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Christmas Card Photo

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  • Christmas Card Photo

    Hi all,
    I'm relatively new to digital photography (this is my first post here). Thought I'd share how I captured our Christmas card photo this year, since it was entirely new to me as well.

    What I was looking to capture was my son + my Saint Bernard + a Christmas tree in a single shot. How could you go wrong with a shot like that? It sounded like a grand slam to me.

    The only thing missing was a backdrop. I decided to try my hand at a DIY white backdrop. I obtained the following materials from my local Home Depot and a Michael's craft store:
    • Bayco 75-Watt Incandescent Clamp Light (x3)
    • EcoSmart 19-Watt (75W) Daylight Household CFL Light Bulbs
    • Thrifty White 32 sq. ft. Hardboard Panel Board (x3)
    • White Plastic Table Cover Roll 100ft

    I setup this makeshift backdrop in my 2-car garage. I hung several layers of the white plastic table cover on the backside of my garage door. I then laid out the 3 panel boards (which is like whiteboard material, so it's somewhat reflective) so that it made a 8'x12' area on the floor and pressed it up against the hanging table covers. I setup the 3 clamp lights on either side of this "stage" about 2 feet or so from the backdrop and shined the lights directly and evenly across the plastic backdrop (I clamped them to ladders I had positioned). The light bulbs were "Daylight" type (5000K). I positioned my subjects about 8 feet away from the plastic backdrop to help keep any "blemishes" becoming in focus. All other artificial lighting in the garage was turned off.

    I used my Canon T3i with a 270EX II Speedlite flash mounted to the top. I had a diffuser on the flash and angled it toward the ceiling to get a nice bounce flash. I initially used spot-metering on my son's face to get a starting point. I wasn't liking what I was seeing so I noted the auto settings and switched to manual to intentionally over-expose it. The idea was to over-expose the background (making it pure white), while properly exposing my son. Final settings were: ISO 800, 50mm fixed lens, f/2.5, 1/80 sec.

    Overall, I liked the results, considering this was my first effort. The hardest part was getting my son and dog to cooperate. As you can imagine, it took about 50 shots or so to get this one. I did some minor editing/polishing using Lightroom. One error I found after the fact was that you can see where 2 of the panel boards meet-up (in the reflection part). Didn't notice this until after I had downloaded the images. I would have either moved the subjects back or forward in order to crop that out. Also, it looks like I lost some of the detail in the tree, so maybe I could have used brighter backdrop lights or more of them, so I didn't have to over-expose as much as I did.

    Great or not, this is definitely a photo I'll hang on to forever. Thanks for checking it out and providing critique! What could be better?

    **Note: the extra white space provided a nice spot to write in a Christmas greeting.

    - Shaun

    (click on photo to see full-size on
    Merry Christmas by Shaun Hall (hall_shaun)) on

  • #2
    Great job! It really shows the attention to detail and preparation that you put into it. I like what you've done with this. I don't think I'd change anything, but may add one more thing (that might not have been possible). I think that your son could have had a splash of more light. He looks a bit shadowed to me.

    You described how you have one flash (the 270) that was on-board the camera diffused and bounced off the ceiling. The bounce flash gives a good result, and you may have had the option to pull the flash off the hotshoe and used your built-in for that additional fill. You can still trigger the 270 via the wireless flash options. (It would be "custom", not the "easy wireless" option).

    A side note: Your dog looks pretty cooperative (yeah!). Whenever we try and include our dogs in the annual xmas photo, well... it's an ordeal. Our huskies don't have the mellow patience for a photo.
    Some pictures... (500px)


    • #3
      Originally posted by dasmith232 View Post
      A side note: Your dog looks pretty cooperative (yeah!). Whenever we try and include our dogs in the annual xmas photo, well... it's an ordeal. Our huskies don't have the mellow patience for a photo.
      Thanks for the feedback. I haven't quite worked with using the off-camera flash, though I know it's possible. I also don't have a tripod yet (the Manfrotto is actually arriving today!). As far as the Saint, she was fairly easy as Saint Bernard's are very mellow dogs. It was getting my 2.5-year-old to look at me and smile which was the hard part. I can't imagine trying this with another more hyper-active dog.


      • #4
        Wonderful job. Just made me smile! I'm sure friends and family will enjoy the card
        I agree on the white space above your son/dog---perfect composition here for adding your text.
        And as for noticing the where your whiteboards meet in the reflection? I'm not bothered by this at all.
        Last edited by mshockley; 12-22-2012, 01:15 AM.


        • #5
          I think the image is all over the place exposure wise, but I still like it. I love St. Bernard's! I grew up with this horse of a dog named Oggie...
          the Photographic
          SharpShooter Industries
          My 500px, My Flickr, My Blog


          • #6
            Wow you did an amazing job. Imagine if you had more knowledge in photography you would be already on the professional level by now! Thank you for sharing!
            Nikon-D7000; Nikon D-5000; Coolpix S8000; NIkkor 28-80mm & 70-300mm; Nikkor 12-24mm Wide Angle; Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 Macro, Nikon , Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 & 55-200mm, Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 & 35mm f/1.8