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Christmas Portraits: How I Took It

A Guest post by Judd Green

Every Christmas I like to get the boys together and do a couple of quick snaps as their Christmas portrait.

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It’s good to look back on and see how much they grow and change every year. When I say quick, I mean quick as they have been my test subjects for so long they get over photos very quickly, keeping kids attention during a portrait session is a whole different post all together!

This year I knew exactly what I wanted, but it was going to be a little challenging then normal. When I think of Christmas I think of decorations, but mainly Christmas lights, and what are Christmas lights good for? Bokeh! My 50mm 1.4 rarely comes off my camera these days, perfect for what I wanted to achieve in capturing some good bokeh.

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So I found some old Christmas lights we weren’t using and set them up in the back yard, I had some colored lights hanging over our fence for the background of the shoot and also had some plain white lights in a circle on the ground for the boys to sit in for the shoot. Now as I wanted the lights to be the feature in the shoot, I had to expose for them first and foremost and for that to happen I had to wait for it to get darker if I wanted to shoot wide open.

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But also in order to have the boys correctly exposed I needed my flash. Now when a flash is involved you are then limited in how fast you can set your shutter speed, any faster then 1/250th you will generally miss getting the flash as the shutter closes up again before the flash has any effect. When working with flashes and strobes I like to play it safe and set my shutter to 1/160th and set everything else accordingly. So with my shutter at 1/160th and aperture at 1.4, then the only other setting to adjust is ISO, which I was happy with the result I got setting it to 800.

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Now everything is set, where to put the flash? I wanted a good silhouette around the boys as I like that look. So the flash needed to come from behind, so it sat on the ground behind the boys. And with the settings I had, it was easy for the flash to over power everything, so I had to set it to it’s lowest power setting possible. But with the flash giving the nice silhouette from behind I needed some sort of light source to light the boy’s faces, that’s when the wife comes in and holds my white reflector bouncing the light from the flash onto the boys faces, which I am very happy with the results.

So that’s the story behind a Christmassy shoot lit up by only Christmas lights, one speed lite and my boy’s smiles.

There is so many different ways to get creative with photography and you don’t need the latest and most fancy equipment, just learn the limits of what you have and maybe even push them.
Merry Christmas all!

Judd Green is a Photographer from Brisbane Australia. See more of his work at www.juddricphotography.com

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