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Photos of kids on Santa's knee

Gary Milner , Nov 29, 2001; 12:29 a.m.

I have recently agreed to shoot photos of kids on Santa Claus's knee at my church's Christmas party. I am looking for any advice that you can give me. I assume there will be aproximately 80 kids or so. I did a search for Santa Claus, but it only turned up 3 unrelated results. I have a final exam the day of the party and one the day after, and I want to make this shoot as painless as possible. I have already agreed to do it and I actually want to do it, so backing out is out of the question.


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Daniel Uhlig , Nov 29, 2001; 01:05 a.m.

Any more details on the shoot to help us out?

Inside, outside? Equipment? (I assume your pentax and maybe a flash?)

Outside, I would say find a shade and use fill flash.

Inside everything is going to be straight flash. A low sync speed (more abmient light) and bouncing or diffusing or multiple sources would improve the pictures. High speed film, but not too high.

The big advantage I see in this situation is that everything will happen in the same spot. This means you can set up and shoot ever kid exactly the same. Get your exposure and framing set and then your done. Just set the cameraon a tripod, talk to the kid and santa, click click... next.

With the tripod you can sync slower (1/30 or 1/20) before the motion of the kids sitting become too much. You will also have a chance to get the flash off camera.

Maybe a tripod is the wrong idea, but definitely try to get some more details about the conditions and what is expected of you for knowledgable people who will read this in the morning.


Art Haykin , Nov 29, 2001; 01:37 a.m.

There's a guy here who does this every year in the mall. It'sstrictly a chalkline job. He uses an old mechanical with a motor drive, and has two bodies: one being loaded by his wifewhile he shoots. The camera is on a tripod, and never moves.He uses two strobes firing into two umbrellas on either side of the camera, and are a bit higher than Santa's head. Santa is on a slightly raised platform, and the kids approach from one side, and exit from the other. The lens is prefocused, andhe shoots with a cable release. There's always a long line, and they REALLY keep it moving. About every 4th or 5th shot, he checks his focus and framing. It's smile, CLICK, smile, CLICK, smile CLICK all day long. The rolls are immediately handed over to the mall 1-hour lab, and the 4x6 prints arelaid out on a table for selection. Run some tests first.

Chuck Dowling , Nov 29, 2001; 02:52 a.m.

I just saw someone doing exactly this on Sunday. He was using 3 Polaroid cameras, and had a large box filled with film packs. The kids and parents were seated in a sleigh with Santa. He took only one shot, and then put it in a little cardboard frame holder. Why he had three cameras, I don't know. Maybe the flash recharge time? Anyway, I would shoot this digital. Camera on a tripod hooked to AC adapter. Flash off camera. Memory card to Ritz for 4x6 prints for .69c. Who's paying for prints?

Bruce McElhaney , Nov 29, 2001; 10:08 a.m.

Gary, Our studio did Santa pictures in a local Mall for several years,and we had it down to a science. It all depends on the output you want, as to what kind of equipment to use. We used Polaroid Professional special events cameras. (No longer available) They used self developing film similar to the Spectra. We used an Aux. powerlight with a small umbrella set up directly over the camera position. Polaroids give almost instant feedback,and the parents can take home a print right away. In fact, our local Pet Mart is doing Santa pictures of animals with Santa using just a hand held Spectra camera. If using other equip. try to keep everything simple and concentrate on getting good expressions.

Bruce McElhaney , Nov 29, 2001; 10:18 a.m.

Chuck, the reason for three cameras is double backup. If you're down, you're dead in the fast and furious Santa Pic business. That's an important point I forgot to tell Gary. No matter what kind of equipment he uses, he needs reliable backup for everything.

Gary Milner , Nov 29, 2001; 10:51 a.m.

clarifying the question

Here is some more insight into my question. I will be using just the one camera. I will be shooting indoors, so it won't be the brightest place in the world, I live in canada, so it will be dark outside so that rules out light from windows. I will be using a flash. This isn't a paid job, but volunteer work that I plan on doing one way or the other. Appart from equipment issuses such as tripod or flash, is there a way to handel the kids or line them up effectively? Where should I have them look? Right into the camera or off to the side? Do I need to have a squeaky toy to get their attention? Or will the line be too loud for that? Should it be the kid talking to Santa or looking at the camera? should I include santa's boots? or just to the kid's feet? or should I make the composure decision at the time? I guess I want to get tips on handling the kids more than anything, with reguards to the line and when the kids are actually on Santa's knee. A lot of the tips have been helpful so far thank you.

M. Huber , Nov 29, 2001; 11:15 a.m.

The nice thing about Santa/kids shots is that almost everyone is happy with the results. They are not expecting pro studio shots. Just relax and work quickly. (you want to avoid bored kids) Have a few elf helpers for the kids. Lots of good suggestions above.

Zlatko Batistich , Nov 29, 2001; 12:02 p.m.

I've never done this, but my guess (as a parent) is that most parents prefer to see their child looking into the camera. Talking with Santa is OK too, but not every child wants to talk to Santa (some may be initimidated), so this may work for some children and not others. Just make sure that, if the child is talking to Santa, the child's face is still recognizeable and you're not shooting the back of the child's head. Looking off to the side would be the worst option, in my opinion. I don't think you need a squeeky toy to get their attention, but it might be a help anyway. I would try to include all of the child, including feet, in the photo. Trying to get Santa's feet in is not necessary and would probably make the child too small in the photo. Good luck.

Paul Nielsen , Nov 29, 2001; 12:33 p.m.

1. Get to know the Santa and develop a schtick. When its time to take the photo, have the Santa direct the child's attention to whatever you place in the target area (a rudolph picture with an illuminated red nose is a good idea) and signal you.

2. At the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto there was a guy doing animal/kid shots using a standard video camera and a simple photo printer. It worked well. Perhaps you can rent the complete rig from Vistek or other rental place. Bring a polaroid for backup. Or 2... (and film!).

3. Bring some bottled water for you, the elves and Santa. Know where the restroom is. Bring lots of breath mints. Don't offer them directly but obviously flash (intended pun) them when you take one and graciously allow Santa and the elves to ask for some. Be really generous and give them their own roll. Tell them you always do this for shoots and they'll know you're professional. I always do this at trade shows. I'm a professional (at trade shows). Wear really really comfortable shoes and maybe bring extra socks for a mid-shift change (and plastic bag for the old ones). Wear layered clothes so you can add/subtract for your comfort. Nothing worse than being uncomfortable and you might be tempted to run to a store in the mall for clothes.

Get the elf's phone number (grins).

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