26 Mar 2013

Make your own Easter greeting card

Easter is coming and it is a good habit to send the greetings to the friends or relatives on a greeting card. Since couple of years I make such cards by myself, which is a lot of fun and gives the cards uniqueness and personal touch.
Last year I described some techniques useful for this kind of photography. In this post I am going to describe the whole process of making such card, from the basic concept, to the publication.

Easter theme

All starts by selecting the basic theme. The symbolic of Eastern is focused on the symbols of new life: eggs, chickens, green and yellow colors, hare. So it is almost unavoidable to have at least some of them on the card. In my first attempt I have chosen for eggs and chickens. 

The composition

I like postcards that have a 3D-look. So I wanted to compose a picture that would give strong impression of depth. To achieve that I set up the scene in three planes: foreground, with the eggs, middle part with the chickens, and the background with the hanging eggs:

The perceived depth of field can be manipulated by different aperture settings.

The light

The above picture was taken in the ambient light, coming from the window located right to the scene. I wanted to give the chickens some warm punch as key light. To do so, I have used two speedlights with the CTO filter placed left and right to the chickens:

To avoid light spilling both strobes were equipped with a snoot to focus the light beam. Both strobes were controlled from the camera build-in flash via the iTTL system of Nikon. First attempt:
The chickens are warmly lit, but the rest of the scene is dark. Too dark. Time to put the fill light. Fill light was been created by third flash and a golden reflector bouncing the light from the flash on the scene. After applying fill light the scene looked like that:
That is better. The scene still have a warm look and all elements on the foreground are properly lit. Last step is to improve the light in the background. To do so another flash was used, equipped with the yellow filter. I have experimented with several positions of the background flash:
Manipulating the background light was easy, I just held the flash light in my hand during shooting in the different places of the scene.
Finally I have chosen the middle image for further processing.

Post processing

For post processing I have used combination of Lightroom, Nik software suite and Photoshop.
In Lightroom I have applied lens profile and camera corrections.
In Nik software I have pre-sharpened the image (with RAW sharpener), applied the golden reflector filter, blur vignette (in Efex Pro), added some local brightness to the eggs in the background (with Viveza)
In Photoshop I have removed some distracting spots. There is the final picture:

Some technicalities

Reuse the setup

The whole 'production' took me about 3 hours. Since a lot of effort has been put in the light setup once the chickens were ready I decided to create another card, with a hare in the main role:

As one can see, the scene is very similar to those with chickens, yet different. Taking this picture took me just couple of minutes thanks to reuse of the existing setup.

Try different gels

When I was done with my basic setup I have tried to light the scene with flashes without gels:
It hasn't been chosen eventually but it is always worth experimenting with different settings and sometimes it can result in a new, inspiring scene.

Hanging eggs

To hang the eggs I have used a combination of the flash light stand and a piece of other pipe mounted on the light stand: