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Whimsical Digital Background Shoot

As promised, I am reviewing my first "whimsical digital background shoot" which was done back in the beginning of April. Because I live in the northeast and spring has only just sprung, flowery, dreamy backgrounds can be hard to come by. But I still wanted to do a fun shoot for Mother's Day.

Recently I've been taking courses in digital compositing and fine art photography. For those who don't know what composites are, they are images made up of more than one photograph. There are tons of different styles of composites, and chances are you see them on a daily basis and don't even know it.

Although I never knew the word "composite" until recently, I've been working with them since I very first began to play with Photoshop back in 1998. I love this method because it allows me to use my creativity to invent a space that lives outside reality. How's that for art school jargon?

So, back to my shoot. Because I love whimsical looking photos and often lack the setting I decided to try out "digital backgrounds." These are backgrounds that are pre-shot. In the future, I hope to shoot my own backgrounds and keep them for just these situations, but this being my first effort, I chose to purchase them, mainly so I wouldn't have to wait a whole year gathering my own spring/summer photos. I found a site that offers fantastic images and I did some experimentation and research to learn how to work with them.

My plan was pretty simple, and, as I saw it, marketable towards dad's looking for an easy and impressive mom's day gift:

Step 1)I secured a location which worked perfectly, Kids Fun Stop, an indoor playground. The beauty of this was that the actual shoot does not take much time at all, so rather than drag parents and kids out to a studio for 10 minutes they could use the excuse to also let baby burn off some energy before or after. Fun Stop was also kind enough to allow free admission to those who were coming specifically for the shoot. Score!

Step 2) I, along with the help of the Fun Stop Owner, marketed towards dad's. "Come in for a FAST photo shoot (5-15 minutes!), get free admission, and also wear out your kids! Mom will be SO impressed!!" Paraphrasing...

Step 3) Purchase a number of backgrounds for clients to view online and choose in advance.

Step 4) Set up a temporary studio on the days of the shoot with a plain backdrop and shoot the children in various poses that I would be able to creatively make work on the chosen background.

Easy peasey!

All went well aside from a couple unexpected results. A) Only one dad came in alone and he was sent by his wife. Everyone else was a mom who just wanted the photo, not necessarily for Mother's Day. So, okay, marketing fail, but at least people came. B) I forgot about age ranges of children. For some reason this kind of slipped my mind. Normally I photograph babies. All of a sudden I had 4-7 year olds in there. Not bad, just different. They listen. Kind of too much. They're ready to sit and stare at the camera and smile. I'm used to babies who spastically dance around while I frantically snap photos hoping for a gesture that will look intentional. It was a bit more difficult to have them act natural in front of the camera, but a nice learning experience.

The last step was taking all of the photos, going through each of them to pull out the poses where the children looked as adorable as possible and were also in a position that I could make work. Some images proved to be quite challenging, and I severely underestimated the time they would take to complete. I could go into how an artist thinks about calculating their pricing, but that's a different post entirely. Let me just say, these were a steal of a deal.

So here are the final results. I didn't hear back from all of the parents, but I hope they made everyone happy. There's something both satisfying and odd about putting something into the world that came directly out of your head and having someone want to hang it in their home...

*Note: the quality of these photos is lower for web performance.

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