'Twas The Light Before Christmas

UPDATE: Also after the jump: A Christmas Day game plan.

It's Christmas Eve, and whether you celebrate Christmas or some other holiday in your household, the last week of the year is a very special time.

The entire staff here at Strobist International Headquarters will be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas with our families. So there won't be any posts on the 24th or 25th. (We even let the interns have Christmas off.)

But we still have a few tricks up our sleeve before the calendar rolls over. More after the jump.

If you do happen to cruise by here during that time, I would appreciate it if you could take a moment to declare your status in the latest question in our ongoing reader poll. This week we are wanting to know if you in it for love or money. I am already surprised at what percentage of you are full-blown amateurs. Must have been the pictures that fooled me.

(The poll is at the bottom of the sidebar on right.)

The last poll did not surprise me in direction, but floored me in magnitude. Here's the sad fact: We are over 90 percent male.

I will soon be hitting up the (apparently) 12 women who actually read this site for ideas on what we can do to make lighting education more accessible to your gender-mates. So, please be thinking about that. I mean seriously, there has got to be a way to balance that statistic out a little.

(Besides, just think how pathetically boring our parties would be...)

In addition to the pro/am thing, I am going to be polling on camera platform and a couple of other things. The general idea is to replace my hare-brained assumptions about you guys with some decent info. This will help me to better position the content on the site.

We have a few more cool lighting posts coming between now and January 1st. And there are a few New Year's resolutions to be made (and subsequently broken.)

Also, there is the small matter of a few SPOY prizes to consider. Five of you folks are gonna have an extra-special, late Christmas.

But until then, may Santa bring you a set of Pocket Wizards (or at the very least, a cardboard snoot.) And please accept my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and/or Happy New year from my family to yours.

And yes, sadly, this was shot with on-camera flash. But it was hurriedly set up for another family to shoot. They were also there to kill a perfectly good evergreen. And besides, we used the sun as a rim light. (Here's the tree, dressed up.)



Okay, now for the Christmas game plan. If you are going to be shooting little munchkins unwrapping gifts in the morning, go ahead and stick two speedlights up on stands, bare and pointed to the ceiling, in the corners of the room.

If your tree is in a corner, stick your flashes in adjacent corners for 45-degree bounce cross light. If your tree is in the middle of a wall, stick your flashes in the corners of the opposite wall. This placement is just a quick suggestion, and defintely experiment.

Set your camera on your highest sync speed. Now, using a starting point of 1/4 power on each, test at various apertures until you get a good working aperture. The light should be pretty even all around the room, svae right next to the lights. After you have a good aperture selected for the flash portion of the exposure, vary your shutter speed (opening up) and test until you get a good balance with the ambient lighting in the room.

This might mean windows, Christmas tree lights -- whatever. Remember not to go too low if you do not want to risk ghosting. I'd keep it above 1/30th. But the flashes will freeze a lot of movement anywhay.

Now you'll have soft, even, multi-directional light for Christmas morning. Darn hard to miss with that. You can even test it tonight (Christmas Eve) and you'll be ready with great light when things get a little crazy tomorrow morning.


(Way cool DIY holiday ringlight idea by Peter Boden. See the results here.)


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Anonymous nickwheeleroz said...

Thanks David and a very Happy Christmas to you and your family as well!!!

December 24, 2007 12:30 AM  
Anonymous Terrence said...

All the best to the Hobby family and all my fellow Strobists!

December 24, 2007 12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typo in the poll.

"Very little or none of my income comes form photo"

December 24, 2007 1:09 AM  
Anonymous ryan said...

Happy Holidays to you as well!

December 24, 2007 1:36 AM  
Blogger Michael Carney said...

Hey man, its the Holiday season, just like calories, typos don't exisst. Point in case, I'm not even going to bother to fix that (although what was to be fixed I'm not sure since typos don't exist...this hurts my head now, I'm going to bed)

December 24, 2007 2:08 AM  
Blogger fact30 said...

Happy holidays David for you and your family, and for all the strobists around he world!
Greetings from Costa Rica!!!

December 24, 2007 2:21 AM  
Blogger treeffe said...

Best wishes for a merry Christmas with your wonderful family and may the next year be healthful and peaceful

Many thanks fro your great work here on Strobist

Greetings from italy

December 24, 2007 2:36 AM  
Blogger Velu said...

Wishing you Health & Happyness ! And all the best for you and your family !

December 24, 2007 2:42 AM  
Blogger David de Groot said...

Merry Christmas All :)

I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning when I get to unwrap the pressie that was kindly posted out from Santa's helpers at MPEX. (A shiny new Strobist Student Wireless kit).

December 24, 2007 2:44 AM  
Blogger Ernst van Loon said...

Thanks for another year of interesting reading.
Happy holidays from the Netherlands!

December 24, 2007 2:46 AM  
Blogger TjSheahan said...

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, Thanks for all the good information, look foroward to reading more in the future.

Tom Sheahan

December 24, 2007 2:58 AM  
Anonymous V said...

Hey David...
Wish you and your family a merry christmas and a wonderful new year!


December 24, 2007 3:19 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Wishing you a Merry Christmas. I only stumbled on Strobist about a month ago and have been checking everyday since.

Kind regards

December 24, 2007 3:38 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Wishing you a Merry Christmas. I only stumbled on Strobist about a month ago and have been checking everyday since.

Kind regards

December 24, 2007 3:38 AM  
Anonymous Mark said...

David, thanks for another brilliant year of information and excitement.

I wish you and your whole family a great Christmas.

ps: reading about male/female audience split - my wife (a teacher who is impressed that you want to find out about the needs of the female segment of your audience) pointed out that if your audience statistic is similar to that of those who call themselves photographers (pro or am) in general (not sure where you'd get a figure like that... maybe the chaps at Nikon or Canon???)... then you're already doing well to cover that proportion of the audience.

(Hopefully that makes sense. I read it through a few times and I think it does.)

December 24, 2007 4:10 AM  
Blogger Hans Bakker said...

David, thanks for all the stuff you taught us. Happy Christmas and a great rest of the century for you and your family. And of course for the rest of the Strobist community!

Greetings from the 'low-lands' of Europe, The Netherlands.

December 24, 2007 4:12 AM  
Blogger theblognik said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family, David. Thanks for another year of education and entertainment!

December 24, 2007 5:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas and thank you for all the great read.

-One of the Twelve

December 24, 2007 6:03 AM  
Blogger Anthony B said...

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year to all.

Thanks Again David for such an amazing site. I've learned so much this year and can't wait to continue in the Next. May your family have a Joyus and Happy Christmas & New Year.

Anthony B

December 24, 2007 6:46 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all from one of the 12 women who read this blog religiously. :D

December 24, 2007 7:18 AM  
Blogger Bruko said...

wow, less than 10%??
I think you'll need to post something that talks about:
- shoes
- diamonds
- somethingpink
- all the above
but then you'll have the blog infested by women... and all the guys discussing about who has the most powerful gear. Are you sure that's what you want? ;P

Anyway, if you start giving away jimmy choo prizes I'll become one of the main posters overnight.

Merry Christmas to you and the wonderful family! May 2008 bring you light, bounce, power and all the good you can get.

December 24, 2007 7:40 AM  
Blogger GaryThom said...

Great site, need I say more?

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, etc.

I hope Santa got my note about the D3, though I don't think I've ever been that good :(

December 24, 2007 7:54 AM  
Blogger Estello said...

I love this website. I even heard your interview on Studiolighting.net podcast.

Add another woman to the list of 12 who read this site. I get a lot of ideas from this site and a lot of inspiration. I recommended this site to four other female photographers that I know. I don't know if they read it as regularly as I do.

I don't post any pictures to flickr because I'm shy.

Have a great holiday. And thanks for this blogsite. I love it.

December 24, 2007 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Shaun Krisher said...

Merry Christmas, strobist family! Hey, new pro photographers! I've got a 5 post series going up over the next 3 days to get you ready for the wedding season.

December 24, 2007 8:58 AM  
Anonymous DMOEsq said...

Best wishes to all Strobists and a special thank you to David H. I've been an avid reader of the site and the Strobist Flickr threads for 6 months. It is amazing how many knowledgeable people are willing to share their expertise and ideas. During that time I have learned more about photography in general, how to use flash more effectively and think creatively, than I had in the past 10 years. Thank you so much for making the complex simple. I anxiously look forward to another year of Strobist.

December 24, 2007 9:06 AM  
Blogger bmthomas said...

David, Thanks for a good year. I have gone from zero understanding/use of flash to a novice. Even amateur use of off camera flash improves many of my photos. I enjoyed the opportunity to attend your Columbia workshop. As for your survey, it shouldn't come as a surprise that few of your readers make significant money from photography. That's supports the tremendous economy efficient DIY creativity. We have to buy all our own toys and can't afford to pay for a snoot, gobo, grid, ringlight, etc. etc. ect. Happy Holidays, Mike

December 24, 2007 9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

..and God make David and there was light....

Thanks for your knowledge, generosity, and humour.

from Vancouver, BC Canada.

December 24, 2007 9:47 AM  
Anonymous -=DEAN=- said...

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, Thanks for helping us be better photographers!

December 24, 2007 9:53 AM  
Anonymous cmh said...

Since you are asking, not only do I not make money from photography (although I'm thinking of the micro-stock sites) I don't own an external flash, let alone a pocket wizard. Yet still I read Strobist pretty religiously. Your blog has taught me PILES of stuff about exposure and lighting that is improving my non-flash photos. Someday I will take the plunge and become a real strobist. Until then, I'll be following along at home.

Merry Christmas!
Colin (Ottawa, Canada)

December 24, 2007 9:57 AM  
Blogger Morrie Portnoff said...

All the best to all. Have a Safe and Creative Holiday.


December 24, 2007 10:27 AM  
Blogger Keith Taylor Photography said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family

I hope Santa is good to all of you.

Also, to clear things up... you ask if I was in the business for the love of it or for the money?

I am in it for the money because I love it.

Merry Christmas everybody.

December 24, 2007 10:36 AM  
Anonymous toddhibbs said...

Merry Christmas to the Hobby family, and all the adherents to the Strobist Way.


December 24, 2007 10:52 AM  
Blogger M.H. said...

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year to all.

December 24, 2007 11:08 AM  
Blogger Alan Gage said...

Safari crashed twice when trying to vote. Finally broke down and used Firefox without a problem.

Have a great Christmas, David and thanks again for the wonderful blog. It's helped me kill countless hours that could have been spent doing less important stuff like working or cleaning the house. :)


December 24, 2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger Tammy Cravit said...

I don't know if I'm one of the twelve women or if the number is increasing slightly, but here I am. I read religiously, though I don't always post and I've been somewhat less active in the Flickr group recently due to outside time pressures.

As for what can be done to make the site more accessible to women...I'll have to think about it, but honestly, I have no idea. That statistic frankly surprised me, especially given how many female photographers I know. Puzzling.

Happy holidays to everyone, and may the new year be happy, healthy, successful, joyous, and well-lit.

December 24, 2007 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Jerry Hoare said...

The very best holidays to you and yours, Dave, and to all strobists worldwide. Thanks for generously sharing your knowledge and experience.

From Jim Thorpe, PA "The Switzerland of America"

December 24, 2007 11:32 AM  
OpenID rws said...

Merry Christmas from the third of the 12 women who read this site! :)

Thank you for making such a wealth of information so readily available to the *mostly* testosterone driven masses.


December 24, 2007 11:49 AM  
Anonymous ScW said...

David... this will be my second Christmas as a "Strobist" follower. You've helped radically change my photography and while I am still pretty bad, in my better moments, my images have really touched folks lives, if only in a small way. And that's thanks in large part to your instruction.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

December 24, 2007 12:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry X-mas for you and your family David!!!!! I wish you the very best!!!

Thanks a lot for all your hardwork!

I hope Santa leaves a set of SB's for you ;)!!!


December 24, 2007 12:32 PM  
Blogger BillZ said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Black Tie Photography.biz

Thanks for all your work and help. I am new and therefore can't readily claim to have enough of a client base to be able to exist on that income, but I can dream,...beside, it's the season of miracles.

Thank you again.

December 24, 2007 12:49 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

Merry Christmas to the Hobbys - special thanks to David for the wonderful site. Happy Holidays to all the strobists out there and to all a happy and safe new years!


December 24, 2007 12:51 PM  
Blogger Keith Taylor Photography said...

Hey.... I just realized that you came up with another ring-light design it looks like.

Good Job

December 24, 2007 1:20 PM  
Blogger Pete said...

Bah Humbug!

Merry ChristmakwanzukkEid!


December 24, 2007 1:29 PM  
Blogger Jackie said...

Wishing you & yours a merry Christmas, from one of the 12 women who read your blog all the time :)

I don't know whether to find the poll results surprising or not, as I only know of three other women in my field of photography (motorcycles and hot rods).

December 24, 2007 1:59 PM  
Anonymous OmR said...

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all the Strobists around the globe!!!!

Greetings from Bangladesh!

December 24, 2007 2:26 PM  
Blogger TrappedLight said...

Merry Christmas to the Hobby family. Thanks David for another year of great Strobistism. I hope Santa is as generous to you as you have been to us this Christmas. Although they won't be posting, my family really appreciates the great family photos I capture during the holidays.

December 24, 2007 2:34 PM  
Blogger J. Beckley said...

Merry Christmas and thanks for the last minute tips!

December 24, 2007 2:37 PM  
Anonymous sleibson said...

Everyone's wishing you a Merry Christmas and all I want to know is when you're publishing the complete plans for that great ring light in the photo. :-)

Merry X(sync)mas

December 24, 2007 2:38 PM  
Blogger Rob and Lauren said...

I saw some fire dancer photos on here a while back and we recently shot a wedding yesterday with a fire dancer! It was thanks to this site that we were able to nail those shots. Check out our blog for a little preview (www.robandlaurensblog.com). Cheers and Happy Holidays!

December 24, 2007 2:41 PM  
Blogger jeffegg2 said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All!!!

December 24, 2007 3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs. Strobist:

Thanks beyond measure for letting Mr. Strobist come out and play with us.

And the best to you and yours this Christmas.

December 24, 2007 3:50 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

I guess I could also be considered part of your 12 women readers, but really, I just have stobist on my RSS feed. I don't really read it.

Merry Christmas! :D

December 24, 2007 3:51 PM  
Blogger NTLemon said...

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and the family David, as well as all the other Strobist readers.

I've learned more than I could imagine at this site in the last 5 months. Here is to another year.


December 24, 2007 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geez..too early apost....I should have said:

"....and God said, let there be David....and there was LIGHT!"

my thanks again for resurrecting my love and interest in photography by away of strobe lights.

December 24, 2007 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding your poll about men vs. women -- I tried to vote (I'm a woman), but both times I tried, my browser crashed.

Perhaps there was a problem with the code that ultimately lead to a skewed picture (no pun intended) of the readership?

December 24, 2007 5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas to all....and to all, a good night!

December 24, 2007 5:47 PM  
Blogger kim said...

Merry Christmas David from female # 4 and Kim #2. Thank you for all of the great information you have posted throughout the year! I so enjoy reading your site everyday.

December 24, 2007 9:53 PM  
Blogger John Mielke Photography said...

I was introduced to this site by a friend... and have since told at least a dozen people (including a female!!!!) about Strobist.

Bar none, this site was my favorite new toy of 2007. Thanks for everything!

Merry Christmas from Ottawa Canada!

December 24, 2007 10:21 PM  
Blogger solodog said...

The Strobist community has been one of the brightest stars in my universe this year. Thank you to all of you! Peace to you all.

December 24, 2007 10:35 PM  
Blogger jrrome said...

Thank you for the gift of knowledge. Thank your family for sharing you with all of us. Your work has touched us, and in turn, helped us impact others' lives with memorable photography.

Merry Christmas!

(Maybe too heavy on the Clarence rap? I'll send it anyway.)

December 25, 2007 12:05 AM  
Blogger TheLegacyLady said...

Happy Holidays - really love your blog - since I am one of the 12 females who read this - I am not sure what that says about us...I just love your approach to teaching - it is great hopefully in 2008 will bring more lady readers to the blog to balance it all out...maybe...

December 25, 2007 1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas and best wishes from another of the 12 females in the group!

December 25, 2007 7:47 AM  
Anonymous Geoarts said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family! And thanks for the gift of information you provide us. A great learning experience!

December 25, 2007 9:43 AM  
Blogger Ryan Macalandag said...

Merry Christmas from Bohol, Philippines! :)

December 25, 2007 12:51 PM  
Blogger rachel.hawthorn said...

Because i usually skim the posts from my feedreader, I never noticed the poll. However, I am happy to say that you can add two people to your list of readers who are both female, and one of us generates all her income from photographic related work (myself), and the other is a relative amateur to whom I have passed the link to improve her lighting and shooting techniques (as she works as my assistant for abut 10% of her total job duties).

Keep it up, but my suggestion to attract more women is for less of the shots by participants to include scantily clad models. That's so overdone.

December 25, 2007 1:15 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

Season's Greetings David!
Thanks for such a wonderful year and for creating one of my favourite daily go-to places on the web. And also thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge and starting such a massive exchange of information between us off-camera lighting enthusiasts!

December 25, 2007 6:56 PM  
Blogger Leigh Wetterau said...

Hey David!

I'm a woman, so change that statistic to 13!!!

Happy Holidays!

December 26, 2007 1:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah, collecting demographic info for advertisers, huh? fair 'nuf. content don't come free.

as for the lack of women, i'd be happy to help. perhaps i'll post a topless photo of myself in the strobist pool. on second thought, that seems kinda creepy, as i wouldn't take my shirt off for any other sausage party.

happy holidays, happy consuming, and happy carbon footprinting the world 'round. nothing says christmas like buying stupid useless gifts for the sake of giving. at least we're helping rich people become richer.

December 26, 2007 3:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since I am posting afer Christmas I want to say Happy New Year to David and his family! I hope the new year is great! I am one of the 12 women who frequent your blog!

December 26, 2007 5:44 AM  
Anonymous Jenn said...

Happy Day-After!

Chiming in as another woman Semi-pro reader (a rarity around these parts, from what you said).

We are here I think, just vewy vewy quiet. :)

December 26, 2007 7:43 AM  
Blogger Alex said...


I new to Strobist, It's great to be pa rt of a great community of photographers. I check the site on a regular basis, to learn and see new and exciting things in photography. :) God bless, happy holidays


December 26, 2007 10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Too bad I'm reading this on Boxing Day (Canada... but I'm in Chicago). I guess I'll have to use this method for New Year's... And then my wife's birthday... and then my newborn's homecoming.. and then... busy month.

crsaze (flickr)

December 26, 2007 10:41 AM  
Blogger David said...


Wow. That is one cynical comment. Given its combination of wholesale negativity and anonymity, I even hesitated to publish it.

But I will, if only to have the opportunity to say this:

My primary reason for collecting readership info is to better position the site's content to the readership. I want to make the site better in 2008.

I am sorry you are so down on the whole holiday thing, too.


December 26, 2007 11:40 AM  
Blogger patricia.d.ryan said...

Merry (late) Christmas and Happy New Year! Female, amateur, and am in the red when it comes to photo income - so loving Strobist (new here) and the DIY tips!

December 26, 2007 12:57 PM  
Anonymous Sarah Rhoads said...

Yeah I guess I'm one of those "statistics" on here ;) Im one of the few females and we def. need to start representing ladies! :) I got a set of shiny pocket wizards for christmas that I cannot wait to use!

December 26, 2007 9:03 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Another chickie picture taker here... geeze also in Ottawa Canada... I saw two others here from there too... I can't remeber if I voted or not... also not pro, only wishing and still learning.

Thank you for all the lighting info and time you put into this blog for us readers, male and female. I hope your Holidays are great and remember, the RC car was for your boy, not YOU... yeah I know you want one too, dont you....

-Lisa from O-Town

December 26, 2007 10:08 PM  
Anonymous RoamingChile said...

Guess I missed the gender poll, but mark me as number 13 on females.

I'd read your site a bit months ago, but I have become a regular reader in the past two months.

I shoot a lot of sports, and I finally lit my first event: wrestling. I'll share my faves soon.

Thank you for all the tips. While I'm technically a pro (since I work in a studio, have several years newspaper experience and freelance the rest of the time), your information is helping me bolder as a shooter.

December 27, 2007 12:59 AM  
Anonymous Paul said...

Since coming accross this site from the forum of Digital Photography magazine I am totally hooked - an amazing resource and great learning for a mere digital beginner.
So many thanks David for your dedication and openness, it is greatly appreciated and I look forward to interacting more with the site in 2008 as my skills improve and gear accumulates!

December 29, 2007 1:26 PM  
Blogger Camera Crazy said...

I'm female and found your blog via DPS. I just received a call from a friend about photographing the Christmas lights on their home for a Christmas card for next year. Your post from last year is memorized--I'll arrive around 5:30 tonight and give it a try. Thanks.

January 03, 2008 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all,
David thanks for a great blog I have enjoyed reading all the info.
I want to wish everyone a great Holiday and Safe and Happy New Year. Regards,

December 22, 2008 3:13 PM  

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