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Photographing Porcelain Dolls

Updated on July 27, 2014
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. | Source

A porcelain doll photographic study has always been one of my favorite and best selling photography work themes. Not only are some examples truly beautiful and in their own right works of art but the peacefulness and admiration that one can develop for these very fragile subjects grows on you.

One key does holds true if undertaking a photo study of these dolls; the older the better and the more intricate the better too. We are off course referring to mostly antique porcelain dolls but there are quite a few samples from more modern times usually made by specialty shops like The Franklin Mint and Winston Brands.

This project although more of a theme, involves doing some research into the history of porcelain dolls, where some samples can be seen and appreciated, as well as materials used alongside with their production years. Once this is established you should have an idea of what types and styles of dolls will be the ones that you will be covering in your photographs.

There are samples that upon inspection reveals the amount of time and attention to detail that went into their making. Some are amazingly "human" like. Your endeavor should include covering them from various angles and if possible various poses, off course allowing that the dolls have articulate limbs, and with various clothes, again assuming that this is not only possible but allowed by its owner.

Most of the finest samples will probably be found at museums and photographing these may have to be done by prior arrangement and with special permission. But there are quite exquisite subjects that can be found at various antique stores and toy stores and curious shops.

Regardless of where your gallery of subjects is found, do your best to be very careful in your handling of them and a tip is to wear white cotton gloves, especially if handling expensive antique ones.

Photograph them in close up mode, regular life like mode and macros for the more intricate details. Your intention is to completely cover one sample at at time from every conceivable angle that is possible to show the workmanship and care that its maker put into it.

These photographs are always good sellers with the individual public, fine art galleries, greeting card publishers, photographic stock houses and do very well at art shows too. The best presentation are those that feature one large shot of the face or of the entire body alongside with various others shots in close ups and so on.

The style is very similar to what an online dealer would do to showcase the doll if it were being sold at a site such as Ebay, but your images have to be done creatively and must be technically perfect, especially the close ups.

Emphasize the details of the face and clothing with several close ups and macros. Details of the hands, feet, and shoes. Of special interest are dolls that have cloth or leather shoes, gloves, hats, bows, and other things, we are also assuming that most of the samples will come with cloth clothing. Also pay attention to the hair details as most have natural human hair or horse hair.

One does not have to go buy a large contingency of these dolls to do the project, often you can rent them from antique stores, toy stores and so on, but like many projects that involve expensive subjects, the majority of the time you will have to conduct your project on site.

Another idea is to advertise in your local media outlets for anyone with a collection that would allow you to photograph them. Often the fee will be nothing more than a few samples of the photographs as most collectors pride themselves in their curious once someone shows an interest.

 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Wikipedia
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Wikipedia | Source

If you find it difficult to locate or procure the use of several samples that are worth recording in photographs, or unable to rent or borrow, then limit yourself to one or two samples which you can photograph to your heart's content.

Remember that for a majority of photographic subjects, especially for still life and where intricate detail is involved, it is always better to use diffused light with one being sufficient when assisted by at least one reflector set at 45 degrees to the main light source.

This is best done in a studio setting where you can control the environment. If possible, use a dark to black backdrop or a dark red, blue, green or any other color so long as its hue is rather dark so that the entire emphasis is drawn to the subject.

You should also use a tripod to keep your camera gear still and prevent any blurs caused by movement as is the case when one depresses the shutter.

Close up shots, especially macros, have an innate ability to record even the slightest of movement which can ultimately ruin a shot.

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      randomcreative: Thank you, yes they still are good sellers

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      FloraBreenRobinson; Thank you

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      How interesting that this is a subject that sells so well! Thanks as always for the great information.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image


      6 years ago

      I have quite a few antique porcelain dolls. They do make great photography subjects.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      loquacious laura: Thank you. The best samples are the antique dolls, but there are modern samples which are made just as well.

    • profile image

      loquacious laura 

      6 years ago

      I didn't know they were made any more. Some of them look newer. What lovely features and details. Thanks for letting us know how to capture them on camera.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      linxiaoxiao1102: Thank you

    • linxiaoxiao1102 profile image


      6 years ago from UK

      The doll looks so dreamy and extravant~


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