How to Photograph Creepy Porcelain Dolls

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"A bisque doll or porcelain doll is a doll made partially or wholly out of bisque porcelain. Bisque dolls are characterized by their realistic, skin-like matte finish. They had their peak of popularity between 1860 and 1900 with French and German dolls. Bisque dolls are collectible, and antique dolls can be worth thousands of US dollars. Antique German and French bisque dolls from the 19th century were often made as children's playthings, but contemporary bisque dolls are predominantly made directly for the collectors market.[1][2]

Colloquially the terms porcelain doll, bisque doll and china doll are sometimes used interchangeably. But collectors, when referring to antique dolls, make a distinction between china dolls, made of glazed porcelain, and bisque dolls, made of unglazed porcelain. When referring to contemporary dolls the terms porcelain and bisque are sometimes used interchangeably. " Wikipedia

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CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

Many people collect dolls. Of special mention are porcelain dolls. Not only are they sought after collectibles but they also require careful handling and storage since porcelain can easily become cracked after years of exposure and handling.

With that in mind if you have some dolls or are willing to get some never ones you can turn an ordinary looking child's plaything into really scary contraptions worthy of being photographed.

This theme is not only good practice for your creative skills but is also a great Halloween conversation piece.

First you need to get your hands in to some dolls and these need to be rather large perhaps the size of a small child or even a doll baby like figure.

Then you need to either buy sculpting clay or make your own which is actually quite effective and really inexpensive.

There are several methods to make your own "porcelain" mixture and most involve cornstarch or cornflour, Elmer's white glue or wood glue, some type of glycerin like substance like Vaseline, baby oil or linseed oil.

You can either cook the mixture until the lumps disperse and you get a clay like texture but there are several non-cooking recipes out there and will yield the same results.

Here are some recipes involving both the cooking method or the cool porcelain method which is the preferred choice for most artists.

You will also need some basic sculpting tools to shape the face area and to make the "cracks" as well as applying some make up.

Choose soft whitish colors for the face area and preferably glossy, some browns to add an aged look and blacks to fill in the cracks as well as a dark (wine) lip make up and blue (dark) eye liner.

It is worth mentioning a technique which I have seen used many times by professional make up artists in shows like Face Off.

For the brown little spots it is best to lightly dip a brush on the paint and flick the top of the bristles in the brush with your fingers. This spreads a fine mist unto the face so you avoid overdoing it and these tiny spots really bring out the aged look.

For the attire try to give them an old worn down look. Not tearing involved but discoloration is the key. This basically involves washing the outfits several times (at least two times) and letting them dry in direct Sunlight for up to two weeks. Detergent and borax in equal parts tends to accelerate the process.

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Set your dolls against a flat monochrome background (black works great) since the idea is to make the scene look creepy.

Use a photographic snoot to highlight certain parts of the doll, mainly the face area, and it is better if your shots feature close ups of the face unless you have some other applications in mind.

If you do not have a snoot then aim one light source at the subject from a 45 degree angle and not so close to the subject.

Be mindful not to allow too much light to reflect off the subject as this can prove distracting. A polarizing filter can help with this.

The best procedure by far is to illuminate the subjects with a light source which features a diffusing element. Diffusers spreads light and makes it more even plus it also helps in eliminating harsh shadows.

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Consider doing most of your shots in black and white since this adds to the "creepiness" and also worth mentioning is to create situational shots like a doll sitting on a rocking chair, on a tree limb, next to a lighted candle, in a bed or baby carriage and so on.

Make your creations appear as if they have a mind of their own so pose them in situations where a normal doll would be found or where a small child could be seen.

Your goal is not only to make a doll appear creepy but to aid the scene by combining all elements within the scene in order to lend balance to it and complement each other thus making for a more complete portrayal.

© 2014 Luis E Gonzalez

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8 comments

Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

Marcy Goodfleisch 23 months ago from Planet Earth

This is great - it's creepy indeed, and also provocative! A good one for either a photo project, or for ideas around Halloween. Up & up!!!


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 23 months ago from Baltimore, MD

I really like these doll photos, though they scare me a bit. I would never be able to sleep if either of these dolls were under my roof. The photos are amazing though.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 23 months ago from Miami, Florida Author

Marcy Goodfleish: Thank you!!!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 23 months ago from Miami, Florida Author

Jeannieinabottle: Thank you


Lady Lorelei profile image

Lady Lorelei 22 months ago from Canada

Porcelain dolls have always creeped the heck out of me. Even in the newer ones I can find nothing there to attract me to them. I grew up in a town where a nearby museum featured a doll which rumor had it haunted the building. Guess that sunk in pretty good with me because I can't help but shiver now whenever I see these dolls. Even your page was hard to get through lol. I kept wanting to close my eyes to the images.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 22 months ago from Miami, Florida Author

Lady Lorelei; lol....Thank you


Joy56 profile image

Joy56 22 months ago

I don't know what it is about even the nicest of these dolls ..... They sure are creepy nice hub..... But I don't wanna handle those dolls.....


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 22 months ago from Miami, Florida Author

Joy56: Thank you. Glad you liked it

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