Monthly Archives: December 2013

Three Christmases ago, in 2011, my sister Jennifer and her husband Alen started a tradition of creating a custom, photo-based holiday greeting card with the help of yours truly. Their son Jinu was barely seven months old at the time. The “prop” took less than 30 minutes to make and the “photo shoot” took all of 15.

2011 Kim-Zehnaly family holiday card

If I do say so myself, it helps to have a graphic designer (moi) in the family. It sure does cut down on costs, and you can get as much retouching as you want! Honestly speaking, neither Jennifer nor Alen need much retouching so the retouching — and there has been a lot since 2011 — hasn’t been much about vanity. It might sound like I’m biased but I love these two so much, I would retouch their mugs till the cows come home to make them look like a million bucks if they needed it. The real beneficiary of my skills has been Jinu. As he’s grown bigger and squirmier and developed a mind of his own, my Photoshopping muscles have been increasingly challenged to make sure he appears in the final shot in a greeting card-worthy way. Last Christmas, we had a bigger concept for the card, which I blogged about then. Making it happen with a 19-month-old toddler wasn’t easy.

Some rough shots from the 2012 holiday card photo shoot

Some shots from the 2012 holiday card photo shoot

It look lots of coaxing and patience and definitely some Photoshopping to land on this final image that wished loved ones a happy holiday AND announced the upcoming addition to the Kim-Zehnaly clan. Jennifer’s BFF and former Think Farm design assistant Ritzel Quito added the graphic elements to drive the message home. It wasn’t perfect since there were a lot of disparate parts that had to be pulled together and we didn’t have a professional photo set-up. I’d say it was still pretty darn good for a family holiday card!


We weren’t exactly trying to up the ante this year but Jennifer, Alen and I were all keen to try something creative for the 2013 card. We were definitely influenced by the beautiful work of artist and mom Sioin Queenie Liao but I never forgot Oren Lavie’s music video for “Her Morning Elegance” ever since I first saw it five years ago. I loved the whimsy and seeming simplicity in the use of props to tell a story:

Ok, now to have three novices take on the challenge of interpreting this concept into a family holiday card, with not just one but two little ones! I decided to be a smarter about lighting this year and pulled out old halogen lamps and whatever other clean source of light I could find around. Thankfully, Jinu didn’t knock any of them over. That was the last favor he did for me. It would’ve been ideal to shoot everyone at one go but with the baby puking on her dress, the toddler running around like a terror and three grown-ups simultaneously bossing each other around, that was never going to happen. Instead, I shot one element at a time, grunting and sweating from the top of a 5-step ladder.

First, the parents. SO easy!

No retouching -- doesn't my sister's skin look awesome? Jealous!

No retouching — doesn’t my sister’s skin look awesome? Jealous!

Then, the newest addition to the family: five-month-old Adeline. We got her at just the right moment and she was charming!

Shoes on or off, she looked gorgeous!

Shoes on or off, she looked gorgeous!

Finally, Jinu of the Terrible Twos. There were tears, there was sweat, there was yelling. Of the four adults (my brother David eventually came in to lend a hand) and Jinu, it wasn’t always clear who was doing which.

Those little dots are chocolate chips we used to try to calm him down. Uh, they didn't work.

Those little dots are chocolate chips we used to try to calm him down. Uh, they didn’t work.

This year’s holiday card took a marathon Photoshopping session since we got rolling with the project at the end of the first week of December but it got done! My Photoshop skills aren’t good enough to turn Jinu’s frown upside-down but I think it’s the best Kim-Zehanly Christmas photo card yet, and Auntie Helen has earned her keep … Until next year.


Merry Christmas, everyone!

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