Monday, 24 November 2008

Making a Christmas Card

Christmas Wine @ f2Last year I created one of the most popular photos on my Flickr stream. It was a simple photo of a wine glass with a christmas tree behind it. I adapted a lighting technique called dark field lighting from the excellent book Light: Science and Magic. The technique involves creating large light sources outside the frame of the shot to create specular highlights at the edges of the glass.

The head of my company liked the image and asked if I could create something similar, but somehow work in some aspect of the company into the shot. After a lot of procrastination on my part, the finance director put together a team to work on the shot and I found myself with two assistants Alix and Paul. Together we pre-visualised the shot we wanted and Alix and Paul arranged to bring in the props. We had decided to use a very similar shot to the original, with the wineglass and a tree in the background, but we would work in the company colours with Christmas tree decorations and a small pile of gifts.

Christmas Card Lighting DiagramThe key to lighting the glass was to have two large white light sources just outside of the frame. This would create specular highlights at the edges of the glass to give it definition. You can do this very carefully to achieve a subtle effect, but I didn't think subtlety was necessary in this instance and was happy to have large highlights. My assistants set up the tree in a corner of a meeting room and dressed it. While I set up two SB28 flashguns on 1/32 power 24mm zoom pointed at the walls. The low power was used because the aperture was going to be wide open at f2.8. The light from the flash bouncing around the room mixed with a small amount of ambient was enough to get a good exposure.

Work Christmas CardMost of the time spent on the project went into dressing the set, the lighting setup was pretty quick. We could have spent the whole day arranging baubles, faerie lights and bits of Holly, but ultimately we had to compromise because we only had a very short time to do it in.

In post processing I did a bit of cloning around the printed label and wine glass and adjusted the exposure to suit our finance director's taste and overall we were all pretty pleased with it. I would have liked to have done a bit more styling on the tree and perhaps used some different wrapping paper but we had to stop somewhere. I regretted leaving my gels and tripod at home, but I don't think it made a big difference to the final image.

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