Family in a Box

I decided to give a try to the classic “family in a box” genre for our Holiday card. It turned out better than I expected and I wanted to share the one factor where I feel I lucked out compared to some other examples I have seen: the size of the box. I see many cases where people use a box big enough to have at least one picture with the full family. This means too often that other cells end up too empty. Our box was small enough that the final result looks dense enough. yes, fitting the two parents was pretty tight as you can see, but that only adds to the charm in my opinion.

The rest is a combination of lots of input photographs and some amount of time in Photoshop (hours and hours to be precise, probably >20 hours). Lots of layers and layer masks. The final file is 12GB and a little unwieldy (saving takes forever and needs to be done often enough since Photoshop crashed a few times under the load). For masking, many pictures had elements beyond the box (in particular feet at the bottom) and I usually tried “subject selection” plus I added the rectangle of the box. In maybe 1/3 cases it didn’t work perfectly and I did manual paintbrush work on the layer mask.

The pair where I hold Mailys upside down was done with two photos, and I took a ton of versions of the upper one with slightly different leg positions hoping one of them would match the lower one enough. We tried the same strategy for Laelia pouring water to herself (upper left) but it was less successful and I had to do some amount of puppet warp and masking that took me two hours. The pair where Neva gives the red stuffy to Teo is a bit awkward in the way they hold it, but that’s not Photoshop’s fault, it’s just a weird setup.

The perspective is of course wrong since each box is shot straight on and has a different virtual viewpoint in the final image. The individual images are cropped from 36mm ones, probably about a 50mm perspective. Similarly, lighting is not consistent and is fixed with respect to each box (two soft boxes on each side plus a bit of flash from the camera. The background (mostly visible around the edges of the image was created with content-aware fill (aka patch match).

Click here for higher-res version.


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