With the proliferation of online photo sharing and print fulfillment sites, creating a custom family Christmas card has never been easier. All you need is an idea and a couple of willing subjects.
No matter how game your kids may be, if they are young, they won't have the patience to wait for the amount of time it takes to rig a photo like the one above. So I arrived at the beach about an hour before sunset to string the lights on the canoe and work on the composition.
There are a couple key ingredients you need for a location shoot: power, light and a sturdy tripod. I purchased a portable generator a few years ago so power for the Christmas lights was not a challenge and duct tape supplied the means to adhere the light string to the gunwales of the canoe. Three flashlights supplied the main light on my children's faces.
Even though Ruby and Cory arrived at the beach just as the sun was setting, we still had to wait another 20 minutes for the sky to darken enough to take the photograph. The idea is to balance the ambient exposure of the sky with the flashlights supplying main light for their faces.
Once you get the light, natural and artificial in balance, shoot plenty of images. This exposure was made at 1/4 of a second, so there were a number of blurry frames caused by head movement and blinking eyes. Fortunately all you need is one sharp image.
These kind of family photos can be taken any time of year, like the one above that was made on a July camping trip. So if you have a vacation in the works or know of a unique location, keep in mind that there may be an opportunity to nail down next year's holiday greeting card.