Shooting holiday photos
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gnod
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 92
Country: United States

Hello everyone,

I was asked by my church to take portraits for our church families for the upcoming holidays. I am an amateur looking to learn more and I think this is a great opportunity to freely offer my services while improving my skill.

I have a Canon 5Dmk2 and 85mm 1.8, 24-70mm, 50mm 1.8 lens.

My question is, what can I do to begin preparing for this project? I clarified that my services will likely not match a professional's quality but I still want to do my best to learn and offer great product to my church families.

With that said, I have some specific questions.

1. What are some popular props I can utilize for family holiday photos? (christmas tree is one..)
2. What is a great photo printing service provider?
2a. What is a great holiday card printing service provider? (if they're different)
3. What equipment do I need to read up on, learn, and try to utilize to make the photos as great quality as possible. There is a small budget for this project so renting or investing in equipment is an option.

I thank you all in advance for your help!



airjrdn
Registered: Feb 11, 2012
Total Posts: 66
Country: United States

The first thing that comes to my mind is, you should be charging someone something. You clearly have some expense in your equipment, you'll be spending a decent amount of time and effort during the shoot, it sounds as though you may be ponying up for props, and you're open to paying to rent or purchase additional equipment. Not to mention the fact that you're probably going to spend more time editing and uploading those photos somewhere for printing.

What's in it for you again?



gnod
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 92
Country: United States

airjrdn wrote:
The first thing that comes to my mind is, you should be charging someone something. You clearly have some expense in your equipment, you'll be spending a decent amount of time and effort during the shoot, it sounds as though you may be ponying up for props, and you're open to paying to rent or purchase additional equipment. Not to mention the fact that you're probably going to spend more time editing and uploading those photos somewhere for printing.

What's in it for you again?


haha if you really want to know, i'm serving my church as the photographer.
the efforts and time is really my desire to serve my fellowship. The costs for the prints, equipment would all come from the families of the congregation and would be donated to missions trip overseas. I have no feelings of wanting to be paid for this cause.

With that cleared up, do you have any suggestions for an amateur like me?

thanks!



nolaguy
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 774
Country: United States

Kudos gnod for your interest in donating your services. And yes, no doubt you will learn a great deal. Good for you and your congregation.

To begin with, how many families do you anticipate shooting? One portrait per family? Over what time frame? What are your location ideas?... controlled light?... indoors?... outdoors?

I'll be following your thread with interest.

Chuck



gnod
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 92
Country: United States

Hey thanks Chuck! I appreciate your encouragement.

I don't have specifics yet as this project came about in the last week or so.
But from what I've gathered it's going to be about 100 people, I'm assuming average of 25-30 families at most.
I think it would be one portrait for the church album, and I guess the holiday card option is really up to me. I know there are options to have let's say, 3 different photos on one card, as well as a single photo on one.

As for time frame, I have I would guess at most 4 Sundays.

Location ideas. This is going to be tricky as this would require it to be on Sundays.
The chapel is unlikely as the christmas tree isn't set up yet.
I was thinking of setting up shop in the basement with some props.
I was thinking something along the lines of a bench. Not a gymnasium bench but an old, rustic timeless feel looking bench with a white background for lighting. That way I'm thinking I can insert other background layers if need be? I don't know what I'm doing! haha..

I chose the bench because I thought it'd be cute to have the family all sitting in a line first casually and then do some other poses as well. I think I'll google some family portrait shots now... fail idea.



nolaguy
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 774
Country: United States

Gotcha, gnod.

To take a few steps back, you’ve specifically asked about props, vendors and so on so what I’m about to say may be stuff you’re well familiar with and of no use. I’ll offer it anyway in case this is new territory for you.

There are a lot of ways to approach this but rather than props, etc, I suggest you initially focus on the fact that you’re planning on shooting a lot of portraits in a short amount of time. You’re going to face stress and challenges on several fronts including the technical aspects; posing; and the biggest headache, the logistics of coordinating people in and out. A few thoughts:

You could use a well organized assistant (or two) to handle scheduling, organizing people in queue, handling mishaps along the way, etc.

Consistent lighting and dialing-in/documenting/repeating your camera settings will be important. All the creative stuff needs to be done during planning, initial set up and test shots. Once families start arriving, your project becomes a matter of production, not art. During “production”, the only creative aspect you should be dealing with is posing (can be a challenge) and even that should be “templatized” for the basic shots.

You’ll need to do practice runs/shoots with a few friends to get an idea how it’s going to play out and how much time it will take. I would personally allot at least half an hour per family. You may find you nail some portraits in a few minutes (depending upon subjects and serendipity) but it could easily take much more time.


Next, what are your plans regarding lighting? Sculpting the light is critical but repeatability is the bigger issue. You can do this with ambient light… or do you plan on using flashes/strobes? If the latter, do you have that gear already and if not, what’s the budget?


C



no_surrender
Registered: Apr 23, 2011
Total Posts: 1149
Country: Italy

gnod, I second the kudos for serving your church.
I shot some Christmas photos for children of fellow service members last year. Someone else planned and coordinated the props so I do recommend trying to find an assistant or two. My only responsibility here was to push the shutter button.
Just a couple things to watch for during your test shots:
harsh shadows on the background (you may not notice it in one, but will definitely aggravate you after the shoot when it shows up in all)
DOF, make sure you knock this out during your test shots with those Christmas cards in mind

I'm sure there are many more little tidbits that can be added...I'm too tired to think right now. Good luck!

Kevin



Ernie Aubert
Registered: Apr 19, 2007
Total Posts: 4494
Country: United States

Good advice so far... definitely the lighting. If you can have a couple off-camera flashes (three would be better), you'll be able to make something much more special. Absolutely do not use on-camera flash.



gnod
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 92
Country: United States

Ernie Aubert wrote:
Good advice so far... definitely the lighting. If you can have a couple off-camera flashes (three would be better), you'll be able to make something much more special. Absolutely do not use on-camera flash.


do you have any specific examples you can suggest? Some of these off camera flashes look a little... complicated at first glance. haha



jefferies1
Registered: Jul 03, 2008
Total Posts: 2615
Country: United States

If you want a white background then you will need at least 2 lights for the background. If doing 3-6 people in a group I would want 2-3 levels. This could be ground, chair / bench as mentioned and standing. A level between the bench and standing, like a high stool is also good to have for larger groups. Same for depth. No straight lines of people. So with people placed 3-4 deep you need a good amount of light for the DOF, maybe F8 or better. I would want at least 2 to light the poeple but 3-4 would be easier and allow more adjustment.
If you want to save on background light then don't go for white. Let the white darken to gray. Adding that tree into the mix will require light for it also so that 3rd - 4th light would be real helpful.
Maybe a rustic look with wood boxes would be good in place of sitting on the ground. Always have something for a short person to stand on to vary height or even out height. For labs look at WHCC, Millers or consumer side of Millers.If you have sesign skills then you can get some low prices from places like Overnight prints for short run digital printing. Watch the CMYK color conversion.

If you don't understand light do it the simple way. Set-up on a Covered porch and use natural light and a single flash as fill. ( Turned down -1 or-2 if in auto which I assume you will have to use). That would be better than anything done inside.



gnod
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 92
Country: United States

jefferies1 wrote:
If you want a white background then you will need at least 2 lights for the background. If doing 3-6 people in a group I would want 2-3 levels. This could be ground, chair / bench as mentioned and standing. A level between the bench and standing, like a high stool is also good to have for larger groups. Same for depth. No straight lines of people. So with people placed 3-4 deep you need a good amount of light for the DOF, maybe F8 or better. I would want at least 2 to light the poeple but 3-4 would be easier and allow more adjustment.
If you want to save on background light then don't go for white. Let the white darken to gray. Adding that tree into the mix will require light for it also so that 3rd - 4th light would be real helpful.
Maybe a rustic look with wood boxes would be good in place of sitting on the ground. Always have something for a short person to stand on to vary height or even out height. For labs look at WHCC, Millers or consumer side of Millers.If you have sesign skills then you can get some low prices from places like Overnight prints for short run digital printing. Watch the CMYK color conversion.

If you don't understand light do it the simple way. Set-up on a Covered porch and use natural light and a single flash as fill. ( Turned down -1 or-2 if in auto which I assume you will have to use). That would be better than anything done inside.



wow this is awesome information! I will look into those printing sites.
I agree, I would love to use natural light outdoors and may still try to do so if weather permits.

As for the lights, I have to be honest and admit that I don't fully understand the setup. I'd love to learn if there's a website or article that explains it thoroughly (i'll be researching this anyway beginning tomorrow since i have time off) if anyone has specific information readily available.



sumiyaka
Registered: Dec 17, 2009
Total Posts: 14
Country: United States

Hi--

I've done similar things my church. One was a Mother's day thing where there were 3 shifts of photographers. Someone in the church had set up a "set" of tool, chairs, flowers, etc. I just had to light it.

The other was for Easter. I shot that against white seamless. Two lights to light up the background, and used a big softbox in the front.

I lit both with light almost straight on and very big, only slightly to one side. This let me handle 1 person up to groups of ... I think 20 was the largest ( I had to extend my white background in post to fit ALL of them against it ) without mucking with lights.

The problem to solve here isn't lighting or shooting or props... it is how to engage groups of 4 to 5 people, get them all genuinely laughing/smiling and having a bit of fun in a very short amount of time -- you don't want to be there for hours and hours on end. Don't forget they have probably been standing in line and/or waiting around with cranky kids for a bit.

Ken



jefferies1
Registered: Jul 03, 2008
Total Posts: 2615
Country: United States

Sorry, I live in South Texas so all year is usually Ok for covered porch shoots. Think it was close to 90 yesterday.
If you dont have lights the cheap way to go would be low cost units like Yongnuo -YN560-II for under $70.00 each. Totally Manual and you still need a light modifer of some kind. You can slave 2 at a time but use a cheap sensor for doing more. Better would be mono lights but a lot more money would be required. Cheap modifier is an umbrella which I hate and never use but does work.Soft boxes offer much more control of where the light hits, at least for me. Check the YouTube videos from some light manufacturers, Pro Photo, Bowens. All have something on their site or on You Tube showing group shots.
Background. If you use a 9' wide seamless it is hard to get a family of 5 to fit allowing for creative room to position them. 12' is much better but may require some cutting and tape to work. Test the shot ahead of time. That will save hours of adding missing background.



gnod
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 92
Country: United States

hmm.. i will definitely check youtube to familiarize myself with the lingo, product and its uses.

do you think it's better if i have a set background?



jefferies1
Registered: Jul 03, 2008
Total Posts: 2615
Country: United States

I think a background using props would be easier than doing a white seamless. Mostly because of lighting issues.




Ernie Aubert
Registered: Apr 19, 2007
Total Posts: 4494
Country: United States

Ernie Aubert wrote:
Good advice so far... definitely the lighting. If you can have a couple off-camera flashes (three would be better), you'll be able to make something much more special. Absolutely do not use on-camera flash.

gnod wrote:
do you have any specific examples you can suggest? Some of these off camera flashes look a little... complicated at first glance. haha


Well, the route I took for multiple off-camera flashes wasn't cheap: I got three Canon Speedlite 430EX IIs and five PocketWizard products: Three FlexTT5s and a MiniTT1 & AC3, plus three stands, two softboxes and the hardware to affix them to the stands and allow them to be tilted, and a Graslon diffuser. It was an undertaking to assemble it all and learn how to employ it, but having done so, I really like it. I can independently vary the output intensity of each flash from the camera; no wires are involved.

Others have mentioned other issues; mine was just about off-camera lighting, and that's my tuppence worth.

Good luck, and I salute the spirit of selflessness.



qwyjibo
Registered: May 12, 2009
Total Posts: 942
Country: United States

If you aren't familiar with OCF, I wouldn't over-complicate things but rather find an area with consistent light (I'd look for solid shade, not dappled, and use an assistant or two with reflectors to get a bit more light on the subjects and in their eyes) as well as a nice background (thinking about background brightness and distance from subjects). Best of luck and be sure to share the results.



Richard Booth
Registered: Oct 02, 2003
Total Posts: 1259
Country: United States

I went to Home Depot and bought two 4x8 panels of polystyrene 2" thick. Painted one side black and use them as backdrops with available light from my patio doors. Works well and costs next to nothing. Obviously, you can paint them any color you want.BTW, they cost $14.95 each!

Richard



nolaguy
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 774
Country: United States

nolaguy wrote:
Gotcha, gnod..........

..................what’s the budget?




Mpking
Registered: Dec 27, 2011
Total Posts: 153
Country: United States

I found this article awhile back. Might be a good place to start if you are on a small budget.

http://improvephotography.com/113/cheap-off-camera-flash-photography/



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