BTS 2012 Christmas Magic
It was one of those times, like it normally is for me, when I woke up the day before Christmas Eve with a vision in my head. I ran the idea by my kids and they were into it so on Christmas Eve I got up early and cleared out the living room to prepare for the shoot.
Working in a confined space offered some challenges. At first I had planned on using multiple light sources but this proved to be impossible because of the limitations of the space I had to work with. Shooting the width of the room only gives me 13 feet to work with and if I include the dining room with hallway maybe 16 feet max. The tree was right up against the corner, so any lights I would have wanted to setup would have shown up in the photograph anyways. My alternate plan was to use a single strobe with grid and light each piece of the photograph I wanted to highlight individually and then composite it later in post.
The setup. I first positioned the camera on a tripod with trigger release and took some test shots to determine the best placement for the camera and for exposure of the Christmas tree. This was important because once I started I could not move the camera or change the exposure settings.
Now it was time to bring in my worthy subjects.
My instructions were that they were to get into place and when I prompted them they had to hold their pose as steady as possible for at least 4 seconds because the exposure was going to take about that long. This was the most challenging part of the photo shoot and it took some time for them to get it right, but when they did things went very smoothly. The first shot was to place a small highlight on Tiffany who was posed on the mantle with Santa’s cookies and milk. My wife was hand holding the flash for me while I shouted instructions from behind my viewfinder.
From this point we repeated it for Cameron. Adding a bit of light to the part of his face not facing the camera.
Then Nathan to add a hint of light to his head and shoulders.
Then I had Nathan play a bit with the dog with I took a series of photographs so I could pick one that matched the photograph for later edits. I had to use a higher power flash setting to accommodate for the faster shutter speed. I didn’t want to even attempt to get a puppy to sit still for 4 seconds. ;-)
Lastly I went around the room and carefully placed my flash in front of the objects I wanted to highlight in the final photo. All the stockings, bears, miniatures on the mantle and to the right of tree there were to other objects. Each was a separate photo to be added in the final composite.
The photo shoot took about 1 1/2 hours with another 1/2 hour for setup and I did approx 3 hours of work in post. The final image is 79Mb and contains 57 layers in Photoshop.
I hope this inspires someone. If you have any questions feel free to ask.