Family & Friends

Santa In Carbonite


Announcing our 2014 Christmas card - Santa in Carbonite!

At the end of every year we collect all of the cool card ideas that we thought of during the season. I then create a calendar event for the next November, listing out the ideas we thought of. Last year we came up with a Star Wars Christmas card idea with the boys guarding Santa Claus, frozen in carbonite. Call them Imperial Elves.

Building A Set

To create this image I decided to build a miniature set in my studio. It was about 18 inches tall, and I used mostly balsa wood to build it. For the platform lighting I connected some USB led lights and then gelled them orange.

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To get the concrete texture, I used a product by Liquitex called Ceramic Stucco. It’s great at producing a gritty, concrete-like texture to a surface. After applying it, I used a combination of Liquitex Basics paints and airbrushing to get the worn effect.

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With all of the texturing and painting done, I tried out a few angles to see what worked best (you can see one angle with the camera below). Ultimately I decided on a front view, as it provided a nice symmetry to everything.

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For lighting, I looked at stills from the original movie. There were overhead vents that had light spilling through them, raking across the walls, hitting the floor. To accomplish this I created a simple roof with the vents cut out. I placed a 580ex flash overhead with no diffusion, and adjusted the ceiling and light location until I got just the right amount of ‘rake’ across the walls and floor. I placed a flag over the sit to keep the light from the 580 from hitting the rest of the area. I just wanted it to come through the overhead vents. I also had a soft front light to serve as a general fill.

The exposure was long - 3.2 seconds, f/10, ISO 100. This gave me a good balance between the flash light coming in and the glow of the USB lights. Here’s a diagram of the lighting setup.

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Creating Santa

To create our frozen Santa, I found a 3D model online of Han Solo frozen in a block of carbonite. I took that model into Cinema 4D and used its sculpting tools to turn Solo into jolly old St. Nick. I left some of the face details so that it still looked like Han a little bit :)

In Cinema 4D you set up a camera and lights like you do with a real shoot. So, I simply matched everything to how I had lit the set (shot at 35mm). I also added in two glow lights (one at his feet and one to the right side to mimic the light coming from the control panel).

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'Principal Photography'

Photographing the boys was pretty straightforward. I had a soft light for fill. I also ran an overhead strip to simulate the vent light, as well as an orange-gelled floor light to simulate the glow from the platform behind them.

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Once all the elements were photographed and rendered, I took everything into Photoshop for compositing. I did some touch-ups to the walls and platform grates, and I added some smoke from the top. Here's a shot of how the retouch was coming along before I cropped it:

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And here's the back:

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Would J.J. approve? I hope so!

This was just one of the cards I created this year over at Be sure to head over there this week as voting officially begins this Saturday for the coveted 2014 Refrigerator Award trophy!

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How To Shoot For A Local Magazine


How To Shoot For A Local Magazine E-Book Ever been interested in how you can get started photographing covers for local magazines? Well, as part of the blog re-launch, I've put together a nice PDF for you with some great tips. I've been shooting magazines in Austin since 2007, and this guide will help you move towards your first magazine shoot!

Some of the things I cover are how to find/define your style, how to find matching publications, and how to track down email addresses and reach out to them. I also cover some tips for making your shoot day go great.

Best part - it's free.

Yep - all free. Along with 5 of my favorite images that you can use as a wallpaper for your computer, phone, tablet, or, a wall. To get all these goodies, just click here and enter your email address. I promise not to spam you or try to pimp some candy drive going on at my kids' school.

How to Shoot for a Magazine E-Book


Herding Cats For Mother's Day

Mother's Day Photo Idea

With my wife out of town for a few days last week, I decided it was the perfect chance to create a fun, memorable photo for Mother’s Day. I wanted something that had our whole family in it, including the crazy pets. I normally steer clear of shots like this for the simple reason that it’s near-impossible to herd the cats. It’s just very love/hate between our three pets, so the only way this was going to work was if I shot a composite.

After school last week, we loaded everyone up in the car and headed to my studio to take the shot. I set up an overhead camera rig about 8 feet off the ground, shooting wide at 16mm. For lighting, there’s a bare bulb flash in the upper middle and lower left of the frame. I also added an extra bare flash in the lower right to kill some of the c-stand shadows that were showing up. We used 5 photographs to create the final image.

The dust wasn’t dust at all, but rather a couple of passes with an airbrush using Corel Painter. I also added a chalkboard texture to give some nice additional contrast.

Loading up the pets for the ride:

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Here’s the shot of the boys:

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Here’s Queso (the dog). Note that I put down a pencil and a hairbrush to serve as simple markers of the feet location from the myself and the boys. The hairbrush works great for this because, sadly, it doesn’t get much use in my house anymore.

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Lisa loved the shot, and we all laughed at how huge the cats have become.

It's Christmas Card Time

It's almost October, if you can believe it. Fall is practically here. And around this time every year, I start my Christmas card work for families and businesses. It started a few years back when we sent our infamous diner image as our Christmas card. Since then, I've enjoyed creating similar holiday cards for my clients. Each of them tells a story of the family: what they look like, their personality, and what they enjoy doing.  And I work in humor wherever I can.

This year, I have tweaked the package a little bit and made some changes. I've also put up a brand-new website at Check it out, watch the intro video, and get in touch if you'd like something a little unique for your holiday card this year!

A Pirate Birthday

Earlier I posted some pictures of the incredible Black Pearl/Queen Anne's Revenge from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Coincidentally enough, my 4-year-old is about to turn 5, and he wants a pirate theme for his party. So I took the opportunity to use the images for a 'party poster' (I have a habit of doing this. Check out my other kid's Star Wars poster). Here's a cropped version of the image. To see the full uncropped version in all of its pixel glory (1MB), click here.

The pirate thing has been with Trevor for a while. Here's his 1-year-old birthday image I designed back in 2007: