Behind the Scenes - A Merry Little Christmas

Garbo’s Grill (great burritos by the way) signed onto the project late in the game. We bounced ideas back and forth but nothing really clicked. Then out of nowhere, which is how these things usually happen, a strange image of a burrito cart being attacked by hungry elves popped in my brain. 

Garbos Head Image.jpg

 I quickly sketched it out an sent it to Garbo’s, they liked it, I liked. Good enough.

Garbos Sketch.jpg

The plan was to shoot the cart and owners chunking burritos in a master plate. Then I would shoot a couple of dozen different poses of the elf and composite them into the master plate. As long as I matched the lighting it shouldn’t be to bad.

I tend to follow the David Hobby philosophy of lighting, which is to start with your background and then layer your lights in. Simple and effective. If you haven’t yet check out his blog it is a must for any inspiring photographer.

I had a lighting sketch worked out but as soon as I got on site it had to be tossed out. My plan was to use a couple of umbrellas and a ring for fill. However I had the following challenges -

1. A bright silver aluminum cart in full Key West sun. I tried my ring flash but the reflections were unusable. It looked like someone was shining a flashlight at the middle of the cart.

2. It was blowing 30+ mph so the umbrellas may have well been sails.

3. Although it was sunny it was about to piss down rain (20 minutes top) so I was going to have to recreate the lighting and shoot my elf model on a separate day in the studio.

I cranked down my exposure until the aluminum reflections came under control and I had some shadow detail.   Given the time factor and the fact I didn’t want to chase my umbrellas down the street I opted for a quick two light source (three if count the ambient exposure). The key was a beauty dish high and camera left to avoid excessive reflections. The other was scooped strobe shooting through the side window of the cart to add a little definition. I managed to get off about 12 shots before the rain came. I quickly jotted down the lighting set up and camera setting and got the hell out of there.

It was about two weeks later before I managed to shoot my elf model. At that point all you can do is recreate your lighting setup and hope to hell your notes are accurate.


Once in photoshop it was a matter of cutting out each elf and laying them into master plate. Time consuming but I am happy with the results. Not to mention surprised that my note taking skills held up.