Theme Days

So, as I briefly mentioned in my last post, I spent a bit of time last week prepping and doing a couple themed shoots with my little one.

The first was a cake smash to celebrate his first birthday (already?!). Ive only done one other cake smash, last year at this time with little McKenna which I described on this blog back then. You may remember it didn’t go over super well.

The day of M’s cake smash, she wasn’t feeling her best having just started daycare and my backdrop was unexpectedly back-lit (and also went unnoticed until after I had the photos up on my big screen). On top of this, because this was before I had my speedlight or pop up flash bounce, I chose not to use any additional lights relying only on the natural light in the house. To the naked eye, it appeared as though there was adequate soft lighting and I was in such a rush to get the pictures done before M melted down or quit on me that I wasn’t checking them as I went, leading to an entire set of grossly underexposed images.

While I was able to salvage a few, I really wasn’t happy with them. To refresh your memory, here are a couple from that session:

There’s more grain in them than I like to see in my photos, and her colouring was especially difficult to fix. You can also see on the image on the left where the frame of my backdrop was visible due to the back-lighting.

So, as I went into planning mode for this next cake smash, I had a few big ticket items to take care of first.

The most obvious challenge (the lighting, or lack there of) I knew I wouldn’t have this time around since I am now the so so so happy owner of a speedlight (a life-saver truly).  To deal with the back-lighting, I chose to drape my backdrop against a light coloured wall instead of using the frame.

In terms of the mood/cooperation of my subject….well there’s not much you can do about that! It’s kinda a throw it out there and see what you get sort of deal when you’re working with babies and toddlers. I did however request a soft icing for the cake this time around as I remember McKenna being hesitant to ‘smash’ the cake because the icing was hard and pointy to touch! So I tried to make it easier to make a mess this time around lol.

So, on to the challenges I faced in this session.

The first was that I was by myself and my son was not so interested in playing along. So keeping him focused/entertained/happy whilst still getting the shot was a big challenge. I tried to keep it quick (relatively speaking), less than a half hour and thankfully my husband arrived home just in time to help with the clean up lol.

In the live view it appeared that all of the aspects of the shoot had gone off well, despite the lack of smiles or laughs. I had chosen a different set to set it apart from the style I used in McKenna’s shoot and it worked well. The lighting seemed well balanced, and despite the need for a little straightening here and there, generally the pictures looked great.

Here’s an example of the set:


Then I got it up on the big screen and noticed a giant glaring mistake. The backdrop was incredibly wrinkled. I had only set it up that morning while the little one napped so it hadn’t had time for the wrinkles of being folded up (badly) to fall out, and I hadn’t thought to iron it.

Here’s a pull back with no editing.


So I knew there would be a fair bit of editing to try and fix this.

I tried out both the adjustment brush to adjust sharpness, and also the same brush on clarity. I found the sharpness tool simply was not strong enough to deal with the wrinkles so had to rely on the clarity tool. However, it still wasn’t a perfect fix for me as the clarity tool when used this way I find creates a bit of a ‘glow’ – for lack of a better word. And this changes things a little bit. Also, it means there is some discrepancy between the photos as this had to be done by hand on each individual photo making it a bit inconsistent. But I can learn to live with that :).

I also used the dodge tool to try and bring the subject out a bit from the background and help him stand out. One small error I made on a few of the images (that I was honestly just too tired to go back and fix) was that my lines were not perfectly done and when zoomed out, in a couple of the photos there’s a bit of that halo effect from too much brightness beyond the borders of his skin.

The only other complaint I have, is unfortunately not something I can control. While the skin tones, white balance, and general appearance appear perfect on my editing monitor, when I uploaded some of the photos to my personal Facebook account and looked at them on my phone, I was disappointed to see that his skin appeared more orange than on my monitor and the backdrop a little bluer. I’m not sure if this is something photographers (especially in this digital age) compensate for or if they accept that it is what it is. Aside from printing, there is no good way that I can figure to guarantee accurate colour depiction from your computer to the public’s or clients’.

But alas, overall I think the session went well and as usual I have a few things to work on for next time, but nothing major!



The other themed shoot I did was much quicker as it was just for Valentines Day a few days after this shoot. While he still chose not to smile for me, I was actually really happy with how this one turned out! A little kitchy perhaps but sweet all the same!



© 2017 Amber White, KoiBlue Photography. None of the contents may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission.


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