Just because I’m a photographer, doesn’t mean I can’t still have fun.
It’s actually great not to think about what the client might want.
When I shoot for myself, I get to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t.
It was a surprise 89th birthday party for Velia, my wife’s grandmother.
Birthday Girl–Velia with her boyfriend Bill in great spirits. They are a reminder to me to laugh at lot and to laugh often. Life’s too short. 2 light setup. Main light a 800 Watt/sec White Lightning into a silvered umbrella. Full size reflector on the right as fill. Backlight is another White Lightning head with blue gel into a grey muslin backdrop.
Since it’s not often that side of the family gets together, I dragged out my lighting gear.
Place: El Monte Moose Lodge.
In the banquet room, it was mostly florescent and some tungsten lights.
The tungsten was confined to where the band was playing on stage.
Black & White–One of my favorites from the evening was this one of Rachel and Frank. Again, using 2 lights. Main light into a silver umbrella on the left. Reflector on the right and one light for the background. See the diagram for the lighting setup.
No windows (thank goodness!)
It’s always preferable to have one type of light source, that way when you set your white balance on your camera, you won’t get weird skin tones.
Give it a try, you’ll see that it makes your post production a cinch.
I wasn’t doing any â€œliveâ€ photo coverage, just some family portraits, so I kept mine setÂ to the lightning icon for flash.
Cousin Nash, a photographer himself,Â took care of all the candids and dancing pictures.
I brought way too much gear but that’s pretty typical of how I work.
I rather have it in the car on location than be without what I need.
It’s probably a force of habit as a former newspaper photographer.
If you looked into my trunk when I was working at the newspaper, I’m sure you would wonder what some of the stuff was and why I had it–think Kitchen Sink.
- Canon 40D with 50 mm and 17-35 mm zoom
- 3-800 Watt/sec White Lightning heads. Used 2 except for large group shot.
- at least 4 light stands
- grey muslin backdrop
- 2 umbrellas (silvered with ability to shoot through when black backing is removed)
- radio slaves (very crucial)
- reflector (crucial in this instance)
In the case of the last 3 items, they were absolutely crucial.
When you’re doing portraits where there are others with cameras, radio slaves prevent others from triggering your lights when you need them.
Not being tethered to wires is also a good thing because that’s one less thing to trip over.
I always have hard wire as a backup because the radio slaves are not infallible.
When assessing the space you have to work with, always remember that after setting up your backdrop you still need to allow another 3 feet on the left and right of the backdrop.
Remember you still need to set up your lights? The way things worked out, I had room for only one light, so the full-size reflector was my salvation.
When I did the large group shot with the ladies who are all 1st cousins, I had no choice but to drag out a second light.
One flash head into an umbrella can’t possibly light everyone evenly, that’s why.
When setting up to do portraits, in this type of party type setting,
- Get as far as you can away from the â€œlive bandâ€
- Always ask those behind you with their cameras to wait until you’re done
- Shoot a lot more than you think you need especially with big groups
- If I had more room, I would increase the distance between backdrop and subjects
#1. No offense to the band, they were up front and I was all the way to the back and I still couldn’t hear myself think. When your music is good, you probably don’t need to crank the volume up.
#2. I suppose that’s what wedding photographers have to deal with every weekend.
Some might think they’re being very territorial, bossy, rude and unreasonable.
They make their living from this. If the picture doesn’t work out to the liking of their clients, they assume all the blame.
When you’re a wedding guest, be a good sport, don’t take it personally when the “pro” asks that you not to take pictures especially when they’re doing formal portraits.
During the other portions of a wedding when it’s not crucial, by all means go nuts and shoot to your hearts delight.
Who Do I Look At?–When the band is too loud and your subjects can’t hear you, this is what you get. Only goes to show no matter how good your equipment and how fancy your setup, if you can’t communicate with your subjects, you’ll end up with a picture like this.
When I took this picture there must have been at least 10 cameras behind me.
Compare that to the picture I made of the young ladies where I somehow got everyone’s attention. By the way, just so you know, some of them were the ones behind the very cameras!.
#3. The bigger the group, the more sets of eyes, increasing the odds that someone will blink when your flash goes off.
ShootingÂ more frames from the same spot with the same framing ensures you can salvage a picture in post production with photoshop.
#4. The greater the distance between your subjects and the backdrop, the less depth-of-field, so that the creases in the muslin won’t be as noticeable. Since I was working in a confined space, I had to live with it.
Finally notice how everyone is looking at the camera in the final picture below?Â There wasn’t anyone else shooting behind me. Most of them are in the picture, that’s why. 😉
Out of backdrop–I should have turned the backdrop on its long side but Murphy’s Law is such that no matter how big a backdrop you have, the group will always grow to exceed it. I had to use another light on the right once the group became big. I had to fudge the background in photoshop on the ends.