I’ve never been GREAT at these “how-to’s” but I’m going to give it a whirl…this one is simple, I promise!
I’ve always disliked the “fake” backgrounds. They weren’t fooling anyone, that scene of the chimney with santa peeking in the window screams “box store photography studio”. Is there anything wrong with it? Not at all…it’s just NOT my style. When my old supervisor called me to do her daughters Christmas pictures I thought…ohh crap, I have a small studio so I don’t have the room for a ton of props for itty bitties (which is partly why I shoot engagements, boudoir, etc.) they don’t require a tremendous amount of props. My brain starting cranking and I got to thinking…….every year we travel to this place called “Overly’s Country Christmas” (check out the link..it’s so pretty there!)…it’s like a gorgeous Christmas village with all the bells and whistles and TONS and TONS of lights! In the entrance there is a tunnel of lights you have to walk thru and I always LOOOOVED getting our photos there. It was something so simple and yet so glamourous and timeless about it and so that’s where I got inspired!
I went to the store yesterday evening and purchased $34 (and some change) worth of white lights to mimic what I had in my mind. Greg stayed up with me and we strung the lights around a backdrop stand. AT the bottom we zip tied a rod (from an old door frame) to the bottom to both increase stability but also to have something else to string the lights around at the bottom. As you can see from the photos of the pull-backs, my walls are white and I have a hardwood floor. The strings of lights actually are green and you can see the plugs in the background. To most people’s eyes, it looks ‘re-donk-ulous’….but it’s only the final product that matters..right! I could have used colored lights and I’m sure THAT would look awesome too…but I’m a sucker for white twinkle lights and they’re more “simple” which is what I like to go for!If you really want to get creative, you could hang bulbs, etc to add a little pizzazz!
So you’re wondering how I got the lights to blur and have awesome bokah….well it’s very simple. I shot wide open at around f/1.4-f/2.0 and it created this awesome effect. Since I didn’t want to use studio lights because I wouldn’t have been able to shoot so wide open (and because they were packed away and I was too lazy to get them out-so instead, I used video lights! YES…video lights! They aren’t anything fancy AT ALL…I picked them up at B&H for around $100 each. (Dot Line DL-DV60 Video & DSLR LED Light Kit)
I know what you’re thinking…why didn’t I use my flashes / strobes…well, it was just a personal preference, I just wanted the consistent light so that if they got rambunctious I didn’t have to worry too much about them. I simply put one video light into a soft-box and the other sat off to the side. I flipped them on and moved them forward or back depending on where they were sitting, etc. Generally, I placed the kiddos about 4 feet from the twinkle lights, custom white balanced and shot away using my 50mm lens.
If I happened to get any of the plugs in the background (where the two sets of lights connected) I just cloned them out in Photoshop!
I’ve always done things a little unconventional. From my days of working at the newspaper, sometimes you didn’t have time to do these huge glamourous set ups, you had to show up and make it work (whatever “it” was) so I’m use to working on the fly……I’ve said it before-it’s how my brain works!
I hope that made some kind of sense! LOL