Behind the Scenes - Christmas is Cancelled!

Today I start running down my Happy Effin’ Holiday photos and supplying a little behind the scenes info on how they were created. Before  I begin I would like to state that I have never had so much fun executing a project. Not often in your life do you get to kill Santa (in multiple ways no less). My previous post supplies the details of the project as a whole. In simple terms, we wanted to create a series of fucked up Christmas images. This being Key West I had no difficulties getting business sponsorships.


First up is Phantom Press owned by David L. Sloan and Christopher Shultz. They are the writers of a series of great Key West titles that you can find here and on

Originally they wanted to do a western scene, complete with dogs playing poker, a dead Santa and Dave holding a smoking gun. Great idea but the thought of photoshopping multiple dogs playing poker scared the hell out of me. We went back and forth a bit and settled on a russian roulette “Deerhunter-ish” concept featuring, of course, a dead Santa. It was Dave’s idea to throw in the sexy prison guards.

I always like to work with a strong concept before hand ad have it planned out as much as possible. I find this allows for more improvisation once you are on site. Once I have the concept my next step is always to draw out a sketch. It doesn’t matter if it is in a sketch book or on a napkin, having a visual representation of your idea helps in many ways. It is especially handy to show the subject what you are thinking. Below is my initial sketch and lighting setup, which I ended up paring down.


This was a very basic setup as I wanted it to be kept simple and stark. I wanted it to feel like it was lit from a single hanging bulb. I created this with a beauty dish flown directly overhead and cheated slightly toward Dave (the man holding the gun). Originally I was going to grid the beauty dish and use a ring flash an on-camera fill but the results were lacking the harshness I was looking for. The bounce was provided by the table and I used a flagged Einstein Strobe gelled green for the rim light. It gave just enough light to separate the prison guards from the background and add a little dimension. I choose a green gel because well… it felt jungle like.

As far as direction it pretty much consisted of “go bat-shit crazy”. Worked well enough. I actually ended up using one of the out takes as a key promotional piece. I think it pretty much sums up how a lot of people feel during the holidays.