To be honest, I've found it difficult to describe these sessions without talking abut putting your kids in a box...So let me tell you about a recent session with Eleanor, Alex and Evelyn.
When I arrived at the house, I could tell that the older two children were very excited about our session, they watched me unpack the lighting and camera gear with interest, with Alex asking questions about the photography side of the session. I asked them to head off and collect 3 or 4 things that were special to them; things that represented their talents or interested - I wanted to see if we could include them in some of the images.
Box sessions are a composite image. this means that multiple images are made and then combined to make the final image. With that in mind, setting up the shoot in the right way, makes the final image much more compelling - it also means that we can have more fun during the session itself (this means better smiles, more character and more laughter!).
I set up the box on the dining room table - the box is specially constructed from several storage boxes - it's really hard to find the right size and shape, so I decided to make my own. This also means I can make them consistently, so there's no chance of the box looking too ratty and it doesn't matter too much if the box comes away slightly worse for wear, as I can always make another one.
Once the box was on the table, I made sure it was exactly square on to the camera, which is mounted on a tripod. This is one of the most important steps in setting up. If the camera isn't level, or the box is slightly wonky, it makes the final image less symmetrical and not as pleasing to look at.
One final step is to set up lighting - again this is an important step so that the final images are consistent. I get the focus, lighting and other camera settings locked in so that we can concentrate on making the individual images that make up the final composite. I can use a remote to trigger the camera, which frees me up to give direction to the children (and bring out those smiles).
Alex climbed into the box first - he was a little nervous, which is totally understandable, he did gradually relax as the session went on. He grabbed his guitar and football and a few other bits and we got some great shots. Next Eleanor had her turn - she'd also gathered some possessions and climbed right on in. Finally Evelyn went into the box. It was important that mum was close at hand to keep her safe and to coax those smiles! Then Alex and Eleanor piled in to get some great group shots.
Next came my favourite part of the shoot - interaction between the boxes - this is also the trickiest part! It's great to have some interaction as it makes the final composite feel more alive. Looking up or down is easy, looking diagonally requires a little more finesse - this is where the preparation at the start of the session pays dividends.
Time for a few more group shots and then it was time to head home.
Once loaded into the computer, I set about putting the composite together. There's lots to consider: Having balance in the grid, so that it flows nicely; making sure the kids all appear the same number of times (if possible), and making sure the interaction works too. I won't go into the technical details - but this takes a long time. Before I finesse the final image, I send a rough layout to the clients, to see if they're happy with it - it's easier to get it right at this stage than make changes once all the hard work is done.
They loved the rough draft, so it was time to set about putting together the final image - the first step is to edit each individual image for colour and tone. I use photoshop to set up the layout, and then cut out each individual box. One complication is that cardboard boxes are quite flexible, so they tend to lose their square corners - this takes some gentle tweaking to get them to fit together correctly. Once squared and straightened, I meticulously measured out the grid and ensured that each box was exactly aligned. The joins between the boxes needed some attention and after one close check of each box and the whole image, it was time to send the final image to the client for approval. They had decided that they wanted a large print in a beautiful frame and gave me the go ahead to order it. I use a printer and framer that produce outstanding products - they had the framed print to me within a week and I checked it and then arranged to take it over to the clinets.
They were delighted, and so I was too!
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