Upload & Sell: Off
This has become so last minute. You face significant challenges, and with all respect, you don’t seem to feel the actual urgency of the matter. You seem to be still focusing on the less important matters and I’m tempted to suggest you put this off till next year.
Nevertheless, again, good for you for wanting to give your time, talent and use of your gear to such an admirable endeavor. If you press on, I’d strenuously suggest…
F o r g e t props for now. It may not feel like it but you’re deep in the heat of battle and so far it’s not looking well for the good guys. I urge you to work everything else out and don’t think about props again until the week or day before you begin shooting.
The scope you describe is big – you’re attacking 100 portrait sessions with four days to work with. With an average of 6 productive hours each day (assuming you work a long day and your assistant(s) move people through like cattle) you’re looking at 14 minutes per portrait – actually, it’s 14 minutes per portrait mini-SESSION.
Unfortunately, that’s optimistic. People will arrive late or wander off and things will go wrong. Your assistantS (it should be clear by now you need more than one) won’t be able to control everyone. They/you will wind up trying to move the schedule around and that won’t solve all problems, but it will create more. A few families may get irritable and just walk. It’s possible that many more will thank you anyway but say they have to run. Or you may have such a close congregation that they’d never do that but when things get tedious, it’s only reasonable to expect that they’d want to. Consequently, you need to be a photography machine to make this happen.
Alluded to in an earlier post, I urge you to view these sessions as production. You’re setting up a manufacturing line to crank out images as consistently as possible with as little guess work as possible.
Preparing for almost worst case, you’re going to be lucky if you have 5 or 10 minutes with each subject/family. There will be little room for creativity or missteps. It’ll be more like:
“Hi. Move here. Do this. Click. Thank you. Next.”
It goes without saying, you can’t depend upon natural light in a series of long sessions like this. This moment, IMHO, you should focus on two things:
1) your artificial lighting (doesn’t have to be strobes – you can do this with Home Depot shop lights – and considering you’re very new to OCF, continuous may make things easier on you);
2) understanding your lens options, choice and aperture settings to isolate your subjects from whatever background you choose (or wind up with) – and frankly, the backdrop almost doesn’t matter at this point. Focus on your lights, one or two reflectors, and how you’re going to use your lens settings to keep everyone in focus and the background nothing but pleasant blur (recall the DOF notes no_surrender and jefferies1 offered).
You’re biting off a lot with this shoot and it could turn to worms if you don’t keep it simple. You want everything in the background to fade into nothing but you also need to make sure your aperture is stopped down enough (high enough f/stop number) that the three or four feet of depth difference (from your lens) that group shots may involve will 1) include everyone in focus and 2) bokeh/blur the background. See: http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html
I’m probably forgetting things but this is my suggested short list:
1) a location with (given your camera and lenses) 15 to 20 feet of distance to your subjects and 8 or so feet (more would be better) between them and whatever backdrop is present;
2) the two strobes you reference (spare bulbs?); how are you triggering them?
3) 2 stands and 2 umbrellas (softboxes are probably not an option);
4) stand(s) and one or two 5 or 6 foot reflectors (assistants can hold reflectors but the durations of these sessions is too long);
5) memory cards sufficient to capture a day’s worth of shooting x 2
6) spare batteries
7) a backup camera (seriously, borrow someone’s Rebel for backup)
8) a tripod and remote release if possible
9) if hand held, set your shutter speed at least at 200th of a second or above
10) ISO set at less than or at most to 400 (will depend upon your other settings), preferably 100 or 200
11) White balance for whatever lighting you wind up with
12) Shoot RAW if you have experience with post production
13) If possible, have a computer close by to check results on something beyond your 5DII LCD
14) Schedule breaks for yourself to contemplate what’s going well and what sucks. If you don’t, you’ll easily think of many things you wish you’d have done differently after all is said and done. Better to give yourself a few unpressured moments to pause and really think.
Way before the first session, set up the location and test shoot. Then adjust, rinse, repeat. You can probably pull this off if you get down to the brass tacks of successful light and camera settings.
If you have a couple of hours to spare once you do the above, then think about props.
There’s more to consider but if you can nail down the above, you’ll be much closer to classy, consistent results.
Lighting patterns are probably the next topics to discuss but it’s late. I have to get some sleep.
Sure hope this works out for you.