This was originally published on my previous blog a couple years ago, but it's a great example of how proper planning leads to success;
I got quite a few people asking me how I managed to get all 3 of our pets, not to mention us two humans, to look towards the camera, and strike a nice pose, at the same time. Well, I have to be honest and say I didn't. I actually shot our Christmas card in 3 separate pieces this year, so I figured I'd write a quick post explaining it.
I knew there was no way I'd get both of our dogs to sit nice and look straight ahead, let alone getting Figaro (our cat) to pose at the same time. So, right from the get go, I planned this as a 3 part shot. Planning this as a composite right from the start makes the compositing very easy actually. I set the camera up on a tripod, it pretty much has to be on a tripod or at least stationary, and took a bunch of test exposures to get the lighting and framing I wanted. Once that was done, I had Robyn place Figaro up on the mantle and step back. Of course, it took a handful of tries before I got Fig even remotely looking at the camera;
Of course Kuma, our Golden Retriever wanted in on the shot as well, but as long as Figaro was good, I was all set.
Next, I posed Robyn with Zeus, our German Shepherd. This was easier. :) I snapped a few images while calling Zeus. I made sure that no part of Robyn or Zeus passed by about the mid point of the fireplace. I knew that as long as no parts of the images that I wanted to keep overlapped, the composite would work easily. It only took a couple tries to get a keeper this time;
Finally, I left everything set up and and sat down with Kuma and had Robyn press the shutter while calling Kuma's name. Again, it only took a couple tries to get an image we were happy with;
Now that I had all 3 parts. By making sure the camera never moved, the stationary parts of the picture are all in EXACTLY the same place in all 3 pictures. So, I dropped the picture of Robyn and Zeus on top of the picture of Figaro. I then masked off the part of the picture where Figaro was so he would "show through" the masked off (cut out) area in the picture of Robyn. Lastly, I placed the picture of me and Kuma on top of that, then masked off the areas where I wasn't, letting Robyn, Kuma and Figaro show through. Then a quick crop for size and shape and here's the final product;
Sounds and looks complicated, but if you plan properly ahead of time, fairly easy to actually do.