How do I take a self photograph once per day and create an animation from it?
December 18, 2008 5:45 PM   Subscribe

How do I take a self photograph once per day and create an animation from it?

We just gave birth to our daughter 3 months ago, and I have been taking a photograph every day of her face in hopes of making an animation of how her face changes. Hopefully, you've seen what I'm talking about, but here's an example on youtube.

I want to know what advice some more educated photographers would have on how to accomplish this. I have a bunch of photos of her face taken in different lighting, different White balance etc. (I am just starting to learn photography, so am new to all this). Unfortunately, they are not all a straight-on face shot (since it's hard to get her to hold still for more than the click of a shutter)

So my main questions are:
What general advice would you have to accomplish this (any links to tutorials greatly appreciated, I couldn't find anything googling)?
How do I select from my existing photographs and edit them (preferably in batch) so that the animation doesn't look funky?
How should I take photographs from now on so that it is quick and easy to sort them and add them to the animation (which I plan to do in Flash)?

I have just been using Picasa and adding the best of the shots I took of her that day (yes, there are multiple shots per day...I am proud of her :) ) to an album, with plans to edit them later (since the lighting changes her skin tone, that needs to be editted).
I have started taking the photo in the same place in the house while trying to maintain the same lighting, and making sure that the White Balance is set as close as possible to the previous photo.

Any and all advice is appreciated; I want to increase my general photography knowledge as well as make this an awesome project.
posted by idyllhands to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Well, keep the highest-res photos (preferably RAW, but highest quality JPEG will do) no matter what, and then work from copies, so you can always go back.

For "assembling" an animation depends what software you're comfortable with. For quick and dirty, you could just cut and paste frames into QuickTime Player. I'd probably do that to experiment. For more control, you could glue them into Flash, which adds a timeline but is otherwise pretty straightforward for simple animation. For real quality or film-like effects, though, you'll need to get into more serious video editing applications.

The example you showed, in addition to making me think it was a sequel to Requiem for a Dream (Noah dies at the end, and it's horrible and grisly, I just know it), was FULL of different lighting and angles and color balance. I think that is part of the charm of these sorts of thing. You're not looking for some kind of smooth, alien morph. It's supposed to feel like a jumbled pastiche, I think.
posted by rokusan at 6:03 PM on December 18, 2008

FULL of different lighting and angles and color balance. I think that is part of the charm of these sorts of thing.

I would disagree with that. If you must, take more than one shot, but at least one should be as consistent as possible, so that the specific changes in the features can be read. Otherwise, if you're going to get all wacky with the lighting, you could mash the whole sequence up in a weekend in aftereffects.

Pick the place you'll be shooting these things, paint a wall a solid color, I'd use grey. Paint the ceiling above it white. Save color chips and repaint both as needed. Select a single camera and lens to use, place it on a tripod and frame the shot with both a young and older stand in. Drill a tiny hole in the floor directly below the camera. Use a plumb bob (a weight on a string) attached to the tripod to place the camera if it is moved.

For light, put a little bit of diffusion on the flash and point it up at 45 or so degrees towards the ceiling. Shoot at night with all other lights out. Use the same flash and diffusion all along.

If you have high enough res, you might be able to keep one framing, otherwise you could attach a laser pointer to the camera or tripod and use that as a reference to raise the camera relative to the top of the child's head.

Do some tests and select camera setting, and use the same ones throughout. Yes, raw files are best. Look at the histogram when you set up, and make sure there is data in the darks and the light, no flat black or white.

If your going to go the trouble, why not get a "documentary" shot, perhaps frontal 3/4 and profile, then some thematic shots, "make the face that tells me how you feel about xxx today."

You could also drill two holes and get one closeup, and one full body camera framing.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:33 PM on December 18, 2008

And don't use a zoom lens, used a fixed lens.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:36 PM on December 18, 2008

Rather than drilling, just use a piece of string. This is overly complex, and it's about lights, but you could use the same idea with a string tied around the lens or tied to the camera strap ring.

I think you'll also find that a consistent naming convention for the files will help you a ton when you eventually put this all together. Something like YYYYMMDD-babyname-projectname-01.jpg would work reasonably well.

If you really want to go crazy and make the lighting consistent, no need to go overboard. I've never really photographed babies, but I imagine that they don't like a flash going off. You can get some strip lights at a hardware store and set up some always-on lights (I'm bad with the terminology here, I've only photographed in a studio, or with fancy lights, a handful of times) that'll do the trick really well. Here are a couple of starting points. Like I said, though, that's going crazy and probably a lot more work than necessary.

And if you're using a point and shoot, try as much as you can to keep the settings consistent for each shot. ISO, distance, f-stop, shutter speed, zoom, etc., all play a role in how the picture looks, not to mention the room's lighting, time of day, and your kid's mood.
posted by msbrauer at 6:53 PM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have never seen one of these where the lighting isn't all over the place. If it was too perfect, it would look creepy, I think. Well, creepier.

Embrace it.
posted by rokusan at 6:58 PM on December 18, 2008

Thanks for the input so far. I do want to keep the lighting at least fairly consistent so her facial features really show.
posted by idyllhands at 7:18 PM on December 18, 2008

And expect your children to rebel somewhat and think you're weird and creepy if you continue to try to take a daily photo of them too far into their lives (I mean 8 +).
posted by Xhris at 7:22 PM on December 18, 2008

The guys above nailed it. Consistent lighting, camera position and lens length are the key things here. Naturally, you'll be using the same exposure setting every time.
posted by Magnakai at 4:41 AM on December 19, 2008

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