Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Picture Day

One of my favorite parts of being a school photographer was the time I'd have before doing the senior class picture, that hour or so that I'd spend unpacking my equipment, setting up the light stands and positioning the strobes, trying for the smoothest coverage of light from side to side, without horrible reflections. The worst part is trying to meter the light in a room whose every surface is, by necessity, highly varnished.

October, 2007

The reflections in the picture above actually aren't a big concern for me, since those bleachers will be filled with warm bodies by the time my shoot begins. In fact, at this school I wound up having to remove the umbrellas and shoot with bare lights, since the gym was a windowless cavern. These bleachers are also twenty rows high, enough so that someone standing on the top row could hoist themselves into the box girders that make up the roof. Most school gyms only have twelve rows of seating at most, sometimes fifteen.

September, 2007

Since I stood on the ladder to shoot my pictures, getting a light reading from the proper angle and elevation was more important than screwing around for my own amusement. When other people's reality intrudes upon my own like this, I include them. Thus two hapless freshmen, wandering through the gym, are pressed into being stand-ins for an entire senior class.

If you're wondering about those two lines on the sides, each one is a strip of masking tape I've laid out to mark the edges of the crowd, once they get there. It's angled in, from the top row to the bottom, so the group will appear squared-off in the final picture.

Like this:

September 2007

This particular school had the largest senior class I'd ever photographed, consistently, year after year. The group above has close to 800 people in it. No big reflection problems, either, since the bleachers are made of plastic. But in each of these pictures you can see the almost mirror images in the floor.

September 2007

Outdoor shoots, however, require much less prep time, although the logistics are more critical. My worst outdoor group was at 8 AM with bleachers that faced west. I had to shoot with an ultra-wide lens from a fifteen-foot ladder almost straight down to avoid the morning sun.

By contrast, the school above has bleachers facing east, and we took the picture around eleven o'clock in the morning, optimal time. And as you can see, the customers were so pleased, they gave me a standing ovation.


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