This Week In Photography – Pre-Visualizing a Photo Shoot.
I’ve decided to undertake The Photography Institute‘s Freelance Photography Course, to test my knowledge and to refresh my skills. I believe that it is essential for any photographer to periodically revisit not only the basics, but to also check their current knowledge in this ever changing business.
Along the way, I’d like to share my thoughts on each of the assignments that I encounter. Hopefully, you may find my musings useful. Feel free to agree or disagree. You are more than welcome to discuss my musings at my Facebook Page in the Discussions Area.
So, onto the task at hand, Assignment One.
Imagine if you will, that you only have the following equipment at your disposal:
- Two small format, full frame 35mm sensor, DSLR cameras
- 20mm lens
- 24mm tilt-shift lens
- 35mm lens
- 50mm lens
- 90mm tilt-shift lens
- 100mm macro lens
- 135mm lens
- 300mm lens
- Neutral Density Filter
- Polarizing Filter
- Two quick cycle portable flash units
- Transportable studio flash gear
Note: Follow the links above to understand more about what each of these items are best used for.
Now, consider that you’ve been asked to shoot ten different jobs, and you need to make an equipment list, selected from the above, for each job and justify why you have selected each item.
Job One: A large art gallery would like you to photograph every individual framed painting in the gallery for an upcoming exhibition and that they require color accurate copies of the artwork for use in a catalogue.
My Choice of Equipment: Tripod, 2 x dSLR, 24mm TS lens, 90mm TS lens, Studio Kit, Polariser
My Reasoning: Firstly, I’d prefer to shoot outside of opening hours rather than progressively close and reopen segments of the gallery as equipment is moved around, because of the inconvenience that this might cause to gallery visitors as well as the risk of clumsy persons potentially stumbling over my equipment.
Next, I would definitely need a tripod for camera stability stability. If much of the framed paintings are of the same size then it becomes easier to set up the camera at the same distance from each picture and then tweak the perspective using a tilt/shift lens.
I would need the Tilt aspect in order to correct converging diagonals particularly when trying to shoot very large images. The Shift aspect would be needed to assist in removing any camera reflection in glassed artwork.
Gallery space can vary from large to cramped so, a Wide angle lens would be required for large works or for shooting in more cramped conditions. The studio kit is essential for even, soft illumination of the artwork It would be needed to be set up to provide 1;1 illumination of the art pieces and ideally would come equipped with remote triggers.
The polarizer is required in order to manage stray reflections that might occur in glassed images and to reduce the impact of reflective highlights that might on textured oil paintings. This helps to maintain correct colour rendition. Another aspect that helps with colour reproduction is to white balance each of the dSLR’s for each series of shots taken.
Lastly, it is always a good idea to carry two cameras. This allows for backup if one camera goes bad. It also allows for the mounting of different lenses to streamline different lens choice options, rather than constantly changing lenses and risking dust contamination of the camera’s sensor.
Job Two: An advertising agency would like you to photograph individual “pack shots” of a range of packet soups. The soups come in small rectangular boxes, which have a glossy finish. They want the pack to look heroic and important.
My Choice of Equipment: Tripod, 2 x dSLR, 100 mm macro lens, Studio Flash Gear, Polarizer
My Reasoning: Firstly, the client wants an ‘heroic and important‘ look. What is heroic and important? In my mind this suggests larger than life, compelling and attention grabbing. That is, within a picture it needs to be the dominant element, so I think I’ll need to control the environment in which the packed is placed, and to minimize and blur out any possible background, i.e. I would need to make the soup packet appear big in the image and not have any distracting foreground and background detail.
Now, the soup packet is glossy so there is a risk of flaring and reflection. So, I may need some flags to control light flares, and possibly might need to use a vaseline wipe over the box to soften the gloss. The polarizer would also help to control glare and stray reflection.
I prefer to use a tripod so that I can set the camera up in one spot and then not have to worry about it’s position while I fuss around with setting the lighting and flags. Flags are basically gobos that can be cut to shape and placed between the product and a source of flared light or cause of reflection. I’d also take a number of shots with the pack oriented direct on and at an angle and with the camera level with the product and slightly below center. Shooting Down onto the Pack especially with a 100mm lens would tend to compress the pack and make it look, “Odd.”
Job Three: A men’s magazine would like you to shoot an action outdoor fashion feature of a male model in the centre of a large city wearing various business suits. They want lots of movement in the images and are happy with some motion blur.
My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 300mm lens, 35 mm or 50mm lens, ND Filter or Polariser, Monopod
My Reasoning: Depending on time of day, year, and geographic location, filters may not be necessary. If I used filters, I’d use an ND filter in bright sunlight in order to slow the camera down to assist with getting some motion blur. Similarly, if the model could hold still enough, using an ND filter could help introduce some additional vehicular and pedestrian motion blur, or even render the city street more or less empty.
As for a polaraizer, I’d use this to control spot reflections in the event that water or shiny objects were causing some issues aspecially if the AD had a particular prefference for a particular location.
I’d use a monopod to support the 300mm lens and either have a runner or walkie talkie (I love using these and they’re a part of my regular camera kit whenever I go out) to communicate instructions to the model and assistants. A 35 mm or 50mm lens would be essential for some up close shots that capture also some of the location and to assist with developing a sense of place.
Read More: Shoot Outdoor Fashion
Job Four: A sports magazine would like you to photograph an afternoon football game. They will provide you a press pass, which will allow you access to the playing field. They want high contact physical shots with frozen action.
My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, monopod, 300 mm lens.
My Reasoning: “…high contact physical shots with frozen action.” This is football. It’s fast action and requires a good sense of game play and predicting ability to pre-visualise good shots involving physical contact. Because I can’t run around on the ground, I’ll need a long telephoto lens and monopod to support it, hence the 300mm lens and monopod.
Frozen action shots need a higher speed shutter speeds. Depending on the lighting situation, I’d establish the minimum ISO and Aperture settings I’d need to get the sharpness, detail, and depth of field I want, at the minimum shutter speed necessary for freezing the action, then I’d increase ISO by the equivalent of one stop to take into account, fading light and to give more latitude with the selection of fast shutter speeds. This, of course, is a trade off, especially where noise at higher ISO settings may become an issue.
The second camera is primarily a backup, but perhaps it might be useful to also have it coupled to a 50mm lens, in the event that the play comes particularly close to my chosen, “off field,” boundary area.
Read More: Sports Photography
Job Five: A lifestyle magazine would like you to shoot a cover shot of a woman in a large, bright, modern city apartment. The woman is to be the main focus, but they would also like some of the atmosphere of the apartment to be evident.
My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 20mm lens, 50mm lens, portable flash.
My Reasoning: This is a typical Interview Documentation task. Treatment will mostly depend on any initial direction from the AD as to particular stylistic expression for the images. If none are given, then it’d pay to have a look at past issues to see if the magazine has any particular, ‘House Style.’
The shoot is in a large, bright, modern city apartment, so natural lighting would be best with some bounced off camera flash as fill especially if shooting the subject with a window background.
Many would choose a medium telephoto lens like the 90mm or 100mm lens for portrait work, I don’t particularly like the length of these, especially for indoor work. The choice of 50mm for close ups here, is one of my personal favorites, as this ‘normal lens’ arrangement usually renders nice head and shoulder, ‘head shots‘ with little distortion. However, unless there’s a lot of space to back up in, getting full body seated shots or atmospherics become hard to do. As such, a 20mm would give the broadest options for capturing people in a room shots. There is a risk though that with closer shots the possibility of physical distortion of the subject may occur. For this reason, some may prefer to use a 35mm lens instead.
Lastly, I’d mount each lens on its own camera and trigger any fill flash wirelessly.
Read More: Photographing People at Home
Job Six: You have been asked to photograph a wedding in a church. The light is bright enough to avoid having to use a flash and the minister has allowed you access to all areas.
My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 135mm lens, 50mm lens, 20mm lens.
My Reasoning: [Hand over to assistant and head to the pub until its over…]
Alright, I’ll admit it! This is a bit flippant, but, I don’t particularly like the whole, Wedding Photography bit. That’s just me. However, the purpose here is to look at equipment choice and validate that choice. Bright Church, All areas access. there’s a lot that happens during a wedding, before church, in church, and post church. It’s important to have a very clear plan and running sheet of what is going on, when and where.
Two cameras, essential. You’re messing with someone’s important day, or at least, their significantly important hour or two, and you can’t afford any equipment failure.
Entry of the Bride, Exit of Bride and Groom, front of church shots of the seat family and congregation, Priest, Bride, Groom, maids of honor best men, atmospheric shots of the church, detail shots of things like the rings. Lots to do in a short amount of time.
50mm lens mounted on one camera for roving, vox pop reportage-style shots. 20mm lens mounted on other camera (and interchanged with the 135mm lens) for wide angle, ‘get the building’ interior shots. 135mm lens (perhaps the 100mm Macro would be a better choice here) for candid portraiture and detail shots.
Read More: Wedding Photography
Job Seven: You have been requested by a gossip magazine to shoot “social” shots at a gala movie premier one evening. The location is inside a dark Rococo (ornate) cinema and you have a press pass and are free to mingle with the “stars”. The editor requires a collection of posed and candid shots as the crowd parties through the night.
My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 50mm lens, 35mm lens, portable flash
My Reasoning: Basically, this is a Vox Pop, walk up, chat and shoot activity. What’s required? Posed and candid shots in a relatively dark, ornate cinema. So, I’ll need to bring some light to the shoot. It needs to portable, flexible and small, thus I’ll need off camera flash, hand held with cable connector (better still, wireless trigger), sync’d on second curtain for some funky movement shots, and normal sync for candids.
Depending on space availability, I’ll need either the 35mm or 50mm for posed, individual and small group shots. For candids, a 50mm lens and ‘street style’ approach ala Bruce Gilden would probably do the job. Alternatively, a longer lens with long through bounce flash would also give access to candids from across a room.
Read More: Event Photography
Job Eight: A book publisher would like you to photograph Italian food in their studio for a new cookbook. The studio has large windows along one wall and lots of working space. They want the entire book shot from above, looking down on the food with an “aerial” perspective.
My choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 90mm TS lens, 100mm Macro lens, Tripod.
My Reasoning: The primary requirement from the client is that the photos be taken from above. So, I will need a tripod. A studio stand, or large copy stand would be better, or an extension bar mounted on the tripod would be helpful. Failing that, hopefully the tripod has long legs and the head can be reverse mounted, so that it can be used much like a copypod. A ladder may be necessary for assisting with setting up the shoot, and the camera would be best triggered remotely and tethered to a computer or laptop.
With large windows, natural lighting could be a bonus, but I may reqire some reflector fill to help balance and even the lighting of the plate. the choice of 90mm t/s lens allows for ensuring that the camera plane and table are parallel to each other so as to minimize any distortion. Ideally, there’d also be a macro focusing rail to assist with fine tuning the camera in relation to the plate.
The 100mm Macro lens give additional choice such as capturing fine detail. An additional lens that might be considered is a 50mm lens and a camera spirit level.
Job Nine: A book publisher would like you to travel through France to take photographs for a book on wine. They want farm and regional images, as well as shots inside the cellars and manufacturing areas. They are on a tight schedule and have a limited budget, so you will be traveling alone in a small rented car without an assistant. You have only three weeks to cover all viticulture areas before the autumn harvest.
My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 20mm lens, 35mm lens, 135mm lens, ND Filter, Polariser, tripod, portable flash.
My Reasoning: Small car, limited time, and a lot of places to visit. Risk of equipment damage and/or theft is a possibility, which dictates, to me at least, to take only the minimum I think I can get away with. Choice of shots range from closeups, interiors, exteriors, vines, fields and landscapes, i.e. my lens choice should cover from wide angle through to short telephoto. thus, 20mm for wide angle indoor shots, 35mm for wide angle landscapes, (Oops! I forgot my normal lens – Damn! I was thinking in APS-C again), a 50mm for general purpose shots, and the 135mm lens for details, closeups, or candids. An alternative to the 135 might be the 100mm Macro, but I’m not so sure it’s 1:1 macro capability is sufficient reason for inclusion.
Lighting would range from natural, outdoor, lighting to indoor brightly lit, e.g. restaurant, to indoor poorly lit, e.g. cellar. Thus, an off camera flash that can be triggered wirelessly would be a good inclusion.
As for the filters, Because we’re heading into the Autumn Harvest season, an ND filter (or GND might be better) would be useful for controlling contrast between sky and ground in early morning landscape shots. In brighter light, the polarizer is very useful for removing reflections from foliage in landscape shots, thus allowing the distant ‘vines’ to look greener, and the sky to look bluer.
Job Ten: A fashion magazine would like you to photograph the latest trends in makeup. You will be shooting female models in a studio and they may be accessorized with the latest earrings and other jewelry, but the makeup is the star. They are looking for striking, close-up images with vivid color and texture.
My Choice of Equipment: 2 x dslr, 100mm Macro lens, 135mm lens
My Reasoning: As I’d be shooting in a studio, I’d want to check first if the studio had existing lighting solutions and that it worked, before making a decision to bring my own portable strobe kit, but it is an option that should be considered, seriously.
The cameras will need to be white balanced for the strobes being used in the studio. I’d perhaps increase in camera sharpening a little, select a low iso setting, use a medium to low aperture for depth of field,and a fast shutter speed to freeze any model movement.
For lens choices, I’d use the 135mm lens as it’s a great lens for detailed portrait work especially since we’d be concentrating on capturing mainly the model’s face, with minimal distortion. As I’d also be required to take some detail shots, particularly of jewelry being worn by the models, I think the 100mm Macro lens would be the best choice in this case rather than something shorter and lacking the capability of 1:1 macro reproduction.
For today, that’s what’s in my
Line of Sight