My favorite subjects to photograph all year are babies and motherhood, but there’s just something special about Christmas studio minis each year. It’s fun to sketch out a new scene in pencil and then watch it come to life through painting and 3D sculpture. I’ve written about my planning process before in a previous post. Click here to read more about that.
Some years I create a festive room, while other years, a winter scene. I usually plan a year in advance, so I knew I would be painting birch trees. When my family and I visited Oregon and California this past summer, I saw many birch trees and I observed the details to inform my painting. And of course I look at my photos and the actual birch logs I bought at an art store to help me paint my background.
I liked the juxtaposition of the real birch logs in front of my acrylic painted background. The texture of both differ slightly, as I wanted the painted trees to have a soft appearance. I achieved this with my loose painting method by having a slightly watery brush mixed with acrylic paints. Sometimes I would pre-mix a value scale of white, grays, and black to have readily accessible for application. Other times I would mix as I went along, or added tints and shades by blending paint directly on the paper.
Birch trees have an inherent amount of contrast, with the white or sandy white trunk broken up with many black and gray lines and textures. So, in order to achieve the soft background that I wanted, I had to strategically use black paint in smaller amounts, so not to create too much contrast. All in all, it was a relaxing and fun experience painting, while listening to music.
I thought it would be cute to have a wooden bridge over an icy river, so I found a wooden bridge kit online to build at home. Most little kids think the bridge is fun to walk on, which is helpful for taking photos because they naturally gravitate toward it. Thankfully, I have a collection of white fabrics and snowballs to reuse between sets over the years. I thought of the icy lake idea for the 2022 set, and reused the same concept again this year. Reflections add a nice touch with photography. Some of the evergreen trees were new, and some were from my previous sets. It makes sense to repurpose items whenever possible, as I am running out of storage space for new items, and often something I already own works perfectly.
Some years I hang snowflakes, marshmallows, or snowballs on fishing wire from the ceiling, so it helps that I keep the tiny plastic hooks on the ceiling. This year it was snowballs. And underneath a green velvet bench was the perfect pop of color for Christmas.
Check out some of family portraits who came for Christmas Studio Minis this year in 2023. If you’d like to join the email list to be notified when Christmas Minis open up for next year in 2024, Click HERE. The sign-up usually opens in July or August and sessions take place in early November.