Today I’m going to be showing you all how I create photo shoots. :) I know many of you are really interested on how I do this so I thought this would be a super fun post to make!

Let’s get started! :D

First things first: setting the scene.


For the photo shoot of Harper Luna and her keyboard, I use a white tri-fold board for the background. These are available at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, etc. They come in many colors. I really wanted to use white because I wanted something simple and clean so Harper and the keyboard would pop. Plus, the white board reflects extra light and acts sort of like a reflector. :)

Aside from the board, I hung up a string of bulb lights with tape to the board. For props, I used Harper, of course, her keyboard, and a chair for her to sit at. I also had a small music book for her to play from. :)

I honestly thought these photos might turn out boring, but I pushed through with taking them anyway. XD


Once I had my scene set up, I got out my reflectors. Usually I use only one, but lately I have been using 2, and I can really tell the difference in my photos. One reflector bounces the light in Harper’s eyes, while the other lights up the background. I had one reflector up against a box of clothing, while the other was being propped up against the wall thanks to my smoothie jar. (It was strawberry) XD You can also see I had my comb and water spray bottle nearby in case Harper’s hair was messed up. :)

After I have that all set up, I run and grab my camera, and begin to shoot.

I usually take MANY test photos, which I use to adjust the shutter speed. I almost always have the aperture to 1.6 mm, which results in brighter lights, brings about faster shutter speeds, and better bokeh. :D When I’m done figuring out the perfect setting, I take the real photos you all see on the blog.

Once I have the photos, I usually put away the camera for a bit and pick up my mess. Well.. some of the time. Sometimes I edit first and leave the mess for later.. XD

Editing is probably my favorite part. I love turning a drab photo into a beautiful one and I am in love with. :D

I used to use Photoshop quite a bit, and I know my way around most of the settings and such, but I realized that Lightroom is better fit for my editing needs and use it for all my photos, even the Etsy listing ones.

I start off with a photo, and just go down the list of settings on the “Develop” sidebar. I adjust the exposure, turning it up if it’s too dark, and down if it’s too bright. I lighten the shadows, and move onto the tone curve. There, depending on the exposure, I brighten the light, highlights, and shadows. Sometimes I make a strong contrast if it fits the image. Then, I tweak the hue, saturation, and luminance for each color. Sometimes I turn down the hues of orange and red, and turn up their luminance. The exact same setting won’t work on every photo. Then I mess around with the split toning, figuring out what looks good and what doesn’t. Next, I sharpen the photo and turn up the luminance, softening the image but still keeping it sharp.

The best part comes next. :)

From then, I create multiple radial filters to burn the areas around the doll herself. Next comes the lightening ones, which lighten the areas I want to. Then I create the color radial filters, which add the pops of color to the image you saw in several photos of Harper. :D That’s my favorite part. :)

To finish up, I do a few simple things like brighten the eyes and such, and I’m done! :D It’s a pretty long process for just one photo, but it can be worth it!

Realizing that every photo is unique is important here. I’m not making this post to show you exactly all the settings and percentages I use. Because most likely, it won’t help. You photo, no maker how much you try, will never be the same as mine. We all take different photos. You can, however, take these settings I mess with, and mess with them yourself. See what looks good. Mess it up, tweak it, fix it up some more. There is no one edit technique that creates a jaw-dropping photo. All the settings must work together for the photo to become beautiful. It’s just how God created the body. Your brain can’t keep the body alive alone, it needs the heart, blood vessels, the lung, etc. to help.  They need to work together. This is similar to photo editing. With lots of hard work, tweaking and practice, you can edit beautifully in Lightroom. :)

If you would like some videos/tutorials, I recommended watching some photo-editing videos from the YouTube channel, KaraleeLS. She has some of the most beautiful doll photography and I have learned so much from watching her videos. :) I really urge you to check them out if you are looking to improve your editing.

Here are some before and after photos of the ones from the Harper shoot. :D Even I take terribly boring photos sometimes. XD

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You can really see the color radial filters I used in the after photo. :) You can use almost any color in Photoshop that compliments your image.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 4.57.54 PM

This photo has a darker look to it. :)

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 5.00.27 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-09 at 8.38.27 AM

I love this one SO MUCH. O_O

Bonus: :D




Here’s our new puppy, Dashie! We love her so much and she is just a bundle of fun and energy! She’s just the cutest little thing. Some of her nicknames are Pupperino, Alligator Mouth, and Squish-o. XD She’s a mix of a poodle and yorkshire terrier – a Yorkiepoo. :D

Thank you so much for reading this post! Is there anything you are going to try in your next photoshoot? Did you learn anything new? Leave a comment below! :) <3

– American Girl Doll Artist

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50 comments on “Photoshoots and Editing – Behind the Scenes

  1. awwwwwwwwww, puppy!! <3 <3 <3 <3
    wow. thats a lot for one photo. O.O i don't edit mine, like, at ALL. but now I'm interested…..
    Most crazily, ~Olive

  2. Wow, thank you so much for doing this! :D It’s all extremely helpful. :) I don’t have Photoshop or Lightroom, but I’d love to have Lightroom someday. For now, I use Pixlr and PicMonkey, which don’t have a ton of editing options, but I try my best to make something good with what I’ve got!
    AWWW! Dashie is SO cute!! I saw on your Instagram that you had been wanting a dog, so congrats on getting her! :) She looks so sweet! <3

    -Clara <3

    • You’re welcome Clara, I’m so happy it’s helpful! :D I think you can get a free Lightroom trial on the Adobe website. :) That’s great! I think your photos are very pretty already. :D
      Yeah, we all love her so much!! Thank you! :D <3

      • Oh, thanks for telling me about that, I’ll have to check it out! Aw, thank you SO much. :D
        I bet you do, she’s so adorable! You’re welcome!

        -Clara <3

  3. Wow, thanks for this! I love seeing your talented photos and how you edit them. I’ve been working a lot on my photography and editing lately, though I just use Photos and PhotoScapeX. Seriously, you are the best doll photographer I’ve ever seen! I always get so inspired at your jaw-dropping photos. I can’t even contain my awe without gushing out loud and my entire family goes “WHAT WHAT”. XD In my next shoot, I’m going to try the reflector I just discovered we had. It’s white on one side and gold on the other — which side do you think would be best to use? Previously, I’ve just been using studio lights, but I want to see if the reflector helps any.


    • You are very welcome!! :D <3
      Aw, thank you so very much! You are so sweet, and this comment made my day. I always drool over others' photos, never imagining other people doing it to mine. Thank you. <3 :)
      That's a great idea! :D The silver side reflects a more neutral light or white light, and the golden side reflects the light in a really warm tone. I usually use the silver side, but it can depend on what look you want for your photo. :) I hope this helps! :D

          • Hey AGDA! I’ve been having a bit of trouble with my reflector and was wondering if you could give me some tips at all? I have a reflector, but it isn’t silver one one side, it’s white — and then golden on the other. When using the reflector, I can’t see the difference at all in the light it reflects… it doesn’t seem to be reflecting any light. Do you have any tips / suggestions / advice? Should I get a reflector with a silver side instead?

            Thank you SO much!


          • Hi Madison! :D
            Reflectors can be tricky! Ours has a silver side and a gold side, and I always use the silver side. Yeah, white reflects some light but not as much as silver, so I recommend getting one with a silver side. Something else that’s important is that you can’t reflect light if there isn’t any! XD A lot of times I’ve wanted brighten up my doll’s eyes but it doesn’t work because the lighting in the room is just too dark. I like to take photos by a window, or the skylight I have in my house. :D But yes, a silver sided reflector will help you make the most of the light you have. :) I hope this helps and if you have any more questions I’d be happy to help. :D <3

  4. I really wanted to make my photos less drab and now I know how to! I’m really wondering where you got those reflectors. Great tips on photo taking and editing! I love the photo of Harper standing, holding her dress, and all of the colors in the background!! Awwwww Puppy! She’s Adorbs!!

  5. Hi Dara! This really helped me! You are an amazing photographer! I was wondering when you used the color radial filter was that is photoshop or in Lightroom? Thank you so much!