How I Improved My Doll Photography // Adventures in Barbie Collecting Over The Years (2015-2018)

It’s quite funny to go through my old posts and see how I have changed. Today I was going through 12DP Edeline and The Squad Moves In and I thought “whoa, this seems like ages ago! Look at how bad the photos are!”

They really are quite bad. Back in 2015, I didn’t have a smartphone so I just took photos with my iPad. This meant they were really grainy! I also took them from inside my bookshelf. This was a great idea at first, because there were lots of “floors,” but it quickly proved to be a waste of time because the lighting was so bad!

In this photostory, Barbie, Imogen, and some other dolls, had just moved into their new apartment. Barbie had told Imogen to go buy some “essential” items, such as toilet paper and microwave meals.

And this is what she came back with! A television! Haha. I still think this photostory is rather funny, but as you can see, I didn’t put a whole lot of effort into setting up the scene, and it’s very dark.

Here is a photoshoot from the same post. It’s all the roommates together; Barbie, Neko, Grace and Imogen. They were “the squad.”

I remember this photoshoot took me ages to do. I think it would have been much better if all the dolls were looking at the camera!

This next set of photos is from The Audition, a photostory where Zoey builds her own dance studio. My dolls come in for an audition, although nobody ever finds out if they make the team because I destroyed the studio a few weeks later! (Oops!)

I made this in 2016.


This is the lobby area. I built the studio so you could easily change it around. The top part was meant to be the “second floor,” although nobody ever went up there.


And this was the dance studio -see the chopstick on the wall? That was supposed to be the barre. I bought the mirror at a market for $2. The lady looked at me like “what do you want this for?” I think it had broken off some furniture.


It was pretty dark in the dance studio! I prefer to make open dioramas nowadays, instead of boxes like I did back then.

This next post is from 2016 again, but a bit later on in the year. It’s about my Fashionista Cutie 2011 Fashion Pack. I was still using an iPad to take all my pictures.


I like the styling -all the girls look really cute! However, once again, it would be nice if they were all looking at the camera!


This is my favourite photo in the shoot. If I was going to recreate this, I would probably do it outside where the lighting is better (although to be fair, I was standing in front of a huge window to take these photos).

This next post is from February 2017 -I had finally gotten my iPhone 6s, which is what I still use to take photos today. This one is called Exam Time, it was part of my “Aquifolia High” photostory series.

I mostly focused on the dialogue here, rather than the actual pictures. I still do this too much! I think the set looks a bit “cheap” and “rushed” (even though in reality, it did take my hours to glue everything on!), and for goodness sake, I could have cropped the background out!

If I was to do this again, I would move the doll’s heads down slightly. It looks like they’re staring at the ceiling!

This is my favourite image from that day! I love how the light is shining on the dolls, and they look like they are having a serious conversation. In this scene, Aimee is annoyed she has gotten a low grade on her exam, and Neko is comforting her.

I think my blog has definitely improved over the years, and I am much better at taking photos. Here are some examples of something more recent.

This one is from The Jacket, from my Neko vs Planet Fashion series. I like how soft Aimee’s face looks here. I took this in late 2017.

This one is also from early 2018, it’s from my Fashion Challenge: Pink Legwarmers post.

So, how did I do it? How did I go from taking group photos like this, in 2016…


The Main Dolls (Neko, Holly, Kayla, Danika, Imogen, Barbie, Jewel)

…to taking group photos like this, in 2017?

All The Colours of the Rainbow (Catrina, Danika, Imogen, Kayla, Emily, Barbie, Neko)

FWI: I’m not saying my photography skills are all that amazing now, because I know they’re obviously not, I’m just saying that I have improved from when I first started.

1.) Practise!

I started my blog back in 2015. That doesn’t sound like *that* long ago, but that means I’ve been taking pictures over and over, week after week, for more than three years! In addition, I’ve also taken lots of photos for Instagram that I’ve never featured on here.

In order to improve in something, you have to do it consistently, over and over again.

2.) Invest in a Better Camera

When I made the switch from my iPod to my iPad, I found there was a huge change in the quality of my pictures. I don’t think I have any pictures from back then, but let me tell you, they were so incredibly grainy! There wasn’t a way to focus at all.

When I made the next switch, from my iPad to my iPhone, I noticed a big change once again. I will probably upgrade to a new phone in 2019, so hopefully I will get a nice new shiny camera once again. The quality of the iPhone X looks amazing, I love all the different modes.

3.) Keep Your Dolls Looking Down

When we look at our dolls in real life, we generally have their faces pointing straight ahead. However, your photos instantly improve if you point their faces down, as far as they will go.

See here? In the first image, Skipper looks perfectly natural in real life, but she looks silly in the photo. In the second image, I pointed her face all the way down. It looks much better!

4.) Add a Filter

There are three drawbacks to adding filters.

One, it looks obviously unnatural and lowers the quality of your images. A once focused image now looks grainy, especially when you zoom in.

Two, it’s more work. You have to add the filters to each photo individually, screenshot them, crop them and then finally upload. It’s a lot of work!

Three, you won’t ever be able to stop! Adding a filter is really addicting once you realise how much better your photos look! See here, how Skipper looks instantly bright and fresh? That’s the filter for you! (it’s Instagram’s Claredon, in case you were wondering, which is my favourite)

5.) Stop Your Dolls From Looking Around

When taking a photo, you have to carefully position your doll’s eyes so they are looking directly at the camera lens, or at least in the same direction as each other. Unless, of course, you want to pose them “naturally,” for example, if they are having a conversation or doing an activity.

This is tricky, especially when there are multiple dolls in the same photo. To help me out, I often use a tripod (they are around $10 on eBay), take a photo, move the doll’s around a bit, take a photo, move them around a bit… And so on. Often, it takes many, many shots just to get one photo right!

6.) Check Every Photo Before You Move Onto the Next (Even if You Think It’s Fine!)

You know what’s really annoying? When you’re taking lots of photos of your dolls doing different things (for example, for a photostory) and you don’t realise that one crucial photo is a bit blurry. Then, when it comes to write up the photostory, that one photo is blurry and the story won’t make sense if you don’t include it.

To combat this, I make sure that I check every photo before changing my dolls position. Sometimes a photo will look completely fine from the viewfinder, but later I discover that it isn’t very good at all. What a bother!


What are your top tips for improving your doll photography? 

10 thoughts on “How I Improved My Doll Photography // Adventures in Barbie Collecting Over The Years (2015-2018)

  1. Great tips, Holly! It is fun to look back and see how far your photography has come! I look back at some of my older posts and find the pics cringe-worthy, and think I should go back and do a re-shoot, but then there are so many NEW projects to pursue. Yes, practice and good lighting is everything. I think also enjoying what we are doing…the dolls’ personalities, fashions, the stories we are creating. It comes through in the final composition. I agree with all your points, especially where the eyes are directed. That’s so important in creating a more “natural” looking image 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I can’t imagine having to re-do something old, I would much rather create something new as well 🙂 You are right, there are so many aspects related to doll collecting, it’s lovely when everything comes tother perfectly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is amazing! I love posts like this because it really shows your progress!

    I’ve only been following your blog since December, so I had never actually seen some of your older photos, but I think you’re definitely right…you’ve improved immensely! I’m amazed by the quality of your photos.

    As someone who’s never taken pictures on anything other than a flip-phone, I didn’t even know about the position and direction of the eyes. I looked back at my old photos recently, which basically just stay stored on my phone, and I just cringed and asked myself, “What was I even thinking?” Yeah, they were bad. I’m clearly not meant to be a photographer! Lol!

    Oh, and I decided to watch Barbie’s latest vlog yesterday, because she had Skipper on as a guest! There was a little subtle product reference when Barbie said that Skipper and her friends had started a babysitting service! I immediately thought of the Skipper Babysitters Inc. line as soon as she said that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I watched that one too, it wasn’t bad -I think she also mentioned it in the baby food challenge. I wonder if they’re going to start making Skipper-focused videos… That would be something new, but they’d have to do it well for it to work.

      I really want to try and make my blog ‘better.’ Better photography, better post ideas, better sets. We’ll see how that goes haha.


      1. Yeah, you’re right, I believe she did mention the babysitting before! I’d also really love more videos with Skipper and Stacie. I think Mattel has put out so many with Chelsea, which I understand, since she’s the main character in Dreamtopia, but I feel like Stacie and Skipper are often overlooked. I mean, Stacie was in the Say Anything Challenge vlog, but other than that we haven’t extensively seen her. Although she was in a few others, but she didn’t really say much at all from what I recall.

        I think your blog is excellent the way it is! I’ve followed many blogs before, but none have had the quality and obvious time put into them the way you put into yours. I remember this one blog I followed, where the girl posted a ton of her YouTube videos, which wasn’t even meant to be the main focus of her blog in the first place! It was kinda strange, honestly.

        Oh, I almost forgot! I recently was thinking about Dreamhouse Adventures, and if Mattel will stop producing vlogs. Because after they discontinued Life in the Dreamhouse, they began the vlogs. But I don’t think they stopped producing anything for Dreamtopia. With Mattel, it’s anyone’s guess! We’ll have to wait and see!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think it would be odd for the vlogs to go on a break, come back, and then stop them completely, so I think we are safe -for now, at least! Originally I thought the vlogs were just promotion for the Puppy Chase movie, since they released around the same time (like how the comic book videos were promotion for Princess Power).

        I’d definitely love to see more of Skipper and Stacie, especially because their personalities seem quite “2D.” I think it would be great if Mattel fleshed them out a bit.


  3. I have actually downgrades the camera I use. I have a nice digital SLR camera but to het good photos I need to set it up ona tripod and get the settings perfect and use the right lens. Some of my older photos ate far superior to more recent ones in terms of aesthetics. But my smartphone camera is tiny and goes easily into angles and places that are impossible with a larger DSLR. For my blog, the story telling is far more important than the image quality and I’m willing to sacrifice a beautiful image for one that shows the action and viewpoint I want to show. One thing that I have discovered though are 1:6 scale photo backdrops. I love them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was thinking about getting a nice camera, actually -maybe I’ll just pick up the iPhone X instead, apparently the quality is really good on that. And as you mentioned, I can get into all the tiny spaces to capture the action!

      You take really good photos for your blog, I wouldn’t have guessed you used a phone!

      Liked by 1 person

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