Take These Steps For A Successful Christmas Card

Well Thanksgiving was great and we took time while stuffing ourselves to make some great family photos for a Christmas card. Hey wait…we were too busy eating to do that!

Hmmm….there’s still time. Here are some suggestions based on my Thanksgiving photo shoot.

We were inside, and the first challenge with an inside shoot is always the background. Well ok…that’s always the first challenge with an outside shoot too, but outside I don’t have to worry about a lot of “things” behind my subjects.

So for this shoot, I started by scouting out a good place to make the photo. In this case, a couch in the middle of the room was just the ticket. Plus there were windows along one wall so I was able to utilize the window lighting … always a good thing when you are shooting inside because the light coming thru windows is softer than using a flash, like a giant light box without the wheels.

Next I fired off some test shots and adjusted my settings. I did this before I began to shoot so I wouldn’t look like an idiot fumbling with the controls. Au contraire, not me!

For my exposure settings, I picked a wide aperture to blur the background as much as I could. I couldn’t use too wide an aperture because I would have run the risk of not having all three faces totally in focus. You’ll see in a few of the images below, that the girl is a bit behind the child and the child is a bit behind the man. So to get all three in focus I had to go with an aperture of f-8. (Remember, wide apertures equal smaller numbers on your f-stop scale, so if you are using an SLR, pick an aperture of about f5.6  to f-8 and you should be good to go.) If you don’t want to do the thinking, put your camera on the portrait mode. If you are using a cell, you can’t set the aperture, but you can move in super close which will crop out a lot of the background issues.

Ok. Exposure is good. Lighting from the window is good. Uh-oh. I need to have the child move back a titch because his head is throwing a shadow on the man’s face. Do you see it?

The other problem is that the couch is at an angle to the wall, so the objects behind the couch aren’t straight. Very distracting, but I can fix that later with a tight crop which I would do regardless.

OK. Time to concentrate on the subjects. In this case, there is an adorable child, along with two very attractive adults. No worries here. But working with a young child can be difficult because they have no idea what you are trying to accomplish. I always start by asking the adults to keep looking straight at me and not worry about what the child is doing. That way there is only one pressure point to worry about and I can shoot away until I am happy with the pose of the child. There’s not much more to it other than a tight crop for the final.

Excellent! A people shoot isn’t much different from photographing animals with people except it is way easier with children. They can be a challenge but they usually aren’t squirmy and wiggley and uncooperative all at the same time. However, you still have to work quickly because of their short attention span. Other than that, just keep shooting. The more images you make the more chance you have of capturing a really special moment like this.

Good shooting!



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