The Craziest Card of the Season and How We Pulled it Off – Katy Houston Photographer
When it comes to holidays, they say that if you do something twice it becomes a tradition. Well, this is the third year running that we have created a fun story-telling Christmas card for the Wallace Family and these cards have been ANYTHING but traditional. This year we staged an all out down and dirty food fight. Festivus to the Extreme!
Back in 2017 we created a kitchen disaster complete with fire, footballs, and flying flour and then 2018 brought the living room legacy of the falling Christmas tree, broken and falling ornaments, and a live electrical shock.
For a look back at the first two years of our project, just click on this link.
While I had played around with some composite work before, I knew that I needed to step up my game so our first year I turned to my friend and photography instructor Dan McClanahan for pointers. I had participated in Dan’s Hawaiian Photography Retreat and Workshop that summer and was blown away by his skills and talent, including his now famous work Friday Night Food Fight. You may see a few similarities here, and I will admit that his piece provided a good bit of inspiration for us this year. Anyway, Dan most graciously provided critiques and tips to help us out.
This year when the Wallaces requested a food fight, I was excited but also concerned about doing anything that would copy Dan’s image too closely and I was hesitant to even ask him for help this time. SO first so we set up some ground rules of our own No copying of his poses or pranks. This meant no spaghetti on the chandelier, and especially no skewered chicken or the ultimate pie pan landing like a hat. In the end I did send him our image and he still helped me improve it a bit. This is one thing I absolutely love about having talented friends and mentors in this industry, people who share knowledge and help each other expand skills.
The first image we created was a very formal beautifully set table which would become the front cover of our card. I’m sure recipients who now look forward to receiving this family’s card every year were confused. Brinkley, the dog seated at the table was the only thing even remotely unusual at first glance. — Oh — and the artwork on the wall — and maybe the mischevious grins on every face. They had to actually OPEN the card to reveal the big surprise.
This project is actually a composite of several images with each person being photographed separately to capture the best action from everyone. We shot in the very brave clients’ own dining room so that we could incorporate their own light fixture and furniture. Our first task was to block out the back window with a painters drop cloth so that we could replace it with a solid wall that would include our two earlier projects.
Once we had that formal image down we messed up the table and the fun began. We knew we were on a roll when we nailed our very first shot, Brinkley catching his favorite treat, a marshmallow, midair. Then we began dripping food onto dress clothes one person at a time, careful to make sure the cranberry sauce didn’t look too much like a gunshot wound. Somewhere along the line the carving knife ended up in the ice tea pitcher so we left it there as we photographed each family member individually.
SAFETY NOTICE: The wood floors became SUPER slippery , so when Braden tipped his chair back, we had older brother, Joshua, securing the feet to keep it from slipping out from under him. A word of warning — repeated for anyone who wants to try this at home — the wood floor became VERY slippery with spilled gravy, potatoes, and jello.
No humans or dogs, however, were injured in the making of this image.
After cleanup in the house, behind-the scenes-magic began. First I created clipping masks of each person and then dropped them all into a shot of the table.
This created a flat cartoonish looking image that became our starting point. I could tell right away that Brinkley didn’t have enough personal space in his original position, so we flipped him around and moved him to the other side of the table. We also needed a little more food in the air so I purchased a bag of frozen veggies, sprinkled them onto a foam board in an arching shape where I photographed them in my studio.
Next it was time to add the artwork to the walls, re-construct the actual floor and baseboards without the sideboard buffets, and to burn in some shadows for depth. Voila!
In the true spirit of Christmas, the Wallace family says it’s always better to give than to receive. And they were still laughing and smiling as we finished and cleaned up. Yes — Dad DID get to smack his youngest son with a cherry pie. Oh MY!
We are already working up plans for 2020 and I can hardly wait. In the meantime, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
I would LOVE to tell YOUR family story in a fun and unique way too.
If you would like a personalized story-telling family portrait or Christmas card of your own, reach out to me at SPCcreative.com now. These things take time to dream up and create. Let’s start now.
In the meantime, May your Days be Messy and Bright.