Things got away from me yesterday. Apparently, D1 had a science test to prepare for. I mean, those things just jump out at you with no warning. My brother used to inform my mom that a teacher jumped out at him on his way home and told him there was a test/project was due/etc. the next day. D1 is not quite THAT dramatic, but he cuts it pretty close, as well.
ANYWAY, so to combine a lengthy writing post and a DIY Friday post, I give you a post on learning how to shed all
sense of embarrassment and social awkwardness while taking photos of
your dolls in public.
In this tutorial I will attempt to give real-life tips for people of
varying social timidity on how to overcome said timidity and
concentrate on what's important - the doll photography, of course!
Great military and other kinds of thinkers have always stated -
preparation is 50-90% of the victory (actual percentages may vary). What
it means for you is this: you need to prepare yourself, mentally and
physically, before you even grab the camera and head outside.
You need to be aware that there WILL be annoying people giving you
looks. There WILL be a jerk who will come up and try to lift your doll's
skirt or a kid with no personal space boundaries instilled. Imagine it
all. Done? Good. Now get over it. Because they don't matter. You are not
taking pictures to impress these random people (and if you are, you've
got deeper issues than I'm prepared to work with ^_^ ). You ONLY care
about us, your forum buddies, and you want to impress us with awesome
photos. Got that? Reality is what you make of it, so impress upon
yourself that the random passerby are just that and don't really exist
for our intents and purposes. The only exception is when they are in the
way, but we'll deal with it later.
If you are physically prepared, you will feel less nervous and more confident, which will help you get over your shyness.
Therefore, pack well - bring a comb for you doll's hair which WILL
be blowing in the wind or getting mussed up in transport. Make sure the
bag you have your doll(s) in is comfortable and is easily accessible, in
case you find the need to shove the dolls in really quick. Choose the
clothes for the doll wisely - minimum of accessories is recommended, so
there is minimum of setup fuss.
Trust me, the less time and effort you spend on setting up outside
shots, the less nervous you will feel, at least in the beginning. Of
course, if you are an experienced photographer, you'll shoot anywhere
with any amount of props, but for starters, follow the above advice.
The Underlying Rule:
This rule is actually a good one to remember in pretty much any life situation:
Act as if you are SUPPOSED to be there and are SUPPOSED to do whatever you're doing, and no one will question you.
In our case, when out shooting dolls in the middle of a crowded
beach, you need to concentrate on taking pictures and positioning the
dolls and act like OF COURSE you are doing that, and the question is,
why isn't everyone else? So, no furtive sticking the doll out in your
hand, snapping the shot before you got a chance to focus, and shoving
the doll out of sight. Act like you have a right to set up, point the
camera and shoot ('cause guess what? You DO! Except if it's inside
stores, but we'll get back to that later).
Practice The Look Of Utter Concentration at home. Don't confuse it
with The Look Of Utter Constipation, because, seriously, some people
seem to have trouble distinguishing between the two.
Ok, I think the following tips should work in any culture, but I
can't guarantee it. Therefore, I'll say that these tips are tested out
on US soil, but should work with other Western cultures, too and
possibly Eastern, as well. For Eastern European countries, I'd increase
the severity of expression and to try to look official, if my memory
serves me well.
The thing to remember is that most people are NOT observant, and
they DON'T care about you. You're not that important in their world. So,
even if they happen to look at you, they won't remember you the next
day, if you're lucky, and if you're not, they won't remember you in 5
Choose your location wisely. If you are likely to freak out in
crowds even without a doll involved, then possibly Broadway is not for
you, at least, not right away.
Parks, college campuses (especially during breaks), empty
playgrounds, and beaches in the off-season are all great places to
start. There might be an occasional passerby, but - what did I teach
you? - that's RIGHT! They don't exist! So ignore them, act like you are
doing a very important project, and they'll go away.
If they try to engage, be polite but brief, don't go into long
explanations, and if they ask to handle the doll, just say you'd rather
not put them at the risk of being responsible for damaging a $400 doll.
You may have bought her for $45 nude, but they don't have to know that,
and I'm sure she's worth that much to you. Don't say $500, because
people tend to view roundish numbers as an exaggeration.
Also, don't say it in any other way because the phrasing I use makes
it look like I'm looking out for them, and while I'm not saying they
WILL break the doll, it's a whopping big sum of money. If they question
the price, tell them the doll is highly collectible. It is, but not to
the extent they will think it is. So you're not really lying, if anyone
is concerned. Practice saying this phrase, so it rolls off the tongue
smoothly. It also makes you sound experienced and professional. If you
want to, you can wince politely while you are saying that, as it will
give the impression that it already happened before, and it was a big
Next step - populated places. Same rule applies - concentrate on
your task and worry about flyaway hair, not dog-walkers and commuters.
React ONLY if you get heckled or approached. Girls should already know
The Look You Give When You Get Cat-Called, but boys can practice it, too
- look slightly annoyed, but in a distracted way, like they're not
REALLY worth the bother. No direct eye contact when you get heckled. If
someone tries to talk to you (provided you don't want to be approached),
be polite, but act like you REALLY are running behind your schedule,
but are too well-mannered to point it out to the dumbass.
The trick is to make yourself believe that what you're doing IS
important, and really, it's all matter of perspective. Remind yourself
that the majority of the passerby consider the pinnacle of their day the
point when they go home and watch TV or something. I mean, it's not
like they have one on us, like they are REALLY doing something
worthwhile while we're just putzing around. However, DON'T - and I
repeat, DON'T - start feeling superior. People pick up on that
subconsciously and get resentful, so they might bug you longer.
Seriously, though, usually people leave you alone and the majority
of the looks you think they are giving you are just in your mind.
Now to the pinnacle of public shooting (but not shooting the public,
that's illegal). I've shot in Manhattan in the middle of touristy
crowds and on the subway, and I can tell you, I'd rather deal with hobos
on the subway, 'cause tourists seem to have NO boundaries, and they
seem to think everything that's happening around them is done solely for
their own personal entertainment. Therefore, if you find yourself
shooting in the touristy areas, keep a focused look on your face,
minimum emotions. The only emotion you can allow yourself is a polite
annoyance - like, if anyone tries to talk to you or blocks your view,
you need to look tired and ever-so-slightly annoyed, but like you're
REALLY trying not to let it show (I have a suspicion that I'll get
requests on having someone photograph me when I'm out shooting a story
after this tutorial). Not everyone will react, but it will deter some.
Also, don't use the line about risk of damaging a $400 doll on
tourists. For some reason, it only makes them want to handle the doll
more. Therefore, instead, meet any request to touch your doll with a
simple, "No." Let them think you're a jerk, what do we care? They're not
part of Momoko crowd, and if they want, just point them in the
direction of Sekiguchi.
Then, of course, there's the free-styling shooting in Ren Festivals,
Faires, Music Fests, etc. In other words, The Weird Places. Here, the
chances are that everyone will be either completely oblivious to you, or
just be very supportive that you can relax and shoot to your little
heart's delight. People will probably think you're the bee's knees and
When someone just goes in and picks up your doll or grabs for her or
any other such craziness, tell them, "Excuse me, but do I go through
your wallet/pocketbook/bag/pockets?" That usually puzzles them until you
remind them that the doll is your property just as their wallet is
If you somehow need to shoot inside a store (though I don't
recommend it), ALWAYS ask the clerk or someone for permission, even if
there is no sign forbidding photography. Usually, people are caught off
guard when you approach them with your request and are very likely to
say "yes," and once they have agreed, they can't decide to shoo you.
Personal experience + psychology = good results.
If you think asking them will attract undue attention, come ON. A
person taking shots of a doll inside a store can't be un-noticed, so
it's better if the clerk/owner feels respected. They might let you crawl
into spaces that they wouldn't otherwise.
Obviously, if you're shooting in Target, Walmart (now, why would you
want to go there in the first place?), or Big Lots, or whatever, that
technique won't work, 'cause they are corporations and got their weird
little rules and regulations. So, if you MUST, shoot quickly and leave
Lastly, I mean it about minimum of accessories. I almost lost Jack's hat that way one time.
I'm not going to go into the doll underwear business, as I feel it's
already been discussed. Thoroughly. I never had a problem with that,
but then, no one ever got close enough to even breathe on my dolls.
I hope you have found some useful tips on public doll photography, but feel free to ask questions!