falls, also on the Eagle Creed trail. Olive’s bike ride through the woods is at Cape Lookout, on the Oregon coast.

Posted in BJD, Characters, doll photography, general discussion, miniature photography, miniatures, Photography, Photoshop, toy photography, toys

Suggesting Motion with Still Life: Photographing Dolls

One of the hardest parts of creating an action adventure with dolls is that they’re, by nature, immobile. And, often, somewhat difficult to pose. So, how do you get them to look like they’re moving?

I mostly start with seeing if I can just get them to stand in an action-like pose, which works better with some dolls than others.

Here’s Fern (Dollsbe Strawberry) in the shot I used to make her look like she was hiking up the Eagle Creek trail, along with the final photoshopped image:

and here she is dancing with her sisters, in original and photoshopped versions:

Her sisters are modelling my second technique – doll stands. I resort to doll stands with all my dolls once they have one foot off the floor and, for some dolls, even with both feet on the floor (I’m looking at you, Dollzone Gill).

Like Fern, Mathilde (Aimeraidoll Jinjur) rarely needs a stand, although I did have to drag one out for her when she was carrying Cosette (Mudoll Buu) through the streets of Paris.

For unusual action-sitting shots, I generally have them perch on something. Here’s my Granado Udell and Dollmore Maunier ridiculously perching on a very small horse:

which looks much less ridiculous once I photoshop them onto their snails:

But, for the big action shots, none of this works, and I have to use my posing-of-last-resort effort – lying down. I resorted to this yesterday after spending 20 minutes trying to get Olive (Iplehouse Amy) to perch on a bike. Here’s what I finally resorted to, and the photoshopped version:

I used the same method to get my Granado Udell and Dollmore Manuier to climb a tree:

And to get Emily (Dollzone Gill) up the scaffolding:

So, there are all my secrets.

What do you do to get your dolls moving?

Posted in BJD, Characters, doll photography, Dollsbe Strawberry, general discussion, miniatures, movies, On Our Own, Photography, Photoshop, toys

Bringing dolls to life: Animated GIFs

I did a little playing around this last week animating the littlest sister in On Our Own. I’ll never be a stop motion animator – mainly because I haven’t the patience, but also because my dolls’ movements have so much play in them that I simply can’t have them do a seamless motion. I’d move the arm a tiny bit, and then the elastic within would snap them back, and I’d have to somehow get them into exactly the same position they were in before. No matter – animation isn’t really what I’m after. But I do want to put enough photos together to get a sense of a character change.

For the backstory, Fern is very much missing her mom, and her two sisters have a plan to cheer her up. While Willow (the eldest) takes Fern out for a hike, Olive prepares a surprise.

Instead of looking for stock photos as a backdrop for the hike, I’ve pulled a few from the many, many hikes my husband and I took to see the waterfalls along the Columbia gorge. This particular backdrop is on a bridge near the top of Multnomah Falls. Putting it together made me a little teary – last summer we had a devastating fire along the Columbia gorge (teenage boy + fireworks = destruction of tens of thousands of our most beautiful landscapes, up here in the Pacific Northwest.) You can read about it here, but nothing can really communicate the immensity of the loss for those of us who have hiked through these forests.

Since I’m feeling teary already, another aside. These series of photos come from the hundreds of photos and videos I took along these trails while my mother (then in her late 80s and walking only with assistance) waited at home. At the end of the day, I’d come home and play her videos of waterfalls cascading and roaring, and we’d enjoy the hikes together.

Anyway, back to the story. This is a brief GIF animation of 5 photos I took of Fern, photoshopped onto a photo of my husband at the bridge at the top of Multnomah falls, and then turned into an animated GIF with Photoshops frame animation.

It’s meant to capture a moment when Fern, with spear in hand, starts to feel a little warrior blood in her veins.

Posted in BJD, Characters, doll adventure, doll photography, Dollsbe Strawberry, graphic novel, miniature adventure, miniature photography, miniatures, On Our Own, photo novel, Photography, toy adventure, toy photography, toys

Starting Fern’s Story – Adventuring with dolls

It seems I often find my dolls like this, sitting in chairs (or benches, in this case) waiting for their adventure to begin.

dollsbe strawberry
Fern – all dressed up and nothing to do

In Fern’s case, she’s about to start a grand-ish adventure, if I could just figure out what it was :). What I’d *like* to do is do very short animations with her (since her sister, Willow, just got a video camera). And, if I can get enough light in my workroom today, and Fern is easy to pose, I’ll give that a shot. Otherwise, I’ll just do stills from the video.

I often find myself here, where my big ideas for doll adventures hit firm ground. Yes, a video would be great. But, do I have the patience to take all those shots? Oh, how about if she started searching under bushes for fairies. Sounds great, but it’s pouring outside, and I haven’t the patience to construct a bush. So, Fern will have to sit a little longer while I figure out what sort of adventure I’m capable of sending her on.

In this story, Fern is very much missing her Mom. Willow and Olive are older, but Fern is the baby of the family, and much too young to be without her mother. Willow has an idea on how to brighten her up, but it involves getting her out of the house so that Olive can set up the surprise.

Posted in BJD, Characters, doll adventure, doll photography, Dollzone Gill, graphic novel, In the picture, miniature adventure, miniature photography, miniatures, photo novel, Photography, Photoshop, Souldoll Bonnie, toy adventure, toy photography, toys

In the Pictures 03: The Chase

*****

This episode marks the first time I can recall when I completely ran out of inspiration. The girls sat for weeks on my desk, with no clarity at all on what they were going to do. It was the delivery of a little felted cat that broke the dam – the episode just fell together after that. I suspect the problem is that I don’t have a clear sense of their individual or collective personalities (except for the dog, Bodger, who I’ve totally pegged :)). Nor do they have a clear back story.

I do have some basic idea of a plot, but I’m not sure whether to surface it. It has to do with why the girls are escaping (and their escapes will get longer and longer until they finally make their way to a new world). That is that they live with a single, dysfunctional parent, and they want to make their way out of that world and into their own.

But . . . I really hate photographing grim doll scenes. It just seems so gratuitous to plunge them into some dark back story and leave them sitting in a bad situation for days or weeks while I photograph. So, there’s that. As a practical issue, I’m having a heck of a time finding an adult-looking doll in this size. Pair that with the idea that they’d be a villian (so, not a doll I love) and it just makes no sense.

I’m thinking that I might use an actual person as their caretaker, and just photoshop them into that picture. So, if you see photos of my husband passed out on the kitchen floor, you’ll know why 🙂

For the practicalities, I used old postcards of Paris, photoshopped the girls in, and then used a sketch filter to change them into graphics

Posted in BJD, Characters, doll adventure, doll photography, graphic novel, miniature adventure, miniature photography, miniatures, photo novel, Photography, Photoshop, toy adventure, toy photography, toys, Underfoot

Underfoot 05: Underfoot and Under Bed

In our last episode, Cosette befriended a rat, and the whole team spent the night in the sewers under Paris. We continue our story on the next morning.

***

For all of my fussing about Mathilde this week, clearly my (surprisingly) calm dog, Sydney, was the star of the episode.

***

What I learned this week is that it’s (not surprisingly) very difficult to photograph dolls under a bed. First, in its normal state, under the bed is a fearfully dusty place – full of lost items which are better to remain lost. Second, it is very dark down there. Third, photographing small objects under the bed necessitates lying on the floor with aforementioned star dog Sydney sniffling around ones’ head.

That said, I think they look pretty darn cute down there. The only (slight) misadventure is that, after my first day of photographing them, I was unable to locate Jinjur and her dog, until I realized that I’d left them under our bed all night. My husband, normally calm and supportive about all of this doll foolishness, seemed a little creeped out that he’d spent the night with dolls under the bed. So, note to self, collect the dolls before going to bed.

***

Next week, I return to the In The Pictures story. As a clear-eyed look into my “process,” know that I have not the slightest idea at this point what the story is going to be about. The only little snippet I wanted to weave in is having Bodger retrieve a Rin Tin Tin video and attempt to jump into it. Beyond that, who knows. Hopefully the dolls have some good ideas.