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General photography questions and answers: Discuss Santa Snaps...My local toddler group have asked me to take their santa snaps (toddler on santa's knee). I know they don't ...
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Old 04-12-2008, 10:47   #1 (permalink)
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Santa Snaps

My local toddler group have asked me to take their santa snaps (toddler on santa's knee).
I know they don't expect much but I've never done anything 'official' before.
What would be the best set up for this? I am in the process of getting a flash (local shop sold me an uncompatible one so trying to get it sorted out).
I have a tripod. I need to take them quickly and they need to be relatively well composed. What distance would be best etc etc?
Any advice greatly appreciated as I don't want to make a mess of it (since they're paying me the princely sum of £2.50 per photo lol)
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Old 04-12-2008, 11:22   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

I can't remember now if I had my dslr at that time. I've done it with a point and shoot and that worked fine. Last year with my dslr and just the built in flash. Maybe flashgun and diffuser. But all you need is a decent camera with built in flash. And lots of patients Lens, just normal zoom lens.
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Old 04-12-2008, 12:27   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

I'd set up in good time and speak to Father Christmas to see how he is going to work. Obtain permission to photograph him.

Use your tripod to keep the framing constant. Give FC plenty of room in the frame to allow for small movement in different shots. Doing this will make the shots quicker as you will not have to compose and focus every shot. Lens choice will depend on the space you have. Use between 50mm and 100mm if possible.

Depending on your location I would prefer to use bounce flash or side lighting with a reflector (or handy wall). Run off some test shots to tune in your settings/focus/depth of field/light position.

Try to get a decent distance between Father Christmas and the background. 6 feet and bounce flash will probably mean no shadows on the BG.

Set the camera to be at the kid's eye level and get all of Father Christmas in the frame - or at least all of the kiddie and top half of FC.

Use a remote release for preference or the self-timer if you have not got a remote.

Make sure you have a foolproof way of linking the pictures to the individuals you are shooting.

Make sure you have sufficient memory and spare batteries for the camera AND the flash.

Make sure you charge your batteries before the event.
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Old 04-12-2008, 12:46   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dutchie View Post
I can't remember now if I had my dslr at that time. I've done it with a point and shoot and that worked fine. Last year with my dslr and just the built in flash. Maybe flashgun and diffuser. But all you need is a decent camera with built in flash. And lots of patients Lens, just normal zoom lens.
Ah - that makes me feel more confident - ta!
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Old 04-12-2008, 12:49   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

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Originally Posted by Dabhand16 View Post
I'd set up in good time and speak to Father Christmas to see how he is going to work. Obtain permission to photograph him.

Use your tripod to keep the framing constant. Give FC plenty of room in the frame to allow for small movement in different shots. Doing this will make the shots quicker as you will not have to compose and focus every shot. Lens choice will depend on the space you have. Use between 50mm and 100mm if possible.

Depending on your location I would prefer to use bounce flash or side lighting with a reflector (or handy wall). Run off some test shots to tune in your settings/focus/depth of field/light position.

Try to get a decent distance between Father Christmas and the background. 6 feet and bounce flash will probably mean no shadows on the BG.

Set the camera to be at the kid's eye level and get all of Father Christmas in the frame - or at least all of the kiddie and top half of FC.

Use a remote release for preference or the self-timer if you have not got a remote.

Make sure you have a foolproof way of linking the pictures to the individuals you are shooting.

Make sure you have sufficient memory and spare batteries for the camera AND the flash.

Make sure you charge your batteries before the event.
Thanks very much for all this in depth advice.
I'm going to print off your whole post and take it with me - very helpful thanks!
Now I just need to sort out my flash problem....
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Old 04-12-2008, 18:35   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Excellent advice from Dabhand. The following may also help:

Be very nice to Santa - he can help you a lot or make your life a misery! Try and get ten minutes with him before the fun starts.

Switch off auto focus and ask Santa to hold his hand where the average kid's head will be. Focus on the hand.

Make sure you'll have enough depth of field so that, once the camera's set up, you never need to look at it again.

Get an off camera extension for the flash and hold it at arm's length above and to the side of the camera, on the side towards which the child is looking (if s/he's looking to your left, hold the flash to your left).

Buy a new small notebook and at least two pencils. Write down each child's name as soon as you've taken the shot. You'll be nervous and flustered to begin with, so make that three pencils.

Think up some simple patter to keep the child's attention on you, practice it before hand and don't be worried that it begins to sound like a chant. Small children won't notice and Father Christmas won't care.

Crouch down so your head is close to the camera and do your best to make eye contact with the kiddie. That way, the child will be looking at the lens and your flash should be at 45 degrees up and to the side.

Make sure the camera's set to post view the shots (just about the best feature of digital). Check that both sets of eyes are open and looking in the correct direction. If not, take it again.

I used to do a lot of 'smile please's and it can be quite rewarding in every sense, if you're fully prepared. If not, it can quickly turn into a nightmare.

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Old 05-12-2008, 12:14   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Quote:
Originally Posted by sejanus View Post
Excellent advice from Dabhand. The following may also help:

Be very nice to Santa - he can help you a lot or make your life a misery! Try and get ten minutes with him before the fun starts.

Switch off auto focus and ask Santa to hold his hand where the average kid's head will be. Focus on the hand.

Make sure you'll have enough depth of field so that, once the camera's set up, you never need to look at it again.

Get an off camera extension for the flash and hold it at arm's length above and to the side of the camera, on the side towards which the child is looking (if s/he's looking to your left, hold the flash to your left).

Buy a new small notebook and at least two pencils. Write down each child's name as soon as you've taken the shot. You'll be nervous and flustered to begin with, so make that three pencils.

Think up some simple patter to keep the child's attention on you, practice it before hand and don't be worried that it begins to sound like a chant. Small children won't notice and Father Christmas won't care.

Crouch down so your head is close to the camera and do your best to make eye contact with the kiddie. That way, the child will be looking at the lens and your flash should be at 45 degrees up and to the side.

Make sure the camera's set to post view the shots (just about the best feature of digital). Check that both sets of eyes are open and looking in the correct direction. If not, take it again.

I used to do a lot of 'smile please's and it can be quite rewarding in every sense, if you're fully prepared. If not, it can quickly turn into a nightmare.

More fantastic pointers and another one to print off. Thanks so much I really appreciate it!
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Old 05-12-2008, 13:38   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

I also suport everything that Sejanus said. I have to say that I'd thought of some of his points too, especially using manual focus and the off camera light, but did not want to post too much in one go.

I think our two posts give you a really good basis for not only the Santa session, but for any other similar stuff you might want to do too.

Once you have naied a system, you can then start to introduce variations to individualise your portraits.
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Old 20-12-2008, 12:10   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

OK I'm off to do the gig.
I am armed with all your great advice.
Thanks very much!
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Old 20-12-2008, 20:48   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Plenty of good advice for everyone here ,thanks Guys ,never done it but would not grimace if asked now...............
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Old 22-12-2008, 13:33   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

OK so here is the result.
Not great but I had to do it in a room with no natural light, no backdrop and very little space.
Not ideal but I've removed the backgrounds.
Do you think this is acceptable under the circumstances?
Also, where would be best to have these printed to ensure santa's beard comes out white etc?
(I know he's bunching up her dress in this one but it's ok as that's my baby)

Thanks in advance!

Last edited by sasamax; 22-12-2008 at 13:43.
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Old 22-12-2008, 13:35   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

sorry just realised the pic is too big - hang on and I'll fix it...
done

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Old 23-12-2008, 09:48   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Well I thought Christmas was supposed to be jolly and happy...to me that is a very dark and oppressive shot not helped by a black background
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Old 24-12-2008, 03:16   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Oh OK
Thanks everyone for the great advice anyway - sorry to have wasted it.
Suppose I'm just not v good at all this photography business.
Thanks
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Old 26-12-2008, 18:51   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Oh gosh, hang on now, don't let that discourage you !! the photo is basically good, Santa looks good, it's just that the poor little girl is not too sure about the BG ! that is very normal, I think that the advice about getting friendly with santa ahead of time was very good ! did you do that ? if so ,maybe you could have suggested that santa hold the child standing on his knee, and waited till the little girl had a more pleasant look on her little face, but the job you took on was a tough one, and I admire you for trying, and would like to see other photos you took. People are my least favorite subjects ! Birds are much easier !
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Old 28-12-2008, 12:04   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Thanks Frances - that's really kind.
I was extremely nervous and worried about the background & lighting etc.
I know the santa actually - maybe that pic wasn't the best. I'll stick another one on, maybe without the deleted background.
I still think I need to replace the background but maybe black wasn't a good idea.
Thanks for the encouragement!
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Old 28-12-2008, 12:10   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

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Old 28-12-2008, 13:50   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

I'd leave the BG as it looks pretty much OK. Maybe alter the Levels a touch to bring a little more light on the subject (and maybe take the floor back a touch - but no big deal)



Adjusted Levels (Auto Levels), burned back floor a little
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Old 28-12-2008, 14:01   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Don't give up yet! There's nothing here that a little Photoshopping won't fix. (How I wish I'd had that when I did this stuff)

First, you had the right idea dropping out the background - just change it to white, to make the figures pop.

Secondly, have the courage to trim the shots at Santa's belt or thereabouts and tighten up left and right to match. Parents want faces.

Thirdly, consider using the palette changer (or whatever they call it) to brighten Santa's coat to a very slightly more orange tone but, whatever you do, don't overdo it.

With those three changes, I reckon you'll get trampled by parents wanting prints!

Remember, the only difference between successful old pro photographers and struggling newcomers is low cunning!
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Old 29-12-2008, 10:14   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Thanks guys - that's really encouraging!
I've tried to do what sejanus suggested - how does this look?
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Old 30-12-2008, 12:17   #21 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Well, I'm biased but that looks pretty good to me!

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Old 30-12-2008, 18:03   #22 (permalink)
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Re: Santa Snaps

Brilliant - thanks a million.
I'll go with this then - really appreciate it
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