davidd's Smart Dolls
#1
I'm starting a new topic for my Smart Doll photos.

This is probably the surest way to "jinx" my Smart Doll photography.

Anyway, snow day today:
[Image: symphony21.jpg]
Trivia (Smart Doll Symphony) ventures out in to the first snowfall of the season

[Image: symphony22.jpg]

[Image: symphony23.jpg]
Yurt glamping in the snow? Uhmm... a hotel sounds much cozier!


They're not dolls, they're action figures!
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#2
She looks adorable and look at that skyline in the background of the last photo!
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#3
Ooh, your snow looks all pretty and picturesque! When it snowed here a couple weeks ago, it just looked depressing and gray. Symphony looks like she could be in some kind of ski resort advertisement smile
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#4
Aaaand squeeeeeee again!!!
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#5
Yeah, what a great view!
And the photos are super! How did you get such nice ex.posure with sunlit snow?!
She is really cute. But for the price, I am content to enjoy others' photos! LOL
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#6
(12-02-2018, 03:49 PM)Alliecat Wrote: And the photos are super! How did you get such nice ex.posure with sunlit snow?!

I can adjust the ex-posure compensation on my point-n-shoot camera. For the outdoor snow photos, I tried various settings from +2/3 to +1-1/3, and tried to meter off the figure rather than the snow. The +2/3 seemed to work well under these lighting conditions, although the little bit I've read about snow photography suggests ex-posures as much as +2 full stops for sunlit snow scenes.
They're not dolls, they're action figures!
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#7
[Image: harmony20.jpg]
Smart Doll Gifts from Smart Doll Friends!

Janie (Smart Doll Harmony) and Trivia (Smart Doll Symphony) received a surprise package in the mail from their Instagram friends @izzygray_n_justiceekpo!
They're not dolls, they're action figures!
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#8
Haha, I wonder what the postal carrier thought of "Dollie Dungeon"?? LOL
I wonder what's in the package.....

(12-03-2018, 09:20 AM)davidd Wrote: I can adjust the ex-posure compensation on my point-n-shoot camera. For the outdoor snow photos, I tried various settings from +2/3 to +1-1/3, and tried to meter off the figure rather than the snow. The +2/3 seemed to work well under these lighting conditions, although the little bit I've read about snow photography suggests ex-posures as much as +2 full stops for sunlit snow scenes.
I used to open up 2 stops for snow scenes with film. It just doesn't seem to work as well with digital. And tends to be very contrasty.
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#9
(12-09-2018, 04:36 PM)Alliecat Wrote: Haha, I wonder what the postal carrier thought of "Dollie Dungeon"?? LOL

My thought exactly! LOL
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#10

[Image: symphony25.jpg]
Last night, Trivia (Smart Doll Symphony) decided she wanted to look just like her Instagram twin Izzy Gray (@izzygray_n_justiceekpo).
Most of their clothes match, although Triv says that Izzy has cuter shoes. But since the shoes wouldn't show in the photos, the next step was
to snap some pics.

[Image: symphony24.jpg]
This is the photo of Izzy that Triv wanted to emulate.

[Image: symphony26.jpg]
Unfortunately, Triv was not at all happy with the way the photos turned out.

"Izzy is, like, a gazillion billion times cuter than me!"

"Well... that's probably a slight exaggeration, Triv, by several gazillion billion orders of magnitude.
Why would you say such a thing?"

"She's skinnier than me, for one thing."

"That's impossible. You're the exact same body type. Definitely ectomorphs, with a waist to height
ratio that would make Barbie envious."

"Look at the pictures! I'm thick around the middle! She's not!"

"It must be the lighting. Or the camera angle. Or the pose."


[Image: symphony27.jpg]

"That's another thing: I look awkward and uncomfortable, like I'm trying to hold a totally fake pose.
Izzy looks all relaxed and casual and slinky and sexy. I look like some kind of arthritic spaz."

"Now you're being silly!"

"No, I'm not being silly, but I LOOK silly, because my eyes are crossed!"

"Say what, now?"

"I. am. cross-eyed. Like that lion on that old TV show. Just call me Barney Google, with the goo-goo-googly eyes."

"You do NOT have... well... I mean... if you keep saying obscure things like that, nobody will know what you're talking about."

"So I AM cross-eyed!"

"I... suppose you might have a touch of strabismus. Barely. Nobody would notice if you didn't mention...."

"NOOOOOoooooo!!!! I'm NEVER gonna be cute like Izzy! I'm a freakin' fat cross-eyed freak!"

"You're not fat, you're not a freak, and I think we can fix your eyes."

"Really? I mean, about the eyes?"

"Yes, really."

"But I'll still be awkward. And fat."

"It's not you, Triv. It's your photographer. In technical terms, he sucks."

"And he's fat. Fatter than me, even. So we'll get my eyes fixed and fire the fat photographer?"

"Yes... and maybe. Or we could give him one more chance."

"We could. But I'd rather fire him, just to be on the safe side."


[Image: symphony28.jpg]
Now Trivia can't sleep. She very much wants to look like her Insta-twin Izzy, but her photo shoot didn't go well,
she feels awkward and pudgy, but mostly she's worried about being cross-eyed.

So she's waiting for her favorite TV show to come on, hoping that will cheer her up. It's a show about an Indian chief who lives in a colorful circle.
It doesn't come on until really late at night, after the show about the flag that streams gallantly oe'r the ramparts.

They're not dolls, they're action figures!
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#11
LOL
I thought she looked far too stylish and sophisticated to be that insecure.
Tell her the uninitiated could not tell the difference between the photos wink
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#12
(12-10-2018, 12:34 PM)Alliecat Wrote: Tell her the uninitiated could not tell the difference between the photos wink

LOL I'll pass that along; maybe that will calm her down... until she thinks about it a bit more.

The key word in your comment is "uninitiated." I know from ex-perience, however, that you, personally, are a perfectionist when it comes to doll photos, and with posing in particular. I'm sure you observed that the issues with which Trivia is concerned are genuine.

First, the eyes. This doll is... or was... definitely cross-eyed. It's been an issue from Day One. It was one of the first things I noticed when I de-boxed her, actually. I thought it was something I'd get used to, and that maybe it was just the way Smart Dolls look, although it seemed to me that her eyes were crossed much more so than the dolls in the pictures on the web site. The crossed eyes have been a constant issue in photographs. The whites of the eyes are highly reflective, creating a glassy, glossy, weirdly glowing effect if there's any direct light on the eyes. But without direct light on the eyes, the eyes look dark. With the eyes as crossed as they were, straight-on portrait photos looked positively goofy, or "wonk eyed."

After last night's photo shoot and wading through, and deleting, probably a hundred photos because of either goofy or reflective eyes, I got tired of it and conducted some online research. It turns out that Smart Dolls eyes are set to have a slightly cross-eyed look on purpose! That look is considered "cute" in an anime sort of way. However, after looking at a lot of Smart Doll photos, I concluded that the cross-eyed effect on this particular doll – all Smart Doll eyes are individually set by hand – was a little bit too exaggerated.

Never having dealt with BJD-style dolls before, I didn't realize how easy it would be to reset the eyes until I read about it online. Even the Smart Doll web site, on an old blog post from 2013, says that the crossed eyes may not appeal to every owner, and describes how to change the way the eyes are set. As it turns out, the eyes are basically stuck in with a big glob of sticky clay. The call it Blu-Tac, but it's not blue, it's grey. That's the only thing that holds the eyes in place. Apparently this is the case with other BJD-style dolls, as well. Adjusting the gaze took less than two minutes: pop off the cap on the top of the head, reach in with a finger, and gently tweak the eye one way or another. I hope Triv will look a lot less goofy in the next batch of pictures; and I should have less of a problem with glare from the whites of the eyes.

As for the stiff, awkward posing, that is 100% on me. These dolls are extremely flexible with multiple points of articulation. This offers a lot of flexibility (ha!) in posing, but it also means there are a lot more points of articulation to get just right in order for the pose to look natural. So there's going to be a learning curve.

Look at the photo I was trying to emulate. The figure looks totally natural and relaxed, as though she were a real person who was surprised in the hallway by somebody with a camera. "Oh, hey! What's up?" Her shoulders look relaxed, there's an ever so subtle forward tip to her upper torso (which creates the narrow ribcage and waist appearance relative to the bust that Triv describes as "skinny" compared to her own "fat." The arms are pulled in at the shoulders, which causes the seams on the sweater to ride lower, which also emphasizes the slim build, while also suggesting a relaxed, casual attitude.

The neck angles slightly toward the lowered left (screen right) shoulder, while the head is tipped ever so subtly to the right (screen left), which creates a slightly quizzical, and oh so cute, impression.

The pelvis appears to be tilted slightly forward (a subtlety which I had not noticed until now), which serves to create a straight line down the belly, again implying slimness, and also illustrating good posture, which enhances the overall sense of fitness, health, and youth.

The hair falls over her shoulders toward the front, slightly tousled but not messy (other than a strand sticking out toward screen right), providing a sense of movement and life.

The lighting on the face and eyes is even, bringing out the "tea" skin tone, and showing detail in the eyes without making them seem overly bright or reflective.

The creases and folds in the sweater are minimal but fall in exactly the right places they would in a form-fitting sweater on a real person, again accentuating a sense of movement and life.

In my photos, lighting is a failure from the get-go. The eyes are too dark, revealing little detail. This is an effect of trying to work around the overly reflective mis-set eyes. In the second, color-enhanced torso pic, the right (screen left) eye in particular can be seen to be showing far too much white on the outside edge, while the colored iris disappears behind the nose.

Even though the eyes and face are slightly dark, the white of the tee-shirt is blown out and overex-posed.

I tried to get that neck-head "cuteness tilt" effect, but failed. In the first torso shot, the camera angle is too low, so the head is too high, which leads to the dreaded "giraffe neck" effect, and makes a doll look like a doll rather than like a little living being. The camera angle is slightly better in the second torso shot, but that perky little head tilt still isn't there.

The arms may not have been set deeply enough into the shoulder sockets, creating a wide-shouldered look, which in turn suggests more bulk (or as Triv says, makes her look fat). The angle of the arms toward the back is perhaps a bit too great, creating a stiff, awkward effect that is exacerbated by the sharp angles at the elbows.

Other than the shoulder seams of the sweater riding a bit too high in my photo as a result of the wide stance of the shoulders, I'm not too unhappy with the overall drape of the fabric relative to the figure. That's one thing that turned out more or less acceptable to my eye.

A bit of forward tilt on the pelvis might have helped create the slimming flat tummy effect, and would have helped the belt sit at a better height and angle. Izzy's belt looks like it is sitting properly, conforming to her contours in response to gravity. Triv's belt looks like a "doll prop" that isn't adjusted quite right, to the point where it almost looks out of scale. I think this is due to pelvis tilt, but it could be a result of the way I have the belt threaded. I struggled to get that belt through the belt loops.

In the photo I was trying to copy, an imaginary gently curving "close parenthesis" shaped line can be drawn from the figure's right (screen left) hip through her left (screen right) shoulder and up through the point of her chin to her right eye. In my photo, rather than being a sweeping curve, that imaginary line would need to have sharper bends, more like a pointed bracket than a parenthesis. The line misses the chin altogether. I'm beginning to suspect that "gentle curves" as opposed to "sharp angles" in the visual lines of the figure are what differentiate a "natural" pose from an "artificial" one.

It's also very possible that I am over-thinking all of this, and that the over-thinking is contributing to the stilted results. I tried to pose the figure, as opposed to kind of just setting her up in a similar stance and making subtle changes while snapping pictures. In my previous Smart Doll photos (I haven't taken very many yet, actually), I just kind of put the figure into a situation and took some pics. Those turned out, well, not great, but for the most part not "forced" looking. There is an almost "organic flow" to the Smart Doll articulation that responds well to "casual" handling.

I apologize for the long, rambling response. I'm using this opportunity to try to analyze the differences between the two photos and to figure out why one of them (not mine) looks so very much better to me than the other (meaning, my photo is the crappy one).

I know that you put a significant amount of thought and effort into the poses of your figures (until the wind or the waves knock them down for the tenth time, and then you say "screw it" and snap a few quick shots before you lose the light – oh, the joys of doll photography), so if you have any suggestions, hints, tips, observations, critiques, or outright criticisms, feel free to respond. Smart Doll photography is not coming naturally to me at all (I got my start with static Pinky Street figures), but I'm hoping to improve. While the "art" behind doll photography cannot necessarily be forced, the "science" can be learned. When the tools and techniques are mastered, the art will, in theory, emerge more easily.
They're not dolls, they're action figures!
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#13
What a fun set of photos! I'm sure things will work out next time!

(12-10-2018, 02:16 PM)davidd Wrote: It's also very possible that I am over-thinking all of this, and that the over-thinking is contributing to the stilted results.

I think you've hit the nail on the head here!

(12-10-2018, 02:16 PM)davidd Wrote: Smart Doll photography is not coming naturally to me at all (I got my start with static Pinky Street figures), but I'm hoping to improve. While the "art" behind doll photography cannot necessarily be forced, the "science" can be learned. When the tools and techniques are mastered, the art will, in theory, emerge more easily.

Learning new things or new approaches to already familiar things is always good! But don't stress yourself out. I think it wouldn't be bad to just play with the girls more, without taking photos, to get really used to how the doll feels in your hands. Just have fun! I'm pretty sure chessenparker has tons of fun taking her fabulous photos and the effort that goes into them flows naturally - as opposed to trying to scientifically construct them to be perfect.

I mean, of course you want to take good photos and get somewhat disappointed when they don't turn out well, that's OK, but I think you might be letting it get to you a bit too much.

You need to get two things through your not thick, but self-doubting skull:

1) you're really good. Really. Trust me!
2) you don't really need to be good. It's not how you earn your living, right? You're totally allowed to take one bad photo after another and just have fun. They'll be great anyways, because 1).

Oh, and tell Triv she's beautiful and work on your self-esteem together smile

Sorry, I don't mean to be patronizing my 'senpai', but I hate to see you doubt yourself so much and pick yourself apart like this. Hugs!
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#14
I think Neon made some good points.
Um yeah, I do think you're overthinking it a bit... in photos of real people, they don't always look perfectly posed, sometimes they're awkward, sometimes their clothes don't fit perfectly; I haven't looked very often at where the shoulder seams of my sweaters go...
They say social media is one of the biggest sources of dissatisfaction in people's lives, when we start comparing others' shiny lives to our own. Or in this case, shiny photos. Personally, I get really annoyed when other people's garishly overprocessed (to my eye) photos get all the "likes" on facebook, and I can't sell a scenic calendar to locals to save my life anymore. So I pretty much quit looking at them.
It's good to have photographic role models, and people whose work you aspire to match, but, I think you will enjoy it a lot more if you seek out what makes YOU happy to photograph. Trying to copy a photo you admire is a good exercise, to a point. If you learn something about composition or posing that you can really apply to improve your own work, it's a good thing. But when it creates negative energy & leaves you feeling bummed about yourself and your photography, maybe it's time to stop.
As you said, you haven't taken many photos of them yet. So, there's still some work to do with learning how they pose and how they feel, as Neon said. Give it some time and keep shooting!
What makes a doll photo look like a real little person doing something rather than an awkwardly posed toy can be a subtle difference, like are feet on the floor or a few mm off it sticking out awkwardly, are hands in the position that a real person's would be... I think you know all these things, because when you go off and do your own thing with them, the photos are great. And I thought this was a good effort too, really.
If you were going for "oh, hey, what's up?"... maybe Triv's photo is the instant after that, when people get stiff and awkward as they realize they're being photographed.
It's true your light isn't great here. That's just a function of shooting indoors. Try a piece of white paper or a white shirt or fabric, positioned below her & in front of the camera, to bounce a little light into her face. Or don't shoot indoors with dull low-contrast light (says the person who now finds it too cold to shoot outside).
I saw your point about the belt after you mentioned it, but not before. Yes, it does look a little big for her, but that might be just the way it's made. For me, it's the loops; they're a bit out of scale with the rest of the belt.
I thought the cross-eyed tendency was cute too, but, glad you've discovered how to change it and I hope you get a result to your liking. Yeah, just tacky stuff in BJD heads. I think eventually it dries out... I hope Annie's never does because I imagine having a mess if I have to try to reset them sad
With all the curves-&-angles analysis, I wondered, have you studied classical Greek sculpture or something? Yes, if you're creating fine art, these are things to consider, but... it's doll photography. I do think you're overthinking and being too hard on yourself.
I see a lot of doll photos that I really admire the lighting, or the use of DOF, & know that "mine don't look like that". I think the best response is to briefly admire, then go "oh well" and continue to pursue your own style.
Your photos are good! Sure, work on making them better, if you want, but to YOUR standard and in a way that you can look at a photo you took a year or 2 ago & say "they're better now"... not because they don't look like someone else's.
1) Have fun with it!
2) If you're not having fun, go eat some chocolate, take a walk, and return to 1).
smile
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#15
Thank you both for your input. I concur with all the points both of you offer. I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my ranting and rambling.

I really am trying to get better at "large scale" doll photography, but I know I'm probably being far too impatient. These dolls are gigantic compared to anything else I've worked with, and I knew going in that they would present a challenge both because of their size and because of the multiple points and types of articulation. I told myself even before I ordered the Smart Doll that it was a challenge I was willing to tackle, but here I am, whining already.

The suggestion to "just play with the girls more, without taking photos" is an excellent idea. I need to familiarize myself with and become more comfortable with the way they move, the way their clothing fits, and how to disassemble and reassemble them. Plus, I think it will be fun!

At least I could do something about the crossed eyes, which, yes, looks "cute" to a degree, but which I feel was slightly excessive in this case. I tweaked the positioning by maybe a millimeter, perhaps less, and I think it looks somewhat better now. I'm hoping the repositioned eyes will prove less problematic for lighting.


[Image: december10.jpg]

[Image: december10a.jpg]
Smart Doll Symphony's Eyes: Before & After


Oh, and, I'm totally on board with the "chocolate" solution!
They're not dolls, they're action figures!
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