Watch Me Improve My Photography Throughout this Post

I’m not that great at doll photography. I could look at photos from American Girl Doll Artist or karaleels and just drop to my knees going WOW WOW WOW.

But I have learned some tips and tricks over the years that make my photos the best I can be. And I’m constantly trying to grow my skills to my idols’ skill level. A few weeks ago, I devoted an entire afternoon just for working on my indoor photography.

Watch my photos get better as the post progresses! Maybe you’ll see something that’ll help you (or something you know that could help me!).

All of these photos are completely unedited except for slapping my watermark on there so in case some dummy decides to take these really bad test photos and post them, I spare him the shame by letting the world know I took these photos, not he.

The best thing for indoor photography is natural lighting! I’ve got a really great window facing the sun at almost all the right moments and it lets in a ton of natural light.

Then I’ve got my studio light (with a missing filterย ๐Ÿ˜†) and my reflector.

Neither of which are actually mine. O_o

Then I have my overhead lights with special daylight bulbs.

Edit: I hate these daylight bulbs. My old yellowish ones gave me better lighting, actually. I’m going to switch them soon. XD

Mr. Reflector likes leaning up against Miss Chair. They’re a lovely couple.

This is my completely unedited photo. I think it looks good, but it’s not as awesome as I wanted it to be.ย ๐Ÿ˜‘

Shadows are nasty things that can ruin your pictures, especially if they’re on your doll’s face. The reflector is awesome for bouncing light from the studio light and window back into Taryn and Del’s faces to rid shadows, but these ones still remain.

So the above setup didn’t go so well after fiddling with the lights and such. Let’s try a second setup, in which I carry the studio lightโ€”that is not mine and with open bulbsโ€”up my loft bed.

Heh heh.

The light shines straight down on them, which looks absolutely terrible.

See what I mean? Besides the wonky off-centered framing, I’m loving the setup, poses, and the aperture, but the one thing I just haven’t gotten down yet is lighting.ย ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

This is with the reflector kind of reflecting the light from the above studio light… not quite like I had foreseen in my head.

Life has a way of not playing out like you envision it. XD

This is how dark the setup looks without the studio light and just the natural and overhead.

Better, but… man, that shadow!

Let’s see what Mr. Reflector and Miss Chair can do to help out.


Sorry, Miss Chair. I need Mr. Reflector over here.


It’s all my evil loft bed’s fault for blocking the sun.


Ewwww. Jasmine’s eyes are in such shadow too.

A little better. I always brighten my dolls’ eyes in editing, lightening up any shadows that way, but the better you can get the lighting when you actually take the photo, the better.

Even with the reflector this close…ย ๐Ÿ˜‚ย My indoor photography is hopeless.

I think we could notice that, thanks.

But check this out.

BAM! WHOLE NEW Cร‰CILE! Her eyes and face are so bright!


Can you tell I like my reflector? Not that it’s mine.

This is with the studio light and reflector…

This is just with the reflector. So it’s hard for him to do his job if he has nothing to reflect. XD He bounces off the light from the studio light.

Photography Takeaways I Learned:

(to save you time the next time you take photos)

  • The closer the reflector was to my dolls, the better the reflection. Typically, the closer to the ground it was, the better, too.
  • I should consider re-arranging my room to allow my doll space to get the best natural lighting from my window.
  • I don’t really like my LED overhead daylight bulbs. It’s making the lighting worse than it used to be. I’ll ask my dad if we can switch ’em back to the yellowish ones we had before.
  • I should get tinier studio lights to act as fill lights to get rid of the shadows behind my dolls, but until then, move the dolls further away from walls.
  • I’m a lot worse than I thought.ย ๐Ÿ˜‚ย Editing saves my bacon.

Do you ever take time to practice photography? What are your favorite photography tips? Got any for me?

By the way, today is the LAST day to comment questions for Katy and Del to answer next post!


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2018-03-18T20:24:23-05:00 March 30th, 2018|51 Comments


  1. Avatar
    Tess (blackiesunshine) March 30, 2018 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    Gee, your photography’s great. I should get a reflector/light sometime, I think it’d help my photos a lot XD I’m not super into photography (it’s hard for me) so I have a hard time justifying a purchase like that…but it might be worth it…you’re great at getting things cogitating in my head ๐Ÿ˜‰
    (yes I just used ‘cogitating’ in a sentence. i read too much XD)

    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      *quickly looks up “cogitate” to pretend to look smart* AH YES I KNOW WHAT THAT BIG FANCY WORD MEANS. *nods*

      If you ever do get one, you won’t regret it! XD

  2. Avatar
    kaitlynrh1 March 30, 2018 at 2:00 pm - Reply

    All your pictures are just amazing, Madi! ๐Ÿ™‚ <3

    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      Aw, thanks Kaitlyn! ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Avatar
    Diamond @ March 30, 2018 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    Your photos always look so amazing! My indoor photos…
    Letโ€™s not speak of those. Although, not trying to brag, but I do think the ones from my Rawr photo shoot look pretty good๐Ÿ˜‰
    These are some great tips. I might try a reflector sometime.

    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:20 pm - Reply

      Awww, thanks so much, Diamond! And awww, I think your photography is great! I just went over to see the photoshoot of Rawr and loved it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. Avatar
    ThePolkaDotPatriot March 30, 2018 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    And this is why I rarely take indoor photos….I don’t own Studio Lights or have anywhere to put them. Plus, I sometimes need something to get me outdoors… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      I prefer outdoor photos, too. ๐Ÿ˜‚

  5. Avatar
    Kaylyn Grace March 30, 2018 at 2:41 pm - Reply


    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:23 pm - Reply


      • Avatar
        Kaylyn Grace April 3, 2018 at 9:07 am - Reply


  6. Avatar
    Laura Beth March 30, 2018 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    This post was awesome! I have my point-and-shoot camera, and my phone. Great photography lesson!

    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:29 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much, Laura!

  7. Avatar
    Maddie March 30, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    HAHAHA ๐Ÿ˜‚ I love Miss Chair. Sheโ€™s awesome ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป I have the same problems, especially with the shadowing on the eyes and face in general. LIKE WHAT DID I EVER DO TO MY LAMPOST TO MAKE IT HATE ME SO MUCH?! ๐Ÿ˜‚

    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      She is ๐Ÿ˜‚ AND I KNOW RIGHT. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

  8. Avatar
    AAG March 30, 2018 at 4:38 pm - Reply


    I MUST BUY A REFLECTOR! Nice pictures!

    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:34 pm - Reply

      YESSS BUY THE REFLECTOR! Thanks so much!

  9. Avatar
    Olive March 30, 2018 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    Madi, Madi, Madi….that is the tiny-est shadow I have ever seen. Shadows are fine, as long as itโ€™s not yours, or the cameras. ๐Ÿ˜‚ and now that I think about it, Iโ€™ve actually used my shadow when taking pictures outside. Sometimes itโ€™s so bright out that my shadow covering them gives it just the right amount of light. ๐Ÿ˜œ
    Mr. Reflector and Miss Chair is now my new ship. ๐Ÿ˜ I shall dub it, reflectair! ๐Ÿ˜„
    Most crazily, ~Olive

    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm - Reply

      NO IT’S SUPER BIG AND IT RUINS THE WHOLE PICTURE! ๐Ÿ˜‚ Shooting in shadow makes for great lighting, but not if there’s shadow *cast* on them. ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Reflectair! I love it! ๐Ÿ˜

  10. Avatar
    Sassafras March 30, 2018 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this post, Madison! You should make more posts like this. ๐Ÿ™‚ Over the past few years, my passion for photography has increased so much, and just recently I’ve been looking in to using manual mode on my camera. So yes, I have been practicing my photography, and experimenting with settings. An amazing tip I learned a week or so ago was to preset the white balance (specifically inside where there’s yellow-ish lighting) by snapping a picture of a piece of white paper. I tried it, and afterwards there was no yellow tint to my photos! Beyond that, I don’t think I really have any advice, because I’m a complete amateur. I can take all the advice I can get, including from you. Do you have any tips for a beginner DSLR user like me? Your photography is really good, by the way. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Also, I’d be really interested in seeing how you edit your photos. That’s definitely an important part of the photography process!

    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:42 pm - Reply

      I’m so glad you liked it! I was worried it would be really boring.

      Manual mode is so awesome! I can hardly stand auto — it makes everything really weird. XD That tip is so cool! I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before! Hmm, I think my biggest tip would be to make the lighting as great as possible by trying to bounce light back into the dolls’ faces and the background. It makes all the difference!

      That is such a good idea! I’ll definitely have to do a post about how I edit my photos super soon. Thanks so much again!

      • Avatar
        Sassafras April 3, 2018 at 10:06 am - Reply

        You’re welcome! Well, it wasn’t boring at all to me! ๐Ÿ™‚
        Haha, well, unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing. Lately I’ve been trying manual mode, but it’s not intuitive for me. I am learning, though.
        Thanks for the tip! I have been trying that more lately, but I don’t have a real reflector, so I use a mirror. However, I think a reflector would probably work better, so I’m thinking about getting one. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Madison
          Madison April 3, 2018 at 6:24 pm - Reply

          Aww, hurray! ๐Ÿ˜€

          My friend is like that, too! She can’t stand manual mode and always does auto. XD

          If you ever get one, I hope you love it! And I have to try a mirror as a reflector some time. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.

          • Avatar
            Sassafras April 3, 2018 at 8:29 pm - Reply

            Well, I do want to learn manual mode, but it’s just kind of hard. I hope to improve a lot this year, though! ๐Ÿ™‚
            Yeah, I’ve been looking at a few on Amazon. They don’t seem to be that expensive. ๐Ÿ™‚

            • Madison
              Madison April 7, 2018 at 5:48 pm - Reply

              I hope you’re able to learn everything you need to about manual mode! I really love your photos. ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. Avatar
    Katie March 30, 2018 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    LOL I’ve been there so many times with my indoor photography XD I cringe everything with my pictures. I actually think your photography is incredible! It always blows my mind! I’ll definitely try these tips, thanks!
    -Katie ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Madison
      Madison April 2, 2018 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Right? Indoor is just so frustrating. XD I hope the tips help! Thank you so much!

  12. Avatar
    Enni March 30, 2018 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Oh…wow…XD That’s a very long process. XD When I take doll pictures, I take out my camera, press the button, and see if it’s focused and clear. If it is, then great. ๐Ÿ˜› Also, when you add watermarks, can you just slap some text on the picture or are there other things you have to do as well?

    • Madison
      Madison April 3, 2018 at 6:03 pm - Reply

      Haha, I was just experimenting. XD

      No, usually you just slap some text on there. 99% of the time I change the opacity, though, so it’s see-through. And I always make sure it’s the same distance from the bottom as it is from the side.

      • Avatar
        Enni April 4, 2018 at 9:59 pm - Reply

        Okay, thank you so much!

  13. Avatar
    Seven March 30, 2018 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Loved the post as always, XD! Youโ€™re seriously amazing at photography, and even the ones you said were โ€œbadโ€ looked great. Iโ€™m no photographer, but the only tip I can give is that it helps when the dolls outfit matches and reflects the lighting. Obviously, you already knew that tip! I have a doll with pink hair and itโ€™s incredibly hard to get good pictures of her. Ok, Iโ€™ll stop talking so much now and keep obsessing over how cute your dolls outfits are! God bless!

    • Madison
      Madison April 3, 2018 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      XDD Aww, thank you SO much! That’s actually an awesome tip — I should use it more! Thanks so much for reading! <3

  14. Avatar
    Hannah March 30, 2018 at 9:52 pm - Reply

    Wow, great tips! I love the way you said everything, and yeah, my indoor photography isn’t the best at all! XD

    • Madison
      Madison April 3, 2018 at 6:06 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Hannah! Indoor photography is hard. XD

  15. Avatar
    Gracie March 31, 2018 at 1:36 am - Reply

    This is interesting! Once I tried getting pictures in my closet, with help from a desk light. It was and interesting experiment that often didn’t turn out great, but I learned some things as I went! And I posted it anyways…. โ˜บ The second time I got photos in my closet seemed better.
    Great post!

    • Madison
      Madison April 3, 2018 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Gracie! That sounds like a great experiment. And I think your photos are amazing! Your header is the best. ๐Ÿ˜‚

  16. Avatar
    Mary E. April 3, 2018 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    I just use my moms phone! ๐Ÿ˜‚

    • Madison
      Madison April 3, 2018 at 6:25 pm - Reply

      Phones can take some pretty epic photos! ๐Ÿ˜‚

  17. Avatar
    Xyra April 8, 2018 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    This was great. I wonder if you want to eliminate all shadows? Some may make the scene look more natural.

    • Madison
      Madison April 13, 2018 at 11:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Xyra! Yeah, you want to keep some shadows to keep it natural — just not nasty glaring ones on their faces.

      • Avatar
        Xyra April 16, 2018 at 5:02 pm - Reply

        Yes, yes! That totally makes sense. I do need to find a reflector or two. Lighting can be so temperamental. ๐Ÿ˜€

  18. Avatar
    Olivia Bell April 10, 2018 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    I loved this, it was so interesting to see how you made them better! I wish I had a reflector, it would come in handy. ๐Ÿ˜ My favorite kind of photography (I don’t do all that much doll photography) is nature, particularly flowers, but I love other things too, like photographing teacups, haha! ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ve been really into it lately so it’s super fun! ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Madison
      Madison April 13, 2018 at 11:15 pm - Reply

      Photography is so fun!! I love taking pictures of other things than dolls, too!

  19. Avatar
    Kirstyn December 14, 2018 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Ugh, how are you so perfect with hair?

    I hate doll photoshoots because my poses look random and I don’t have enough props to fix it.


    • Madison
      Madison May 4, 2019 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      You haven’t seen my doll hair fails! ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Hey, you might try having your photoshoot center around a theme, like the doll doing a certain task or modeling a certain outfit. That way the poses aren’t random.

      I do! It definitely has its downsides, though… I have less motivation to get out of bed in the morning because I have to get my lazy butt down the ladder. Let’s not mention the amount of times the ceiling fan hits my head. Enjoy a regular bed! ๐Ÿ˜‚

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