Wednesday, June 30, 2010


"Do you want to take my picture with Teddy?"

"Smile for the camera, Teddy."

"Do you enjoy flying high, Teddy?"

"Teddybear? What Teddybear?

"OK, Teddy, let's go home for milk and cookies."

Nothing brings a photograph to life, and create a sense of reality, more than a prop. We are constantly surrounded by everyday props that bring reality to our own lives so it is only natural that Sasha should also have props that make her world seem more realistic.
And a prop is a wonderful tool for storytelling as the pictures above illustrate

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


A few years ago Madonna taught the world to VOGUE and encouraged everyone to STRIKE A POSE. Sasha is no exception. These days it is not enough to be beautiful and have attitude. You also have to strike a pose that helps to tell the photo's story. Sasha is a great model and can free stand in lots of positions. Or she can add a few more poses with the aid of a doll stand.
Essentially Sasha is a little girl and we want to show her taking poses that reflect her age. Little girls are often cute and coy and even a bit clumsy so you can convey that with a turn of her foot and the tilt of her head. If you look at these pictures you will see that even the same pose takes on a different mood when the camera moves to a different angle.


Sunday, June 27, 2010


Today on CBS SUNDAY MORNING they did a segment on the science of love. Researchers discovered that the sensation of pain could be reduced by the patient holding a loved one's hand or even just looking at a loved one's photograph. Apparently there is a section of the brain that is altered and impacted by the presence of a loved one. And even after they are gone the photos can still inspire that reaction -- with sweet or bittersweet results.
That made me think about Sasha and how just the presence or sight of one makes me smile. And how some of us can be made happy with just one Sasha while others keep adding more and more to their family. Just as in the human world there are only children and those with eight or ten siblings.
Apparently our brains are stimulated by many things including love. Studies have examined the effects of pain and drugs and deprivation and demonstrated how each has triggered brain reaction.
I wonder if our reaction to Sashas could be measured as well. Are we addicted to Sasha or just made happier by the sight of one. I suspect a bit of both. But I don't think any of us will need rehab any time soon.
In the meantime I think I'll keep on enjoying the elusive and mysterious quality of each doll and let my brain be happily stimulated by it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Photographing people is much easier than photographing dolls because humans can change their facial expressions. Photographing Sasha and giving her some emotion and attitude requires a bit of trial and error as well as an eye for what works and what doesn't. While light and shadow help to create a mood it might take a particular tilt of her head to create the attitude needed to convey personality and contribute to the storytelling of the final image.
To begin, the top photo is rather flat which might be OK for a passport but not very interesting as a portrait. The image just below it has soft shadows added (by moving the light source) which adds some dimension to the overall image.
Glamour and fashion photographers usually shoot from just slightly above the subject's eye level and always make sure there is a nice defining shadow under the chin whenever possible.
The rest of these photos were taken with the same lighting system. The differences in shadows and lighting is created by changing the position of the head. Since each Sasha has a distinct personality it might take a number of poses before her character emerges. But patience and persistence will eventually discover her attitude and unique personality.


While STAPLES and other stationary stores usually carry a three-fold Presentation Board it is easy to make one in a few minutes.
Typically they measure 36 inches high and 48 inches wide when flat. The basic design has two side panels - each 12 inches wide - and a center panel 24 inches wide. You can create one using heavy cardboard or Styrofoam board. If you can find a sheet of cardboard about 36 x 48 then just score the folds with a knife. Otherwise you can cut the three panels and tape them together.
Sasha dolls don't usually need a background as high as 36 inches so you can cheat a little on the height -- but not too much.
Some stores also sell colored Poster Boards that make good background colors and some even have printed patterns and textures. I have one with puffy white clouds on a blue sky background.
If you want to create fabric background boards you can go to an art supply shop and buy canvas stretcher wood sides by measure and make a background to your own specifications. Art shops often carry pre-stretched canvases that also make excellent lightly textured backgrounds or light bounce boards.

Have fun.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


In 1948 a British film titled THE RED SHOES delighted American dance fans with an imaginative interpretation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about a pair of magical red dancing shoes.
The beautiful ballet dancer, Moira Shearer, captivated audiences as the ill-fated ballerina, Victoria Page. Since then little girls and their dolls have acted out the story of the girl who could not stop dancing.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words I thought I'd do a few pictures of Sasha in her red shoes taking a few ballet and modern dance positions using my pipe-cleaner waist gripper. As you can see, now Sasha can not only assume fourth position but also a few dramatic dance steps as well.

And, like Victoria Page, she can't stop dancing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Most Sasha dolls can stand on their own without the support of a doll stand. However, many Sasha dolls have suffered from doll stand gripper dents because the metal piece that goes around the waist is too tight and creates dimples in the body vinyl. To avoid this happening I make my own gripper using soft craft pipe cleaners -- each about 12 inches long. I join two of them by twisting their ends. Then I wrap the piece around Sasha's waist and twist the two sides together behind the back. After that I insert the remaining tails into the metal stand support and turn up the ends in the back piece to secure the doll in place.
I also often use this flesh colored body suit (leotard) to protect Sasha's body from clothing stains if I'm not sure if a fabric is color safe. This one was created by DOLL SECRETS and is discussed in an earlier blog post.

The use of the soft covered pipe cleaner to hold Sasha has other advantages because it allows her to assume poses that the steel gripper does not permit because it is too rigid.

Monday, June 21, 2010


In the human world of modeling there are make-up artists, hair-dressers, and stylists who fuss and fume over the models who sulk and suffer in the name of fashion. Sasha is a much better model and not given to tantrums or complaints. Her natural beauty needs no makeup but her hair often needs to be groomed before standing for the camera.
I only use metal pet combs with rounded polished teeth to comb her hair. Plastic combs are seldom finished enough and often cut or break hair with unfinished edges.
And I only use NON-ALCOHOL Spray Styling Gel to control the fly-away hairs. I never spray the gel directly on the hair but instead spray a bit on a brush to smooth the top and sides of the hair. I find that a toothbrush works best on the fringe.
First I place a hair net over the head and then a stretch wig cap over that until it is time to pose for photos.
One good thing about Spray Gel is that once it has dried it crystallizes and can easily be brushed out leaving no residue behind. Regular Hair Spray usually contains alcohol that dries the hair and will leave a residue behind that builds up over time.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


This single light source has a hood and diffusion screen in front of the lights to avoid hot spots and light reflections on smooth objects. This complete item has been available on eBay for $100.00.

This background and lighting set-up comes complete and can often be found for about $100.00 on eBay. I purchased a similar version two years ago. It does take up a lot of space but I have the room for it.

45 Watt 5000k Compact Fluorescent Daylight Balanced Photo Bulbs. These are available on eBay for various prices and often are included in lighting set-ups.

Three Fold Presentation Board is a great simple background that is lightweight and easy to carry outside or store away. At STAPLES for under $10.00

Graduated backgrounds come in many different colors. I use a dark brown to light brown version. The laminated paper version is about $20.00 on eBay but I don't recommend it because paper tends to wrinkle. The vinyl version is a bit more expensive, about $65.00, but is almost indestructible and worth every penny.

While cameras vary in price from one hundred to several hundred dollars it often becomes difficult to select one that will give the doll photographer the best results. Of course today everything is digital so that is an easy decision. The second consideration (for me) is ease of use. I don't need a camera with a hundred options and functions I will never need or use. However, I would want a camera with a close-up function that avoids distortion when the lens is in close for detail images. Currently I use a very basic CANON Power Shot that cost under $200.00 a few years ago and still works perfectly.

The other consideration is studio equipment -- lighting and backgrounds. There are many items you can buy for about one hundred dollars if you buy them on eBay. Photo shop sellers often offer items at auction with a low starting price and that is when you can often find a bargain. And, they often offer items at a very inexpensive BUY NOW price just to move merchandise.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


My father was a difficult, complex man who had a brilliant mechanical mind that created many inventions. Most of his life he worked for the government starting in WW2 and then with the space program in Florida. He was charming with friends and strangers but had an angry dark side only the family saw. Today we would call his actions abusive but back in the fifties it passed as discipline. We had our differences and in his later years we finally parted company. His father died when he was fourteen and I don't think he ever got over it. He considered himself a fatherless child and often remarked that he had no background for fathering.
I became a father the first time at eighteen. My wife died in childbirth and I was totally unprepared to be a single father so for the first five years Christopher was raised by my parents. Fortune smiled on me and I got a good job and was able to bring Chris to live with me in New York City. I could afford a Nanny and I learned to be a father "on the job." Actually, I think all parents learn on the job. Back then it was unusual to see a single father and child and there wasn't much support available. That just meant we had to figure it out together.
I didn't marry again until I was forty. Julie and I had a son and daughter together. Adam and Alexandra grew up in California in our little community that eventually became a sort of creattive commune where we got together with other artists to home school our kids. It was the 1970s and the free spirit of the Love Generation inspired and infused everything. Chris was a wonderful older brother and our family enjoyed many happy times together.
Later, when my Teddybear character HUG became the spokesbear for SAVE THE CHILDREN, I joined the program and we adopted a child in China. Over the years I exchanged hundreds of letters with Tom and finally we brought him to America to become a permanent part of our family. Now he a student at Princeton.
I guess the measure of a good father is how happy his kids are. We teach what we can and they learn what they want. My daughter was her mother's child and they were always very close. But, in her teens Alexandra decided that I might have important information about men and she became much more interested in what I had to say.
I was asked once what was the greatest gift my parents gave me. I answered, "They left me alone." My parents had a terrific partnership and seemed to always be in a world all their own. They left me on my own to discover who I was and what I was going to become. That was a wonderful gift. It has always been difficult for me to step back and let my kids stumble and tumble and take risks that got them bruised. But I wanted them to have the same freedom of expression and investigation that I had enjoyed. I guess the most important thing we can do is just love them.
And now that I am a Grandfather I have new things to learn about that role. I know that I'm now allowed to spoil and indulge my Granddaughter because that's what Grandfathers do. And every now and then I get to do some babysitting -- but not often enough.
I do hope she grows up to like dolls.


Another element of the storytelling aspect of a photograph is the presence of cast shadows. In the adult world, photos are full of cast shadows that add dimension to any image. In the world of dolls cast shadows are just as important to creating a sense of space and reality.
One good trick is to use a "presentation board" -- a three-fold cardboard background that can serve as a wall or corner in the photo. They are available at stationary stores or it is easy to create one.
Looking at the top photograph you can see a faint vertical line behind Sasha's head that indicates the corner she is standing in to create this type of cast shadow. The other images were created by moving the wall closer or setting it at an angle from one side or the other. No matter how you position the board a cast shadow will help to create a sense of dimension and reality.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Selecting the right background for a photo can make a great difference in the final result. I have a couple of favorite backgrounds when working in the studio.
A solid black background will always give you the most beautiful photograph of your subject. Next would be a dark color. The photo with the dark turquoise background has the same light setting as the one with the black background. Both backgrounds are made of felt because it gives the softest, most even, background tonality.
The center photo with the textured ivory background has similar lighting but appears to have much less contrast or drama. The texture is just a terry cloth towel that creates a lovely, soft pattern to the background.
Another wonderful material to use for backgrounds is a professional gradual tone professional vinyl sheet. You can use it with the tone going from dark at the top to light on the bottom, or reverse it from light to dark. Or, you can use it from side to side and create an interesting shadowed effect the way the bottom photo demonstrates. You can see this background was used in other photos on my blog.
You can create background boards by stretching fabric over display boards so that you can use them outside if you prefer working in natural light.



Another favorite lighting trick of beauty and fashion photographers is BACKLIGHT. This effect can be achieved both indoors and outdoors. And it usually is combined with BOUNCE LIGHT.
The light source, sun or lamp, is positioned behind the subject. A bounce card is usually placed in front of the subject to illuminate the front of the face. Or two bounce boards, or secondary lights, are placed on either side of the subject.
Very often a fashion photographer will combine BACKLIGHT, BOUNCE LIGHT, and WIND to achieve a more dramatic effect.
The end goal of any photograph is to tell a story and in the case of Sasha, whose expression is fixed, it can be made more realistic by the position of the head and the various ways the lighting is used.
In these photos her expression almost seems to change from image to image simply because of the lighting and the tilt of her head.