It’s going to be a long time before I take a Christmas family portrait that I don’t have any qualms with. I must say, though, that this year’s portrait session went more smoothly than any so far.
If you’d like to know more, read on. Otherwise, accept our best wishes for a happy Yuletide.
(By the way, I’ve posted all six Schnuth family Christmas portraits, 2002 to 2007, in a set on Flickr.)
As far as family self-portraiture goes… I always spend some quality time alone with me and my camera and my tripod after the tree has been set up. The goal is to make sure Aaron will be comfortable, and that getting the portrait just right will only take a few exposures.
So, this year, I brought out a chair for Aaron from the dining room table and arranged it far enough in front of the tree so that the camera would throw the tree just a little out of focus. I set a floor lamp to the side as a key light of sorts, and focused it on the chair area. After half a dozen test shots, getting everything set up just right, I called for Aaron for another couple test shots.
We took a couple exposures with Aaron in his Clutch t-shirt, and without the cat, just to make sure everything was cool. Then I sent Aaron upstairs to change while I made a few more adjustments. Aaron came back, we fetched the cat, took half a dozen more exposures, and voila! This year’s Christmas portrait.
Time from first test exposure to final portrait: 19 minutes. Total time with Aaron in the mix: nine minutes. Granted, that’s not a portrait-studio speed record, but I really only do this once a year. And it’s a self-portrait, at that. I think I did pretty well, considering.
One thing that made this year’s portrait session go so much more smoothly is last year’s Christmas present: a remote for my Nikon. That eliminated all the running back and forth and messing with the self-timer. This year, I only ran back and forth to look at the image and see if we got a keeper.
Things I like: depth of field, lack of extraneous objects (barring the knick knack shelf behind my head), natural expressions from both of us. And the cat is looking at the camera again this year. (I looped her kitty fishing pole over the camera lens to keep her attention.)
Things I’d like to improve next year: glare in our glasses from the table lamp (although it did act as a decent fill light), composition (center us in the frame while still having the tree in view), and a non-blurry cat (is that even possible, I wonder?).
Overall, I’m satisfied with this year’s portrait as I haven’t been with any other so far. So, enjoy the Christmas card sneak preview!