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Behind the Scenes: Editing the Family Christmas Photo

Dec 20, 2018Photography, What I'm Learning

Christmas cards make me smile. I LOVE receiving cards and postcards from friends and family, sharing them with my husband and kids, and displaying them around the room as a reminder of how blessed we are.  Over the years it has become one of my favorite moments of the season. 

And as much as I love receiving printed Christmas cards, I also enjoy creating our family’s card so that we can share updates and holiday wishes too.

This year’s card was special for me because our family recently moved back to New York City. I wanted to take a family photo that had an urban vibe to it.  Fortunately, the rooftop of our building has a fantastic view of downtown Manhattan + my mom came to visit us for Thanksgiving, so I had an ideal photo shoot location and a designated photographer to help out this year. Being able to avoid the need to find and hire a photographer at the last minute was a huge win!

On a cold and cloudy Sunday afternoon, I set up a tripod and adjusted the settings on my Fuji XT-1 camera so that my mom could just take the shot. It took a lot of trial and error to get the positioning and the settings correct.

Initially, I used the 18-55mm zoom lens, but this early photo was too wide.  Even though I shot in RAW with the image size setting, when I cropped the photo close enough to where you could see our faces, the picture was grainy and too small to be used in print. 

I switched to my 35mm F1.4 lens, repositioned my mom and the tripod, and we shot another round with the photo background framed a little better so that I would need to do less cropping. This time we took a ton of close(r) up pictures, but I still didn’t like how we were standing because of various heights and visual focal points.  It looked too busy and still wasn’t quite right.

After more trial and error out on the cold and windy rooftop, we finally figured out that it looked best to have the little guys standing in front on top of the outdoor stools to add little more height.  A few more frames later and we got a picture that I was excited to share!  

Final camera settings on my Fuji X-T1 with the XF35mm F1.4R lens: ISO 800, f 8.0 1/60 sec.  No flash.

The next task was figuring out which card we liked. I’ve used Shutterfly for years now, so out of habit I checked there first and came across this design which would fit nicely with our landscape photo. 

But when I dropped in the photo, it didn’t “feel” complete or ready to share.

So I decided to make some color adjustments and tweaks using Photoshop and Lightroom.  First, I used a fun photoshop action to add a snow effect because falling snow makes everything look better.

Then, in Lightroom, I used a Cinematic Lightroom Preset to give the photo an antique look that I thought would go well with the gold foil lettering on the card. 

After editing the photo, I uploaded the new version to Shutterfly and this was the final result. 

I couldn’t have been happier with the design and feel so excited to share the cards with our friends and family this Christmas season!

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