Past years’ cards have depicted us as anything from silly bakers to naughty elves to serious-looking construction workers. This year we decided to provide a more classic portrait of Hall & Company staff, so that everyone would have a chance to see what we really look like.
Well, okay, if you want to get picky, we don’t actually look like what you see below. For instance, our heads may have been enlarged just a tiny bit. And it’s possible we’ve trimmed off a few pounds and a few years decades. And yes, we might have given ourselves perfectly smooth skin and perfectly coiffed hair. But other than those minor details, this card shows what we really look like. Honest!
And while it’s fun to fantasize that we’re famous personalities worthy of having real bobbleheads sold in our likeness, we are quite happy with our position serving your insurance needs!
(Our printed card has a total of six fold-out panels, which you can view in this slideshow.)
How we made it
Our bobblehead Christmas card is less complicated than some of our earlier efforts, but the instant it was proposed by our card designer, John Redhed, we knew the idea was too good to pass up.
First task: create a design mockup, which is a quick-and-dirty version of the card, used to guide the production process and identify challenges in the early stages of the process.
Channeling his inner supermodel, John photographed himself in a variety of poses, some of which he’s pretty sure will come back to haunt him. After “bobble-izing” each photo, he came up with a layout that would fit all 35 of us Hall & Company bobbleheads on a store shelf.
In order to have our pictures be larger than previous years, we decided to make this card a trifold (three double-sided 8.5″ x 5.5″ panels) instead of a bifold. If our company grows any larger, we may have to start sending out posters instead of cards!
The next step was to prepare the background for the bobbleheads.
John borrowed some shelving from a local supermarket and took a number of photos with various elements added (mylar chain, signage, shelf tags, etc.).
He had intended to photograph the shelf with dust on it, since we wanted it to appear as if the bobbleheads had been sitting there a long time. But as he soon found out, adding dust on purpose is a lot more difficult than it sounds. He spent several hours shaking and blowing dust from various items, including a vacuum’s dust bin, old blankets and pillows, and storage boxes. Dust was going everywhere (including his lungs), but he wasn’t able to get a smooth, even layer of dust on the shelf. So it would have to be added later in Photoshop.
(We asked why he didn’t just plan on Photoshopping the dust in the first place. He explained it’s sometimes difficult to predict whether a particular effect will be more easily achieved in real life or with Photoshop. In this case, he correctly predicted that ’shopping the dust would be difficult; what he got wrong was thinking that using real-life dust would be easier. C’est la vie.)
After adding the sign text and a string of Christmas lights, the background was complete. (Except for the dust, of course.)
Employee photography took place at Hall & Company HQ in early September, so John would have plenty of time to work his magic on our photos. As usual, the brains behind the lens belonged to Brad Camp of Olympic Photo Group.
Most of us would rather be shot with a gun than a camera, but loyalty to the company (as well as the combined arm strength of Brad and John) was sufficient to induce our cooperation. All 35 of us were photographed in just two hours.
Riley, the Halls’ golden retriever, made her debut in fine style.
“Okay, Riley, show us some leg, slow turn to the right, and think sexy!”
With all the photography done, it was time for the real fun to begin. (John’s definition of “fun” is a bit different than ours.)
To bobble-ize the first photo, John began by, er, cutting off Brian’s head and blowing it up. Then he stretched the neck and added the head back on.
The next step was to make Brian look more plastic-y by giving him a digital shave, facial, and haircut. John went through several bottles of digital mousse before Brian’s hair would behave.
The base was rendered in a 3-D app, and John added shadowing in Photoshop.
Simple enough. Lather, rinse, & repeat for the other 34 employees, right?
Uh, not quite. Most of the photos required a lot more lathering.
For every new card John designs, there are unanticipated challenges during production. This time, the first such challenge came when he started on the first female employee with long hair.
Because Melissa’s hair was covering part of her neck and jacket, John had to “paint” in the missing skin and fabric.
And because her bobble-ized head was now higher than normal, John had to create hair to fill in the empty space in back.
Those additional steps were required for almost all of the women’s photos, not just the 8 shown below. (John told us he’s going to bring hedge trimmers to next year’s photo shoot.)
Once all the individual bobbleheads were done, John arranged us on the shelf, and added shadows and reflections.
Unable to put it off any longer, John finally tackled the problem of dust. While Photoshop has an automated tool for removing dust from photos, its creators apparently never considered someone would want to add dust to a photo. So John would have to create the dust from scratch, so to speak.
It took 7 hours of experimenting, but he finally got what he felt was the right texture and color.
(He is now writing a book on the subject, titled “Dust: The Definitive Guide.”)
John had hoped to add dust to the bobbleheads as well, but that challenge proved too difficult in the time he had, so he reluctantly gave up. (We’re actually glad it worked out this way; we look better without dust, don’t you think?)