By Brittany Ghezzi on | No Comments
The most magical time of the year is almost here, and after the long and challenging year we've all had, a little magic is what we all need, am I right?
This is the time of year when I try to ignite as much magic as possible in my kids, family, friends, and clients. There's nothing better than seeing the love and sparkle that comes from deep within them.
Every year, I like to create a magical and fun Christmas mini-session idea that will spark interest in my clients and community.
So this year, I decided to try my own Hot Cocoa Mini Sessions!
This is the first time I tried a Hot Cocoa Photo Session, so I thought I would start by practicing with my two children - the first up was my three year old son!
I started by purchasing a beautiful holiday backdrop. But this wasn't your typical hot cocoa stand backdrop or little gingerbread cottage backdrop you often see. It was a 96"x60" backdrop from Fancy Fabric & Props called "Twinkle Winter Wonderland," and that's precisely what it was. It radiates PURE HOLIDAY MAGIC, and when you look at it, it makes you feel like you are actually in a Winter Wonderland!
I knew it would be perfect for my Hot Cocoa holiday mini-sessions!
Next, I started gathering & creating props for my Hot Cocoa photo sessions.
To create the white floor, I used two white wall panels that I purchased from Lowes. After I hung my winter wonderland backdrop on my backdrop stand, I needed to blend it in with the floor, so I added some buffalo snow at the bottom of the backdrop where the floor and backdrop meet. I also added some twinkle lights to the snow.
It looked amazing!
To create the giant hot cocoa cup my kids would sit in, I purchased a large planter (also from Lowes) - one that you would typically use for flowers or plants. The exact planter I found was made by Style Selections and was 20" wide by 17.4" tall. It came in a beige color off the shelf, but I wanted a white one, so my husband spray painted it for me, and it turned out even better than I imagined!
The planter also didn't have any holes in the bottom, so I didn't have to worry about water leaking out. But make sure to check for holes when you are choosing your own.
To create the hot cocoa straw, I bought a 3-foot long piece of 1" white PVC pipe from my local hardware store. It didn't come in a 3-foot length, but they were kind enough to cut it to size when I asked. For the red part of the straw, I used red tape made by Scotch, which I also purchased at the same hardware store.
Now, for the really fun part - HOT COCOA!
There are a couple of different ways to simulate hot cocoa. For my kids, I filled up the cup with about 15 gallons of warm water - holy moly! That was a lot and took a while, but I wanted to make sure that it was filled up enough so that when I was shooting, I would be able to see the water in the photos.
Next, I added a bit of milk to the water to give it the "cloudy" look that Hot Cocoa has. And if you don't want to use actual milk, you can also use powdered milk.
Then, I added about 1 1/2 packs of ACTUAL hot cocoa mix. I made sure to mix it really well, so there were no clumps of powder in the water. If you don't want to use actual hot cocoa powder, food coloring can also work.
Finally, I added some JUMBO CAMPFIRE Marshmallows, which I purchased from my local grocery store. The bags I bought came with about 12 HUGE marshmallows, so I purchased two packs. I put some inside the cup and then also added some on the floor around the cup. It was PERFECT!
When my setup was finally ready, my son hopped into the cup and had the time of his life. I had him put on a cute little Santa hat and let him munch on a few marshmallows. He couldn't stop smiling!
Then a week later, my daughter decided she wanted to do the same shoot. She's a bit older than my son, and I wasn't sure how I wanted to capture this moment with her and make it age-appropriate. So I bought her a fun winter hat that was red with a faux fur ball on top and a bathing suit that looked like a candy cane that I found on Amazon.
I followed the same setup I described above, and it turned out just as magical!!
When I shoot, I shoot natural light. So I kept my F-stop between 2.5 and 2.8, my shutter speed at 1/250th, and my ISO between 400-800.
After I finished each shoot, I couldn't wait to edit my photos! I had visualized exactly how I wanted them to look and began to think about how to edit them to achieve what I had in mind.
I edit primarily in Lightroom, so I thought the Pretty Presets & Actions new Clean and Colorful Millennium Preset Collection would be a perfect fit for these photos!
Once I uploaded my images into Lightroom, I played around with the Clean and Colorful Collection presets. For these images, I used the Crystal Springs preset - it was perfect, and there was not much else I needed to change after I applied it.
I did make a few minor adjustments to the exposure, contrast, temperature, and orange saturation settings. I also sharpened the photo and upped the noise reduction a little.
After completing my Lightroom edits, I saved my photo. I then opened it in Photoshop to add some extra little magical touches like snow from the Pretty Presets & Actions "Let it Snow" Collection for Photoshop to make it look like it was actually snowing and steam coming from the cup to enhance the hot cocoa effect.
After seeing how in LOVE I was with these photos and the magic that radiated from my children, I knew I had to offer them to clients. Shooting my children with this setup brought me so much joy and happiness, and I knew deep down in my heart that this would be an amazing memory so many families would love to have.
Photography brings me joy like no other. It warms my heart that I can capture incredible memories for others that they will be able to cherish for a lifetime.
I hope you can use this guide to help create some magical holiday photos for your own family, friends, and clients. And join me in the Pretty Presets & Actions Facebook group -- I can't wait to see what kind of magic you can create with this fun holiday setup!
Until next time, best wishes and holiday kisses!
Do you have any questions or comments about Hot Cocoa Photo Sessions? Just leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Hi! I'm Brittany, a portrait photographer and preschool teacher, wife to my husband Jonathan and a mama to a beautiful little 5 year old girl, and a handsome little 3 year old boy. They are my HEART and my motivation for everything that I do! Come visit me at My Heart Photography.