St.Francis School Christmas program 2009


Last minute adjustments–A preschooler’s whose loose-fitting hat is adjusted just before they take the stage. ISO 1600 17-35 zoom custom white balance.

As often as I’ve photographed the Christmas program at my kid’s school, you would think I should be able to “nail” these pictures already, right?

But as with every year,  this extravaganza plays out differently mostly because of “access.”

It would be nice if I were transparent or didn’t care if I were blocking folks behind me, but that’s just tacky.

When I worked at the newspaper, I always felt bad whenever I covered golf tournaments where folks are camped out for hours at a certain hole waiting for their favorite golfer and I would just show up. I had a job to do, so I had to stand somewhere, right? It took me a while to get used to being able to just traipse in front of these people and obstruct their view. Over the years as their insults got worse, I just got over it–If they were nice, I practiced my crouching tiger stance, it was the least I could do.

For this year’s performance I huddled up front on the very cold and hard floor in a small space.

I used my usual combo of lenses 17-35 mm and 80-200 mm lenses, the photojournalist’s favorite combo of lenses.

3 girls

Poor lighting–When you’re indoors and you’ve maxed out your ISO setting but don’t have enough shutter speed to freeze the action, why not try a  pan ? Keep in mind when you’re shooting an event where you can’t move around, you will need to get creative to get “different-looking” shots. Experimenting and shooting on manual is the way to really “teach yourself.” ISO 1600 1/40 sec @ f2.8 80-200 zoom at 200 mm focal length.

I elected not to use flash partly because of the distance to the subjects and my inability to place lights (strobes) in an already crowded church.

Enjoy the pictures and do share them with family and friends. If you would like to buy prints, visit my online gallery.

[svgallery name=”xmas2009″]

A Tip on White Balance

Spend enough time taking pictures inside  you will notice that the Auto White Balance of your camera doesn’t give you the best looking color for skin tones.

Below is a 3-frame-series from my shoot.


Understand that inside, there are many different light sources. Even if your interior is lit by all florescent lights, you will not get good color for skin tones all the time.

Light bulbs get changed when they go out, so the color temperature they emit will never match exactly.

If you’re chimping and you suspect this is the case, fire off a frame where there is a lot of white like I did above, then figure out how to set Custom White Balance for your particular camera. See if you like the results.

Important thing to remember is you want to photograph something that has lots of white so your camera has a good target. If you can, walk up to the stage and shoot a white sheet of paper before the performance, then you’ll be ready to go when the action begins.

7 thoughts on “St.Francis School Christmas program 2009”

  1. Peter, great pictures from the Christmas Program!…is it possible to get get them and any from the Halloween/Fall Festival? We would love to include them in the yearbook once again…Thanks, Regina

  2. Peter,
    I enjoyed your website, and took a few minutes to look at the Fall Festival pictures, too! Thank you!

  3. Ted,
    I would take those pictures over no pictures any day. I would slap those images of your childhood on a flatbed scanner and digitize them. Your son might appreciate it one day. 🙂

  4. Peter,

    Thank you for these beautiful pictures. You have once again amazed us with your fine talent of capturing such extraordinary images. Take care and keep up the great work!

  5. My childhood was filled with Polaroid sx-70, Kodak 110 instamatic flash cube & horrible Kodak Disk images.. None of them were ever worth keeping.

  6. Jo,
    Thanks for saying so. Although my son is burned out on these Christmas programs, after 8 years at the school, I know how important these memories are.

    No pictures exist of me at these sort of school events, now that I think of it. But that was a whole different time ago before digital photography.

    Come to think of it, I have very few pictures of myself even fewer of me and my siblings. Here’s the only one I could find of my older brother and I, taken by a neighbor.

    Wish I could remember what I was holding in my hands and also in my pocket!

  7. Peter!

    What stunning pictures! Oh, those lucky parents having you with a child in their kids’ school! They are all so beautiful: you’ve captured so many special looks and gestures – the things every parent knows about their own child but which are so seldom seen by strangers. A tribute to your good heart!


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