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 general discussion

Every (small) world needs a hero

I’m always struck by the strength and range of personalities in my dolls’ faces. From the still sadness of Camellia,

to Ester’s inscrutable wide-eyed stare:

each one brings their own history and their own future.

But only one of them possesses the natural loyalty and grit of a hero

I marvel that something so small can have such a complex vibe. Much as I love Buu from Mudoll, she’s far more of a one-note character compared to Jinjur from Aimeraidoll. Buu (Cosette, in this story) transmits on a single wavelength of trust and sweetness, while Jinjur (Mathilde, here) has that complex mix of expecting that the world will be cruel, without sinking into cynicism.

This week, Jinjur will get a chance to display her heroic chops when Buu wakes up on the streets with a high fever.

Posted in doll photography, general discussion, miniature photography, Photoshop, toy photography

Learning new things: Painting over stock photos

Once it starts raining in Oregon, all of my photography moves indoors. That means that, for my larger dolls who are too big for set-building, I use a lot of stock photos as backdrops. You can see some of them in the first Betwixt episode.



All of which is a nice, easy way to create a shot, but it’s an odd mix of my creative process and someone else’s work.

So, for my second Betwixt episode, I’ve been trying something different – using stock photos, but altering them in Photoshop with a mixture of brushes, filters, and textures. That gives me a background that’s really mine, and not just something I grabbed off the web.

Here’s a sample of the transformations:

Here’s an original stock photo:

and here’s its altered form:

In this case, I left the leaf alone, used a textured brush to alter the water, and then applied a filter over the texture.

Here’s another:

and the altered form:

In this case, I just used the photo like a coloring book and painted over everything.

I think this works particularly well for the dreamy segments, like this second Betwixt episode where they find themselves miniaturized and sent on a quest in the world where Ester has sent them.

I haven’t figured out how I’m going to deal with the dolls in these pictures. I might leave them in photographic form, or I might alter them as well.

In any case, that’s my project for this week but, before I publish the Betwixt episode we’ll catch up with Camellia on her ocean journey.

Posted in Characters, diorama, doll photography, general discussion, miniature photography, Photography, Photoshop, toy photography

ABP – Always Be Photoshopping

You know your miniature world building has gone wrong when most of it is done in front of a computer. I don’t know about other miniature world builders, but for me much of the delight is peering into their tiny worlds, or glancing up and seeing them mid-action in their tiny world.

But, once I got frozen and then boiled out of my garage workspace, the quality of my world building has plummeted until now I’m pretty much just tossing dolls down on the desk to photograph them and then photoshopping them into something more suitable.

That’s ended up making my home much less magical. There’s a lot more magic in glancing over and seeing this setup in my dining/doll room:

than there is in this:

Or in this magical space

contrasted to this table top

Sometimes, of course, I have no options. There simply is no way I’m going to capture this

in my dining room.

But much of it is just sheer laziness on my part. I mean, could I really not have made this photograph using real world props?

Heck, I might even have gotten the scale and angle right.

My next episode is the second “In the Picture” episode, so I actually have to do photoshopping to get my dolls into the pictures. But, I’m trying to make their real world space more . . . well . . . real. We’ll see how that goes

Posted in Aimeraidoll Jinjur, BJD, doll adventure, general discussion, graphic novel, miniature adventure, Mudoll Buu, photo novel, toy adventure, Writing

(Doll) character development

I entered doll adventure land through a side door – somewhere between play and play therapy – so many of the building blocks of photography, miniatures, and writing are unfamiliar to me.

Because I could see their effects in every shot, I focused my learning on photography and miniatures. But, as I start to branch out into new adventures, I’m really seeing the gaps in my story-telling abilities. So, this week, in my mini-adventure land of Underfoot, I’m working on character development.

My Doll Adventure has mostly believably static characters. Most of Rosie’s development lies in front of her, and most of Lily’s lies behind. In the few months in which we capture them, they’re understandably unchanging. Camellia’s most drastic change happens right before the story begins – before she puts her foot on that boat. We’ll catch up with her at the moment in which she has to make a decision and a drastic change, but won’t know her well enough at that point to understand who she was before that night when we first meet.

Daisy, though, *should* have changed and grown during the adventure. It’s really a complete oversight on my part that she hasn’t – that there’s no moment when she really grasps that following the call to adventure means giving up the Daisy she’s known and becoming the Daisy-to-be. Some of that is because she was carrying so much of the weight of the developing plot that it just consumed her own development, but most of it is because I got so distracted with other things that I couldn’t see that I needed to dedicate some time to allowing her to grow into her new character.

I’d thought, right up until this week, that I’d work on the final version of my doll adventure right after I finished posting the draft – in a few months from now. Now I can see that there’s so much that I don’t even know that I don’t know that I should take a year or two to learn before I try a more final form.

Which is all to say that Jinjur, unlike Daisy, is going to change during the Underfoot adventures, starting in this, her second episode. It’s possible that Buu will, as well, down the road. But right now, it’s Jinjur who has to adjust to her new understanding of the world. The world, it turns out, is not a place where two 1/6 scale dolls can walk into a hotel, hand over an eyeball, a bag of playmobile coins, and a dime, and get a room for the night.

And, as she learns in this episode, the world is a dangerous place for little things. And it will take a different Jinjur to navigate this world.

Posted in Daisy, doll photography, Fashion dolls, general discussion, graphic novel, Lily, miniature photography, Photography, Photoshop, toy photography

The sequential art of dolls – Scott McCloud’s Making Comics

I read Scott McCloud’s “Understanding comics” years ago, when I was thinking of making an adventure game. It’s a high-level look at the art of comics – well worth a read if you’re doing anything in the realm of sequential art. I’d missed his more practical guide – “Making Comics” – which is totally fantastic for what I’m working on now.

I’m only through the first chapter, and I’m already overwhelmed (in a good way) with great ideas.

Here’s just one really useful way of looking at sequential art – what are the transitions between the panels? He lists six different types, and what they’re useful for.

* Moment to moment: A single action portrayed in a series of moments. Creates a movie-like effect, and is useful for slowing the action down. I notice I use this a lot for Camellia’s episodes, like the slow approach of the panther in Episode 13: Danger afoot or dolls in danger
* Action to action: A single subject in a series of actions. Efficient, and moves the plot along at a brisk pace. I tend to use this in my “plot-ty” episodes, where I’m trying to drive the plot forward, for example in Lily’s second episode where I have to communicate both that she has some special ability to paint lost objects, and that something has happened to her daughter.
* Subject to subject: A series of changing subjects within a single scene. Also drive the plot forward, but are used more for dialog. Since I don’t have dialog in my doll adventure, I don’t tend to use this much, although I did do it when I wanted to pick out what each one of Daisy’s friends was working on in Episode 15: Putting the pieces together
* Scene to scene: Transitions across significant distances of time and space: Help to compress a story by leaping across time and space. The most obvious examples of this in my doll adventure is the movement between Rosie’s real and dream states, like the distance between Episode 6: Rosie’s Doll Adventure, Part 1 and Episode 10: Rosie’s doll adventure, part 2
* Aspect to aspect: Transitions from one aspect of a place, idea, or mood to another. These create a sense of mood by making time stand still and allowing the eye to wander. Interesting idea, and I don’t think I’ve ever used it.
and finally
* Non-sequitur: A series of unrelated images and words.Because . . . why not. It may seem like I’ve done this, but I haven’t 🙂

And that’s just three pages worth of ideas.

I worked a lot on transitions this week. One that I’ve never really done is using framing shots to place an event. This is a kind of aspect-to-aspect that you see all the time in movies (start with a shot of a city, jump to a shop, focus in a single character), and it works to place the subject within a context. I used it this week to explain something that I’d have to explain in words otherwise (and, again, spoiler alert) – what’s the relation between the Secret Garden photo that Daisy has and the places where we see Lily?

So, spoiler, Lily owns the shop. Her apartment is behind it and out back from her apartment is the garden I often picture her in. Easy to tell if I were making a movie, but not so easy in a doll adventure. I was originally going to build a flower shop for her, but it just seemed like a ton of effort for a tiny piece of information. Instead, I’m using the aspect to aspect to tie the places together.

The curtain in the back of the shop is actually a separate image that I placed over what used to be the front door of the flower shop in the original image, and then I use it as a layer in the final shot and set the layer blending mode to “overlay” to make it so that you could see the picture of Lily and Daisy behind the curtain.

Anyway, Friday’s episode is going to be full of transitions – I even use a split frame in one to create a kind of dialog between two characters who are separated in space.