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12-03-2012, 04:26 AM   #1
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Father Christmas shots for school

I have again volunteered to take shots as kids see Father Christmas at the local primary school Christmas Fayre. For a couple of pounds donation they see Santa, get a gift and a photo reminder (printed at Costco 4x7). I have taken the shots for the event for a couple of years using a point and shoot (Canon Ixus 970 IS) and the results have always been acceptable.

I have just bought a K-30 with 18-55 WR lens kit (no additional flash) and am impressed with it but realise I have so much to learn to get the best from it - my experience so far is varied from 'thatís great' to 'oh why didnít that work?'

At the event Santa is usually seated in his customary red gear in front of a decorated board. The room is small and dimly lit, subjects are therefore close to me but depending on how they feel about Santa they may be closer to me than he is. The younger subjects donít always stay still.

My main concern is not really getting the absolute best pictures (maybe next year!) but not messing them up completely. I will have a little time for trial shots in the room beforehand.

So advice please how best to set up the camera to take some decent shots, my primitive thoughts so far:

Small aperture to make sure everything is in focus
Reasonable shutter speed to remove movement blur
Shoot RAW to give the option of making subsequent corrections
Use the flash

I am also considering giving the option of having the image emailed to parents but primarily the 'output' will be 4x7.

Any advice on suitable settings (and how to 'force them' onto the camera) would be great.

12-03-2012, 06:48 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I have been doing this for a couple of years now for the Father Xmas Festival here in Mahone Bay NS. We ask person(s) to write their name, e-mail address and phone # on a sheet of paper and we send them the 1000x800 jpeg file - no printing. I tried setting up instant printing with my K10D (the only one that may do this) and its PictBridge feature (instant printing) with an HP Photosmart A510 printer but the it turned out too complicated to do on the spot where people pile up very fast in the line up! I also considered the new Wi-eye memory card... E-mailing is a lot better.
My last set up was using a 24"x24" soft box with diffusion screen as a main side light and an opposite accent light provided by the Community Centre giving a slight reddish Christmasy cast from the side. I set up my K5 with a DA*16-50mm set at 50 on a tripod and a cable release. All in manual, AWB, RAW but with centre AF on Santa's face. Using the Whibal card allows you to sync the WB (or set WB in-camera before) on all frames it you use ACR or similar. I don't use more than f 4.5 to 5.6 because the depth of field is narrow enough anyway and lenses are better at that (more like 5.6)
Shooting hand held is OK (sometimes young kids do move too much around...?) but make sure to jack up the ISO to achieve a proper shutter speed (my K5IIs is magic for this up to ISO 1600...)
Before the session I take a couple of shot of a Whibal card for WB, make test shots and then, fire away.
One last thing, make sure you have an good assistant writing the names down and making sure order remains in the line up. Call up your frame #(s) after each shot(s) so each one is linked to each person(s)...!!!
12-03-2012, 08:17 AM   #3
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Thanks for the help Rnovo, with your advice and having browsed the camera guide again I think I will try TAv (Shutter & Aperture Priority, Automatic Exposure) mode and take with flash in RAW mode. This sounds a fairly risk free strategy which is my main object given my level of experience.

re good assistant - I can dream. I often end up form filling, taking money and 'introductions' to Santa almost forgetting to actually get a photo! We accept groups (siblings / friends etc) too so it can get hectic.

Its only because the kids enjoy it so much that Santa and myself agree to continue when the number of other willing volunteers continues to fall :-(
12-03-2012, 08:50 AM - 1 Like   #4
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I take over 4000 Santa photos here in the US each season and I am sure the situation you have is similar. I use one strobe either beside or behind the camera depending on my room size, with a shoot through umbrella. My camera is set up for strobe, so my shutter speed is between 125-180. I try for f-stop of 7.1 or so, and set my focus point on Santa's eye. I then adjust my ISO setting on camera for correct exposure, not going higher than ISO 800. If I need more exposure, I turn up by strobe. Now, if I didn't have a strobe available, I would first seek a room with window light coming from behind the camera, and set up as close as I could to that location and adjust my exposure, keeping my shadow out of the picture. Failing that, I would use an on camera flash with a softbox or popup flash with a Gary Fong Puffer diffuser to make sure there is enough light in the eyes of your subjects. Whichever you choose, the most important thing is to practice this setup first well before the time to begin the job. As a professional I hate the feeling of being rushed or of my equipment or sometimes my mind failing with a line of folks waiting for me to get it together and photograph them, so I always try to make sure my setup will work prior to starting the job. I hope this helps some little way.

12-04-2012, 01:54 AM   #5
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Thanks KGH,
QuoteOriginally posted by KGH Quote
I take over 4000 Santa photos
- I am more likely to peak at 40/50 images rather than 4000!

All input is helpful especially from someone with direct experience, got the things I needed covered in your post - shutter speed, f-stop, ISO and help about flash which is brilliant (I wasn't aware of diffusers) and these look like a compact, inexpensive help.

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