Christmas Portrait 2006

[Posted on Flickr by dianaschnuth].

After ten minutes of experimenting on myself, and ten more minutes of throwing a less-than-thrilled husband and cat into the mix, this was the resulting Schnuth Christmas Portrait for 2006. Not quite sure what I think of it, although it is definitely the best of the set. I think it might be an improvement on last year’s photo in some ways, although it’s still way ahead of what I did in the past.

What follows are notes to myself for next year and general photography rants and wants. If you’re down with that, read on…

My first goal was to improve over last year’s portrait, technically speaking. Last year’s portrait had a crisp tree and fuzzy people, mainly because of the long exposure time. It was also overexposed, with blown-out highlights from the window light. I’d only had my camera for maybe a week at that point, though, so I didn’t quite know how to get the best results out of it.

So, technically, this year’s photo was better, to a degree. I manipulated the exposure to 1/8 of a second — still a little slow, but more manageable. Nothing appears to be blown out, highlights or shadows. The major technical issues were resolved, apart from still having a greater depth-of-field than I’d wanted. (Nothing a little subtle background blur in Photoshop couldn’t handle, though.)

However, there was something I’d failed to take into account: Aaron’s comfort must ALWAYS be number one in photos. Otherwise, things do not go well. With this setup, Aaron couldn’t stretch out his legs, and was uncomfortable sitting up straight when sitting indian-style (cross-legged) on the floor. I compensated by posing myself kneeling behind him, making myself the taller one in the photo.

Aaron’s also much more concerned with getting the cat to look good, and this year (as last year) we lost a couple shots to Aaron’s cat-entertainment attempts. Me, I figure the cat will either look cute and fuzzy, or not. If the cat’s all “fuck you, I’m outta here,” it might even make for a funnier picture.

I also found myself jonesing for a strobe or two. As a matter of fact, I started reading the Lighting 101 series on Strobist in earnest after attempting this year’s family portrait. I can do this. I have three strobes flashes already, and some camera stuff on my Christmas wishlist. Buy myself a light stand or a clamp (or even some ball-bungees), and I’m off and running.

Things to remember for next year:

  1. You only have five minutes with a happy hubby. Make the most of them.
  2. Cover the tripod with a cloth. Tripod legs reflected in glasses = ungood.
  3. Tie a mousie to the lens cap strap that dangles from the lens. Maybe that’ll amuse the cat long enough to get a good shot or two.
  4. Make sure any bright, non-holiday items are removed from the background. The bright orange resistance bands sitting on the speaker aren’t particularly festive.

Of course, next year’s photo could also have another small human thrown into the mix. Self-family-portraiture with a witty-bitty-one AND a cat will be interesting, to say the least. By then, though, I’ll probably have taken a zillion pictures of the tyke already, and have a good idea of how to make little Aaron Junior look good on pseudo-film.

3 thoughts on Christmas Portrait 2006

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  1. How did you get Mei to look directly at the camera? I can’t get most of my customers to do that.
    You have become quite an artist behind the camera. I want a hard copy.

  2. getting mei to look at the camera was a lucky fluke. only thing i can figure is that the lens cap was swinging on its leash, or she saw the blinky timer light.

    i’ll send you a print of this with your christmas present… whatever we end up getting for you and gary… 🙂