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Looking for tips on dollie photography

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Looking for tips on dollie photography

Postby Lunis » Sat Aug 15, 2015 1:01 pm

I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask about this or not, but hopefully it's okay. >w<; I'm looking for any advice and info on good cameras, lighting setups, backdrops, etc. I love photography and taking pictures of my dolls, but sadly my camera takes such horrible indoor photos that it's really hard to get high quality images from it. I'm tired of all my attempts at photoshoots being thwarted by fuzzy images and bad lighting, so please, any info you could give me is very much appreciated!
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Re: Looking for tips on dollie photography

Postby DollyKim » Sat Aug 15, 2015 3:37 pm

I recently got a Cannon Powershot ELPH for all my general photo needs and it's been working great. The automatic setting will go to faces or macro for dolls and it puts up with my occasionally shaky hands. It's also compact and fits in a pocket.

As for lighting I try to use natural and have them close to a window with translucent curtains. Some well placed bright white paper or a poster board can help bounce light back towards the subject.
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Re: Looking for tips on dollie photography

Postby Iwa_Hoshi » Sat Aug 15, 2015 7:08 pm

I still use a Fujifilm f50d. DSLR is a little way over my head. For shaky hands I sometimes attach a selfie stick to it for better grip. For lighting some times I use a cellphone light or a mini reflector board for added lighting. Its always helpful to have a light source shining at your subject from behind you

Its rather hit and miss so keep shooting until you get a feel of your camera's working, don't be afraid to try out the manual functions.
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Re: Looking for tips on dollie photography

Postby Trethowan » Sat Aug 29, 2015 7:40 pm

I've been using a Canon EOS Rebel T3. I really like it. I have some issues with my lighting and things washing out. My camera on automatic seems to do very well in natural sunlight but indoor bulbs are an issue. I've got an umbrella lighting kit coming in the mail so when I get that set up and try it out I'll post an update.
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Re: Looking for tips on dollie photography

Postby ShortNCuddlyAm » Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:04 am

Apologies - I appear to have written a wall-o-text below. I've just brain dumped explanations for a lot of things that come into play with photography in case you want to know the whys for some of it. I feel I should also add a disclaimer that I don't often take doll photos as well as I could.

If your camera can't take the photos you want then definitely get another when you can afford. Even consider using your phone - I've seen stunning pics of all sorts of subjects taken with a phone. It's incredibly frustrating and off putting using a tool that can't do what you want it to do. If possible, I'd recommend trying out a few cameras, just to see how they feel - you may find what looks to be the ideal camera too awkward to hold, or too heavy and so on. I prefer cameras with interchangeable lenses - I've got a micro four thirds one, so the body is a lot smaller than a standard DSLR, but I can still change lenses. But if I was after a compact it would have to have a large maximum aperture (say f1.8-2.8 - see a bit below for more info) and a decent zoom. A large aperture for both shallow focus and low light shooting, and a decent zoom for convenience. You also want to see what the minimum focus distance is as you really don't want to have to half way across the room before it will focus! And if it has a macro function, so much the better.

Natural light is generally better than artificial, and artificial is generally better if it's diffused somehow - bounced off a reflector (white piece of card, aluminium foil (silver coloured) etc - you don't want to use colours as the colour can get reflected back into the picture); or put tracing paper or tissue paper over the light. You can use whatever you have to hand to provide extra light - phone screen, torches (I would definitely diffuse them so you don't get a spotlight effect - unless that's what you're after. You could tape something like tracing paper or thin tissue paper between two boxes and have the torch a bit behind it - adjust until the lighting looks about right.), computer screen etc. The on camera flash isn't often in the best place, but if you can get it so it doesn't flash directly onto your doll it's still useful. I sometime take advantage of the huge size the photos are and position the subject more off centre than I would otherwise so I still get some benefit from the flash but not a washed out splodge, and then crop!

If you can, use a tripod to steady the camera - when I'm using a macro lens I also use the camera's self timer and the on-screen shutter release to minimise any chance of camera movement.

If your camera (or the one you get) has an option to set white balance that can be useful. Indoor lighting often has a colour cast, and setting the white balance manually can help minimise that. Or you may have an automatic setting for different types of light. Our eyes adjust quite quickly to the colour cast bulbs have, but unless you have specifically balanced bulbs there will be a cast. Also, bear in mind that whilst normal house lighting can look bright to us, it really is a lot dimmer than daylight - our eyes just adjust to it.

If you are handholding your camera, as opposed to using a tripod, you need to take into account how long the shutter is open for - the longer it is open the more chance there is of camera shake. Normally a fully automatic mode will overcome this, but there are other ways if you have manual settings.

There are three interrelated things - shutter speed, aperture size and ISO. ISO is the sensitivity to light - the lower the number the less sensitive (so you need more light) but - generally - the better the image. As a general rule, higher ISOs tend to give grainier pictures, but that varies between cameras. I've mentioned these because if you're indoors in a dimly lit room - or any low light environment, the more light you can get to hit the shutter the better.

Aperture size is the size of the aperture on the lens - the bigger the hole, the more light comes in. Apertures are generally expressed either in f-stops (e.g. f1.8) or as ratios (1:1.8); and just to be confusing the smaller the f stop, the bigger the hole - so a lens set at f1.8 will let in a lot more light than one set at f22. This is not just a function of DSLRs, micro four thirds or other interchangeable lens cameras, by the way. A lot of (most?) compact cameras will let you set aperture and shutter speeds. The aperture size also affects how much of the image will be in focus (known as depth of field). A large aperture (say f1.8) will have a shallow area in focus with the background thrown out of focus and with bokeh (bokeh is the pretty out of focus circle effect) - although the bokeh is dependant on the lens. A smaller aperture will have a lot more in focus from front to back.

Shutter speed also affects how much light hits the sensor. The faster the shutter speed, the less light will hit the sensor, and also reduces the risk of hand shake. Shutter speeds are generally in fractions of a second - e.g. 1/250. Once the / vanishes it's in actual seconds. As a very general rule of thumb, you can get acceptably sharp pictures if the shutter speed is the same as the lens length - so if you have a lens length of 50 you will probably get an acceptably sharp picture with a shutter speed of 1/50. This also depends on whether the camera has image stabilising, how shaky you are and things like wind if you're outdoors. However, you may not be able to enlarge the picture and see as much detail as you want, so for a 50mm lens you'd probably want 1/75 or 1/100 to get more sharp detail. The speed of the shutter also lets you do fun things with moving stuff - water, grasses in the wind, people, cars etc. A slow shutter speed blurs the movement - that's how you get the almost smoke like effect of water on waterfalls, or a blurred wing on a bird. A fast shutter speed freezes the motion so you can see individual water droplets, for example.

As for what I actually use - it's a Panasonic Lumix GF6 (it's a micro four thirds - so a small camera with interchangeable lenses) and a small selection of lenses.

One general purpose zoom - 14-42mm max aperture f3.5 - 5.6 depending on zoom length and a minimum of f22; and three primes (a prime is a lens of a fixed length - you can't zoom in or out to adjust what's in frame; but the payoff is generally a better maximum aperture.) - a 20mm lens max aperture f1.7, min f16, a 45mm max f1.8 min f22; and a 60mm 1:1 macro lens - max aperture f2.8 min f22. Well, four primes if you include the body cap lens - 15mm, fixed aperture of f8, focus using a slider on the lens. It was cheap and can be fun.

And again - sorry for the essay!
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Re: Looking for tips on dollie photography

Postby Trethowan » Tue Sep 01, 2015 5:16 pm

Awesome essay, don't apologize. This was very helpful. :-)
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Re: Looking for tips on dollie photography

Postby Iwa_Hoshi » Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:35 am

Appreciate the eassy.

Tried to shoot water droplets on a bright sunny day using continuous shots. I think it does help some when combined with shakey hands


Throwing in ISO selection since it seems to affect the noise on my shots when I to forget to change it from outdoors shoot to indoors. I'm kinda learning to shoot in night time with an LED light source so thats kinda hit and miss at the moment.
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Re: Looking for tips on dollie photography

Postby richila » Wed Sep 02, 2015 10:37 am

I love the flourescent daylight bulbs for indoor shots. I have a flexible neck desklamp in my classroom that I use for most of my Photo a Day pictures. I have a small battery operated light that I keep in my purse for tiny handwork and to light my doll, Richi, when we are out and about. When taking pictures of bigger dolls, I use daylight flourescent bulbs in clamp lights. They are relatively inexpensive and can ne easily adjusted.
I use my cellphone camera and photo-editing software to get my pictures.
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