How To: Christmas Pet Portrait Recipe

Christmas Pet (And People) Portrait Recipe

As with our Halloween Portrait How-To, we’ve constructed an easy to follow recipe for some awesome Christmas Pet Portraits that will sleigh the competition. 

Here’s what you need:

  • A Pet (dog, cat, fish, or whatever else you can bribe with food to sit still)
  • 3 Light Sources- We’re using studio strobes, but continuous lights or Speedlites will work too
  • Light Stands
  • Solid Color Backdrop or Wall
  • Something festive
  • Colored Gel or Light
  • Camera

The trickiest part of this concoction is the 3 light set up. Here is a BTS photo:

 

Quite simply, what’s happening here is that we have one light with a gridded soft-box and red gel pointing at our background. Even though the backdrop is gray, the fact that we are using a red gel on the light means it will be appear to be red when we take our photo.

The second light to the back-right is another gridded soft-box, in this case a strip-box, pointed at the back edge of our subject. This is used to help separate your subject from the background and to supply a little extra contrast. 

Our main light, the big one in upper left hand corner, is an octobox that is placed above our subject, looking down at roughly a 45 degree angle. 

There is one other thing in play here that may not be obvious right off the bat, but do you see that white fluffy material I am using as snow on the table there? It sort of acts like a reflector and bounces a lot of the light from our main light back up into our subject – that means we don’t have to use a fill board, or a forth light, to fill in shadows. If you’re not using a light colored material for your subject to sit on like we are you may have to use a bounce card or reflector to achieve the same results.

Let’s get our model, Sophia, in here and take a picture!

Wow, that was easy! Now, obviously we glossed over some things like lighting power and ratios, but the truth is it all depends on your set up. For example, with our medium gray backdrop and deep red gelled light, we had to turn our background light up to full power! However, if we were going with a lighter pink gel, or even a background that was already the right color, the power settings would have been much less.

Same goes for our model. Sophia here has black fur, so again we have to pump a little extra light to draw out details, but a lighter shade of fur would take less oomph to illuminate.

If you’re looking for a baking metaphor here it is, the basic ingredients are the same, but the baking time and temperatures may vary (it’s the best metaphor I could come up with, sorry!)

Benjamin Lehman is a commercial photographer in the Cleveland, Akron, Canton and North East Area of Ohio.