Mannequin Avenue

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Dang, I have been busy with these mannequin heads, y’all:

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First of all, I got the idea to stick a bunch of fake fruit to one of my mannequin heads. I really don’t know why this idea came to me, but once the thought occurred to me to do it I had to give it a go.

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I used double-sided tape to stick some fake fruit to the mannequin; I actually don’t have that much fake fruit – I used Photoshop to duplicate the grapes and stick’em all on there.

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I call this “The Grapehawk”

This one is my favorite of the fake fruit shots. Somehow my edits ended up making the mannequin’s face look so real, it’s almost creepy:

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What should I call this one? The Pear Devil? 

I also gave her a grape beard in one shot:

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Now, some of you may remember that when I tried out all those Oribe products, I mentioned how shiny and metallic silver the Silverati shampoo is, and how much I wanted to take pics of it running down my face. That would have been pretty messy to do, but when using a mannequin as a model, it was just crazy easy:

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I really only took pictures of one mannequin. I composited this shot and changed the face a bit on one of the images so they didn’t look exactly the same. 

These mannequin heads are so ridiculously easy to work with. The have these perfectly smooth, proportioned faces and they’re easy to manipulate as well as glue stuff to or smear crap all over. When I was done, I was able to just wash the old gal off with a rag and call it a day.

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The perfect “skin” tones on these mannequins make them super-easy to overmanipulate in processing. I don’t have to worry about uneven skin tones that don’t match up – and this all led to an absolute photo-editing frenzy. I started out simple enough, but as time went on I started to really go to town with the color and shading:

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See what I mean? The mannequin is such a great ‘blank’ canvas for some awesome edits and I can really cut lose in all sorts of ways I’ve never done before.

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Not to mention how easy the setup and breakdown is. I managed to shoot all these photos this morning before heading out to tutor in the afternoon. Usually that’s not even remotely possible – it takes me at least an hour to put on my makeup and then after the shoot is done, I have to wash it all off again. Not to mention how much longer it takes me to shoot myself as opposed to a perfectly still doll head.

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And I didn’t even need any fancy lighting, just my camera with my external flash. Heaven!

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I am sure eventually I’ll get bored with these mannequins, but then again, there’s all sorts of mannequins out there with all sorts of faces, and they do whatever I want them to do without complaining. The perfect models!

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I can’t believe how many photos I was able to take as well as edit today, while also eating two meals, tutoring a student, and swimming for half an hour. I’m over the moon with this new direction!

 

Hello Dolly

Recently I was in the Goodwill store by my house when I came across one of those big doll styling heads kids sometimes play with:

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I’ve photographed dolls before, but never ones that were so big I could put my wigs on them and really play around with the facial features in post. Needless to say, it made a difference:

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All three of these shots came from a quick photo where I just stood the doll head on a table and took a snap. I used my Portrait Pro, PhotoToolbox, and MakeupDirector software to alter the doll’s face to look different in each shot. Then, after seeing how easy she was to work with, I started to get more creative with my shots, adding wigs and wind (of course, because you know how I love hair that blows about) and taking pictures from different angles:

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Same wig as the shots below, I just put it on the doll head backwards

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I was having a hard time getting the wig to blow around dramatically, however, because I had to sit the doll head on a table and could only get the fan to hit the hair fiber from certain directions. I wanted to be able to get the fan up under the doll as I thought that would create more interesting shapes with the wigs, and then I remembered that I had two wig mannequin heads that have holes in the bottom so they can be put onto a stand. Bingo!

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I have many ideas for where to go from here, and putting wigs on a doll head is WAY quicker to set up for and easier to shoot than putting the wigs on, and photographing, myself. I also feel more free to go crazy with the processing, since the subject isn’t a real human to start with, and I’m having fun working with some filters I don’t normally use, like Topaz’s Impressions filter, which transforms photo into faux-paintings or sketches.

I can easily set up and shoot some wig shots this way every day without it being a big ordeal, so expect to see more doll shots coming soon! I am, of course, already on the lookout for more heads – the wig mannequins are definitely easier to use, but damn they are expensive, as opposed to the wig-styling kids’ toys that can be found used for around three bucks. I’ll be hitting up eBay for mannequin heads today, and we’ll see what I find. 😉 There are also some really freaky mannequin heads out there, so finding some of those for cheap would be a real bonus.

 

Doll Bearer

Honestly, coming up with titles that rhyme with doll is way too easy.

In working with the dolls I purchased, I am functioning in a new manner photographically. First of all, I now have some conceived idea before I start shooting, as opposed to the usual process of self-portraits where I get in front of the camera and see what happens. But I’ve mentioned in previous posts how that process had already begun to bore me; in fact, last night I pulled up an old hard drive and was looking over some of my earliest self-portraits, and was a bit amazed at how much more I was able to pull off back then, when the posing was still new. I was using sheets tacked to a wall, no lighting, and a $150 point-and-shoot camera, but I still managed to create some pretty cool images. But as with all things creative (for me anyway), a process does grow stale, and I have to explore some other avenue. I know I’ve said it a million times, but I just don’t have many unique faces left to make, or costumes to put on that aren’t derivative of something I’ve already done, or leaps to make that I haven’t already, well, lept. So yeah, anyway – dolls.

My point is, working from a plan or vision can be incredibly intimidating when one is not used to doing it. With the more spontaneous process, it was pretty rare for me to come away from a shoot disappointed in every single shot, because I hadn’t known what I was looking for to begin with. But it does happen when trying to re-create something photographically that I’ve envisioned in my head. It gets a little scary to even try, for fear that I will put a lot  of work into something that produces no decent, tangible results. But as I think I said in my last post, even if I flop with some of this stuff, I am at least learning what not to do, and can apply those lessons to the next session. And it’s not like I was never disappointed when shooting selfies. I remember one session that I was so excited about, only to find out when I loaded the photos onto my computer that the color balance went crazy (this was with my first, very old Canon Rebel, the original of that line) and I was horribly green in everything and could not repair it for the life of me. Or the time I got dressed up and posed for an hour only to have the CF card lock up and lose everything! So you know, it’s always something.

So here is a photo that I visualized so clearly, and which seemed so simple to pull off, that I spent 6 hours trying to force it to work, because I just could not accept that it had been a fail. It’s not horrible, but it is not at all as convincing as I thought it would be:

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Let me explain.

I knew Madame Alexander made both angel and devil dolls, and after my first purchase of the Spain doll I photographed earlier in the month, I got the idea of having an angel doll on one shoulder and a devil on the other, while I looked confused, or amused, or..something cute. Anyway. First of all, I spent a pretty penny on that stupid devil doll, which came to me a hot mess; her outfit did not fit and was clearly not made for her, she was old and loose and difficult to pose (in fact, before the end of the shoot her arm fell off) and she looked really old. On the other hand, that angel doll was quite cheap, and it is exquisite – a really beautiful doll. Go figure. I think I pulled the poses off fine – and I must add that I did a hell of a good job contouring my nose with my makeup on this day, which I usually botch up terribly. And I was very meticulous about shooting each doll standing on the same fuzzy sweater (which I stretched over a stool) and to shoot them in the same light, and in basically the exact same position they would be in were they actually on my shoulders. But in spite of all that, they just would not work in the composite shot. I thought the fact that their feet would be on fuzz in each shot would make them easier to stick onto my shoulders, but the blues didn’t match and wouldn’t mask right and it just looked phony. I did the best I could, but this is so far away from what I envisioned, and I don’t think the end result is nearly as entertaining as it had looked in my head. Plus, six hours editing y’all. And in the end I still wasn’t happy. The devil in particular just looks awful. I couldn’t pose her very well to begin with, and she never did look like she was really standing on my shoulder, she just looked glued on. So I used a clone tool to add some more fuzz to her feet and called it a day. Sigh.

Then, I took a bunch of shots of the angel because she’s just sooo pretty, and although I still have some others of her to process, the one I chose to work with first was also a bit of a fail, in my opinion. Since the arm had already fallen off my devil doll, I got the idea to make the angel have four arms, and scrambled around in my box of doll parts to find one. When shooting these photos, everything looked so nice and colorful – all that pastel pink and blue – but when I went to edit one of them, it just didn’t make much sense. It’s a doll with extra arms, and that’s about it. It doesn’t communicate anything, and she’s just kind of lying there doing nothing. Bummer.

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I edited the hell out of her to try and make this connect with me better, but it never did. I think my biggest issue with her was that her body was made in such a way that she is not facing the front entirely; her body is a bit twisted to one side, so try as I might I never could get her to look like she was really lying down in a peaceful manner – she just looks like she has either scoliosis or restless leg syndrome. I added a boatload of filters to try and turn this into something, but in the end I just stopped and considered it as good as it was going to get.

One thing about that first shot, the angel and devil one, was how easy I thought it would be to pull off, and how wrong I was about that. I’ve done other simple composite shots quite successfully, and they did not take much time to execute, and I really thought I planned out how to put that one together well to get an excellent end result. But I was wrong. On the other hand, this idea for what I have titled “Doll Soup” I thought would be a real bitch – and it was the easiest thing I’ve done yet.

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This past Saturday afternoon, about two hours before I needed to go into the school and work for a bit, I got an urge to try out this shot I’d visualized some time before. Even when talking to Doug about what I wanted to do after I first thought of it, he agreed that it would probably be quite difficult to get the doll placed in the soup just right, and then keep all her doll-parts posed while I took the shots; he even thought I might need to put something like styrofoam under the soup to keep it all “floating” properly around the doll parts. Nope. On a total whim, I took the can of soup, dumped it in this small pot, then placed first her head, then her arms, then her legs into it (she is disassembled, BTW). First time trying, everything fell right into place, and proceeded to stay there while I not only took about 40 or 50 shots in the kitchen with two different lenses, but also while I moved the pot into my studio to take shots of her in there. And there was no great planning to any of it: stick doll parts in soup, take photos, done. But in the end, these are the best shots I’ve taken of the dolls so far. At least as far as realizing a vision is concerned. And, I took them in a rush without much prep at all, right before needing to rush out the door to take care of errands. Certainly not my usual routine for creating quality work.

This next one, which I took in my office, didn’t come off quite as I pictured it, but it’s certainly close enough to satisfy me:

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It did take some time to get myself positioned right in front of the camera for my mouth to show properly, but again, that little doll head posed like a trouper throughout the whole ordeal. Tons of shots of me picking up that spoon and posing, then dipping it into the soup to get more noodles or whatever, over and over, and still – she didn’t budge. Good doll.

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I really don’t think I needed to edit this last shot; the first two are the real winners. But after the disappointment of my angel and devil shots I was excited to play around with some that were at least close to what I wanted to see, so I kept going with them.

Who knows what’s next with these little gals – they are unpredictable for sure, but always up for a shoot. As for me, I start back to work tomorrow, so wish me luck. Another semester is up and running!

 

 

 

Dollapalooza

I just checked my blog, and I haven’t shared any photos here since December 21st – but I certainly have a taken a lot of them! The first day of the break, I pulled all the furniture out of my office and just left it set up for photos the entire two weeks, so I could be basically ready to go whenever I wanted to do a shoot. It was a good plan, and I took a load of photos, many of which I’ve yet to process. But I’ll share what I can for now.

As you know from my recent posts, I bought a slew of dolls, in varying conditions, from eBay with the intent of taking pictures of them. I shared the first few in my last post, so going back to that, here are some photos I took of one of the headless dolls I received:

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This a favorite of mine; I simply stood the doll up on the old brown chair that’s in my office and played around with her a bit. I love the yellow, black and white of the dress, especially against the brown, and of course there’s the whole headless thing. I edited the doll’s feet (and the base of stand she was on) so it would look like she’s floating. It was pretty successful even SOOC, but of course I messed with it in Photoshop quote a bit. I would talk more about exactly what I did, but I’m tired quite honestly, and can’t formulate my thoughts all that well. So I’ll keep my comments brief.

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I do also love this shot. Also taken just sitting on my chair. I desaturated most of the shot for a vintage feel, and added a little texture to age it also.

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Not really interested in this one and probably won’t share it anywhere else but here. I thought I could composite a floating head shot into the set, but I popped off these shots quickly and didn’t take the time to get a floating head I could really use. I settled for this one, but I don’t really think it works. The head is at an odd angle, and I hadn’t yet discovered the transform tool in Photoshop that I now know how to use, and that helps to change the angles of a layer if you don’t like how it’s aligned in the photo.

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I really tried to get a photo of either Sprocket or Penny with the doll head in their mouths, but they weren’t having it. This is as close as I got. Also the color balance was wonky in these shots, so I just gave this one a monochrome treatment and called it a day. Then of course, there’s my new baby doll Sherbet:sherbet2

This was from a different shoot, utilizing my backdrop and better lighting. I thought this shot had nice lighting but was rather boring; in the end it’s just a doll. So I messed with it – a lot. And the end result was a little disturbing.

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Creepy enough for you? What I did was warp just his face, and added a light leak to conceal a little the transition line on his face between where I used the warp tool and where I didn’t. Not sure I like it, but I bought Sherbet to be creepy, so in that regard at least he did his job.

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Another one where I liked the light a lot, but it’s just…doll. So I added some tilt-shift and motion blur in the hopes of making it more interesting. Not sure I succeeded, so let’s move on. Speaking of creepy:

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More warping! Not really sure how successful Sherbet’s first photoshoot was, but at least I got some good experience out of it. I also don’t know if he’s going to work for my project taking a doll around with me on errands and things and putting him into an otherwise mundane photo. He’s really BIG, and I think to pull off taking pictures of dolls at random places in public the doll in question should be a lot smaller. So, I’m going to keep looking for that. Not sure what to do with Sherbet in the meantime, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.

I’m going to stop here because it’s late and I’m sleepy, but I’ll have more doll photos to share soon. And another bag I spruced up.

Happy Sunday everyone! I’m back to the grind on money, but I’m OK with it. All good vacations must come to an end.