Family Lounge Wedding & Family

Shoot Your Own Christmas Card Portrait – The Wrap-Up!

It’s been a while since the last installment in our Shoot Your Own Christmas Card Portrait series, so hopefully you haven’t left everyone posing in your holiday-decorated living room for weeks while you’ve been waiting to learn about appearing in the same photo you’re taking and how to tweak lighting and exposure on-the-fly! It wasn’t that your pals here at 123Print forgot about you; we just kind of came to the conclusion that assuming that you were going to drag Christmas decorations and winter clothes out of the attic weeks before Halloween was unrealistic so we decided to hold the last installment until a time when you’d be in more of a holiday frame of mind.

We’re a few days from Thanksgiving which usually marks the point when trees, greens and other Christmas festiveness starts to get broken out and the whole family takes time to be together. It’s also when winter outfits have secured a space in the front of the closet and you start feeling like it wouldn’t be so early that people would think you were weird for sending Christmas Cards. That also makes it the perfect time to wrap up the Shoot Your Own Christmas Card Portrait series!

If you are just joining us and didn’t read our other four installments – or you did read them and need a refresher – here they are:





After Composition – Getting Yourself in the Shot

With the background set, the lighting positioned and everyone posed it’s time to take your photo Christmas card portrait. But wait, there’s something missing…you…and it wouldn’t be complete without you! That being said, there are several ways you can remedy this and they’re all fairly easy.

Get Someone Else to Help: This is the easiest and cheapest since all you have to do is ask. There’s no equipment to buy and you don’t have to run around the room and deal with timers. At the worst you have a friend or neighbor come over to press the shutter button for you and then you repay the favor by letting them plop their brood in front of the lens and you take their photo! That might even be a fun reason to have some company over to eat leftover turkey and pumpkin pie.

Remote Control Isn’t Just for Watching Football: Lots of cameras these days have wireless remote control capability. Some come with a tiny little remote that will fire the shutter and with others they’re an option that you can pick up for maybe $25 or so. If your camera is one of those, put it to use! Just get in the shot, palm the remote in a way that doesn’t look like you’re holding it and squeeze off the shot. Wired remotes will work too, but you have to deal with a limited length of cord and hiding it in the shot.

Start the Timer and Run for It: One of the first bells and whistles to grace cameras as far back as the 1960s is the infamous self-timer. The self timer usually gives about 15 seconds for you to press the shutter button and run to get into the shot. In the film days this did account for an inordinate number of group photos with someone partially and awkwardly in the shot if they were slow. With digital photography you can at least see if you made it completely in the shot or if just your butt and arm made it. If your camera has a variable self-timer, choose the longest time and position yourself in the shot so that you can get in as fast as possible and without tripping over props and lighting on the way.

Get it Right – Tweaking on the Fly

There’s a good chance that you’ll score a shot with nice even exposure and no weird shadows or bright spots the first time around. There’s an equally good chance you won’t. But don’t worry, because again, with digital you can see the shot and tweak it on the fly. Automated exposure systems have come a long way and make getting a great shot easier than ever before, but most cameras still give you some tools to be able to make adjustments.

Exposure Compensation: In automated exposure modes of any kind, the camera automatically adjusts its settings based on what its built-in light meter tells it. This is an “averaging” sort of function. When you take a shot that was exposed automatically in any way you may feel that it came out a little too dark or too light. For those instances, many cameras have exposure compensation functions where you can tell the camera to expose the shot a little lighter or a little darker than what it normally would. How it works, and what shooting modes it works in, are dependent upon your camera, so you’ll have to read your manual. But if you choose an automated mode that allows for exposure compensation, and you think your first shot came out too dark or too light, use compensation to tell it to expose a little bit lighter or darker and take the shot over again. Keep taking shots and making adjustments until you are happy with the overall brightness of the image.

Move Things Around: There is a science in the relationship of the placement of the camera, lights, background and subjects to each other that’s far too complicated to get into here. But with a little bit of experimenting on-the-fly you can find the sweet spot in terms of shadows, really bright spots and really dark spots that exposure compensation won’t take care of. Just like you can cause shadows to fall differently by adjusting window blinds or shades and moving whatever is casting the shadow between the light and where the shadow is being cast, you can move your lights closer or further away from the subjects and the background. You can also turn them to direct more light towards or away from specific areas. You’ll see how it works just by doing it. You may see a heavy shadow behind someone. If you move the light away from the person and it seems to be getting less in each trial shot, keep moving it until it appears the smallest. You may see that if you keep going the shadow starts coming back. If that’s the case, just move it back and settle for the shadow at its smallest. You can also try to move the direction of the light to see if the angle of the shadow changes. If it does you may be able to reduce the appearance of shadows by changing their angles so they are more “behind” the subjects. Finally, if your flashes have levels or power settings, kicking them up a notch or lowering their power can have an effect on the spread and intensity of light.

Remember, you’re not wasting shots with digital photography, bad ones can always be deleted and they don’t cost a thing! But you do have your family and their attitude toward standing around while you tweak to consider. Because of that it may be best to try to dial everything in as close as possible with a test run with everyone in casual clothing ahead of time.

While none of the ideas from this series are guaranteed to produce studio-quality results, you should be able to get much nicer shots than a simple snapshot and save yourself some money in the long run. Plus, it may just inspire you to go out, learn more about photography and do more with your camera, and that can turn into something you and your family can enjoy for the rest of your life!

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply