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04-14-2018, 02:20 AM   #1
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School Studio Shoots Equipment

I work for our school as a member of staff and have been doing photography for them for over a year, parents and staff are pleased and well aware of my level of ability.

Recently we had our external school photographer come in to do the yearly school photos (group class, portrait, sibling etc). I (and apparently many others) have actually stopped participating in this because it's just so expensive for what they actually produce on the day. Cut a long story short they overcharge and really use 'boring' apertures that provide a kind of shot that a mum with an iphone x could manage on a good day...

So the school is looking to me in providing the service for next year in formally doing the 'school photos'.

Wow... this is a big opportunity for me, I sat down and did some brief number crunching, it seems to be a relatively 'easy' earner. Compared to something like a Wedding you can walk away with $2-3k (the company in question if it had full participation were set to make $5.5k for a single mornings work, we are a small school with a little over 100kids!).

I have only done one wedding, but boy is it stressful, the continually changing environments and light throughout the day makes the job far trickier, especially from a post processing perspective. I can imagine the school shoot to also carry its stresses, but really once you have set up the portable studio, done a few test shots, then the lighting is going to stay static and thus lead to a pretty quick post process edit (Sync away!)

So I essentially have a year to get prepared for the day/mornings event, plenty time.

The aim would be to do a good job, doing the classic 'expected' stuff but also add a more modern and unique take on the experience to really distinguish myself from the crowd, and then of course once processed and portfolio'd, start to approach other schools. I won't go into too much detail right now about any of that but what I do need some advice with is what equipment to start thinking about needing for such an event. Some of the stuff is also going to be beneficial for when I do home portrait work, or even to other events (such as offices), currently this guy has nothing in terms of lighting, backdrops and all that kinda stuff.

So not only equipment advice, but also which direction to head in. For example... I've watched a couple of clips on lighting, such as Continuous vs Flash. I have to say I like the idea of continuous more than flash purely from that perspective of not working 'blind', WYSIWYG. With flash it's a little harder and I'm concerned to getting a consistent lighting throughout the morning shots what might be better, I woulda thought fixed lighting would be the way to go etc. I'm also likely heading towards using MF lenses, such as a 85mm/1.4 or 135mm/f2. I can't operate a flash in one hand via a vello cable like I did at the wedding I did last year, so it's either wireless triggers as well... or perhaps no flash and just all continuous.
A few videos I saw did say that continuous can make the subjects squint however... kids.. bright lights... hmm.... Perhaps turn the light down and bump ISO a little up to cope? I dunno...

I'm sure you have all seen my work, please click my flickr page in signature to get an idea of my ability (if not), but it's best to think of me as a guy with a K-1 (and KP) with some primes, tripods and a flashgun or two (540II and a metz44).
I have nothing else, nothing 'studio' orientated, not even a reflector...

TIA!

Bruce

04-14-2018, 04:25 AM - 3 Likes   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by BruceBanner Quote
Recently we had our external school photographer come in to do the yearly school photos (group class, portrait, sibling etc). I (and apparently many others) have actually stopped participating in this because it's just so expensive for what they actually produce on the day.

Compared to something like a Wedding you can walk away with $2-3k (the company in question if it had full participation were set to make $5.5k for a single mornings work, we are a small school with a little over 100kids!).

Bruce
Bruce,
One "hat" that Iʻve worn for the past 22 years is that of a yearbook advisor. And back in the midʻ80ʻs I used to shoot university sorority and fraternity head shots throughout the western US. This is my perspective:

a) Although it appears you are making a lot of money for "a single mornings work", your fee really represents many hours of prep, thousands of dollars of camera and lighting equipment, hardware and software, and hours or days of post processing and printing. Despite a stated deadline for families to place orders, many will be contacting you throughout the year and sometimes for years to come and expect immediate service. Also expect some students to be out sick on the day of the event, so you will have to return for a make-up photo day. IF you wait too long to do this, parents that have seen the initial photos and are dissatisfied will request that they have a free re-do.

b) No matter what you do and how hard you try, there will be a minority of parents that can never be satisfied and will complain either directly to you or behind your back about your portraits, how you are too expensive or that they liked ʻthe old photographerʻ, etc. A majority of your time will be spent catering to this minority of vocal complainers.

c) Many students will show up unprepared (sweaty, bad hair day, canʻt we shoot this in a month after the braces come off, etc) and somehow this will be blamed on you and some parents will expect you to reshoot this for free. If your school has a yearbook or annual, there will be a deadline for you to submit all portraits with the student names perfectly spelled. A good printer will outline the ICC profile and specs of how the images must be submitted for printing (the book).

d) You will absolutely need a powerful and quick software like Lightroom to help you keep all these images consistently rendered and organized, and to have them archived for years to come. Traditionally, this is the bread and butter for most studio and event photographers and if you just giveaway the digital file for them to make prints themselves, you are undermining professional portrait photographers in your region. No one goes into photography to "become rich". Fees often seem high "because there is always someone out there that thinks they could do the same or better with their cell phone". Pro photographers charge what they have to charge to stay in business. The same goes for auto mechanics, dentists, psychologists, and attorneys.

e) Equipment? Ideally you wonʻt be using natural lighting as nature is inconsistent. LED softboxes or any continuous light source does cause squinting for some people and strobes are preferred. Most standard battery powered flash units do not recycle fast enough and if youʻre shooting 3-7 good, non-blinking shots per child, you donʻt even want to think about if the flash is fully charged. Monolights are considered the standard as they give you a modeling light to see the effect of the light, but then flash for a good light level. The typical set up will have a 3/4 key light, a side fill light, a kicker or hair light, and a light for the background.

You will want and need a neutral background that is reproducible any time of day. I prefer using an 18% neutral gray to help with color balance and skin tones, but the other extreme would be using a green screen if you want total flexibility to key in any background. Hope you have a truck, SUV, or minivan to haul this stuff. Donʻt forget an adjustable height, no wheels stool for the sitting unless you donʻt want to use a tripod.

And having a back up for every piece of gear is essential. If you donʻt, you will regret it. If you do, youʻll never need it. (Murphyʻs Corollary.)

Also, you must learn very quickly to be able to recognize peopleʻs faces to see their "good side" and their "bad side" unless youʻre going to shoot both three quarter profiles.

The focal length, aperture, etc, used is a minute detail that only us photographer nerds care about. If you shoot wide open, some will complain about the photo being "out of focus" and if you shoot for compression others will complain about "you made them look fat". This leads to short telephotos and f/8.

Just know that when a passion or a hobby (like me doing my own oil changes) becomes a paid business, you will begin to see why it costs what it costs.
04-14-2018, 05:11 AM   #3
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The technical side of photography is easy and you have a year to get that down, if you don't already.
So I tend to think away from the actual photography side and head towards what will make the day a success for the event itself.

First thing, how much space you have will somewhat dictate the lens you will be able to use. If you cannot get a full bust shot with a135, don't plan to use it.
Keep in mind the need for space for the backdrop (do you need space for the stand and its legs?) Or can you tape it to a wall or over an existing curtain rod?
Gaffer tape for cords and anything anyone might trip over or knock over. And weights for any stands.
I remember one school having 20+ feet to work with, another had the poor guy crammed into 10 feet at best.

Constant light? You're going to need a lot of it! Kids move. A lot and fast. You can sit them in a chair and tell them to look at a point. and they will for .025 seconds and their attention is off somewhere else. You'd think the older they get the less that happens, but not until they are the one directly hiring you and paying, don't expect complicit subjects. And even then, the majority of people just don't like to sit still in such an environment. So, I would highly suggest flash! And a single speed light probably isn't going to cut it. The slow recycle time is also going to drive you and the students crazy.

I might suggest leaving the computer for review your images at home. This can slow things down a lot if you rely on it to ensure every image is in focus. Sadly Pentax has no decent method of transferring photos to a computer in a timely manner for this type of shooting. The K1's cable tether is unreliable and can crash the camera - often. The wireless transfer is abysmal and doesn't work with software like Lightroom (my Python script does make that possible, but it is extra setup and is still limited by Pentax's horrible wireless speeds)
If you do want to use a computer during the shoot, can get an assistant to help swap SD cards and off load images.

Seems obvious, but have you thought about how you're going to keep the student's names with their respective images? Paper list, computer/spreadsheet, (and table to go with it), etc...? Whatever it is, make sure you have this down to be flawless. Parents tend not to be very forgiving if you forget or mix up their child's name.
If the school provides them, double check. (True no one).

Is the school going to provide information on how parents order from you, or do you need to create the advertisement and order forms?

Details are important. Start thinking about everything down to whether you'll have a pencil available, if necessary.
Get those thousand little details nailed down so you can focus on the photos and not scramble with unexpected problems.

Equipment is a huge investment. Be sure to have backup equipment, because something will almost certainly break.
Long term repetitive use items; get an low price but quality strobe; Alien Bee 800 (I would have suggested Einstein, but they are not available outside the US, I believe Alien Bees are).
A 50-100cm umbrella or octabox is nice.

Last edited by amoringello; 04-14-2018 at 05:34 AM.
04-14-2018, 07:03 PM   #4
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Three lights with umbrellas and a background would be a set up that I know would work for me. I have used flash for that type of set up and after a few test shots the results were very similar with slight adjustment of the umbrella positioning to suit the subject position. I also have used static (stationary) lighting in a similar way, and it is helpful in a way to have the constant view of the subject/light relationship, but having the portability of flash and the versatility it provides is also valuable. I suppose it is a matter of preference.

Good luck.

04-18-2018, 10:36 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by amoringello Quote
...

I might suggest leaving the computer for review your images at home. This can slow things down a lot if you rely on it to ensure every image is in focus. Sadly Pentax has no decent method of transferring photos to a computer in a timely manner for this type of shooting. The K1's cable tether is unreliable and can crash the camera - often. The wireless transfer is abysmal and doesn't work with software like Lightroom (my Python script does make that possible, but it is extra setup and is still limited by Pentax's horrible wireless speeds)
If you do want to use a computer during the shoot, can get an assistant to help swap SD cards and off load images...
Guys I just wanted to say a big thanks here, I got side tracked this week and still haven't really thoroughly digested all of the information presented. Rest assured I will be replying with more specific questions to points raised here in the near future!

My first question actually pertains to the point that amoringello brought up regarding laptop/computer connected to the camera on the job (perhaps, or at least raising the potential for doing that).

This has been something I have thought about before but never really done it 'in the field'.

A school shooting (not the violent kind ) sounds like an ideal scenario to have that setup running, you have the opportunity to recall a kid back for a second shot if on review you realise the LCD screen of the K-1 didn't quite show you the whole truth of the shot. God knows I've had that happen plenty of times thus far and have often wanted something to inspect the shot on a better/larger res screen (at the time) etc.

I bought a Samsung Tab S2, 7 inches with a nice high res screen, I thought this might do the trick, but I have only explored the Image Sync app and unfortunately when doing it 'live' and reviewing (without actually transferring the pic to the tablet) you see a low res version of everything, like as if the LCD is just 'blown up' to the res of the screen. It's just not ideal in lots of other regards (limits to shooting mode etc).

So... is ejecting the card out of the K-1 and into a sd card reader the best we can really do? Or do some cables exist and a connection to a laptop for instant review accuracy exist?

I ask this now as Mrs Banners laptop has just died and we are in need of a replacement! Am now looking way ahead for options etc.

(I shall perhaps post this question separate in the forums elsewhere if response is poor here).
04-18-2018, 11:55 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by BruceBanner Quote
Or do some cables exist and a connection to a laptop for instant review accuracy exist?
You could do stuff like connect a HDMI monitor to simply display your shots on a big screen straight out of camera, or if you use the K-1, run a few metres of USB cable from camera to laptop and run Lightroom and use either the Pentax tethering plugin for Lightroom or buy the Pentax Image Tramsmitter 2 tethering software.

I'd also perhaps re-try all the WiFi tethering options - there are about 3 WiFi apps now for that - Image Sync,as you know, but also PentaxPhotosync and another one (the name of which escapes me atm). WiFi tethering will always be slower than cabled tethering, but it could still be useful.
04-19-2018, 01:36 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
You could do stuff like connect a HDMI monitor to simply display your shots on a big screen straight out of camera, or if you use the K-1, run a few metres of USB cable from camera to laptop and run Lightroom and use either the Pentax tethering plugin for Lightroom or buy the Pentax Image Tramsmitter 2 tethering software.

I'd also perhaps re-try all the WiFi tethering options - there are about 3 WiFi apps now for that - Image Sync,as you know, but also PentaxPhotosync and another one (the name of which escapes me atm). WiFi tethering will always be slower than cabled tethering, but it could still be useful.
In this particular instance I'm imagining that much of the shooting I will be tripodded, running cables would be fine.

Have we any reviews or opinions on software working with Pentax (specifically the K-1) in this regard? Can you get a single small 10 inch battery powered HDMI monitor (with stand)?

I have not checked out any of these features yet, I should probably try simply hooking my K-1 to one of my HDMI monitors and see how I go. I guess on the day I could even take a regular sized monitor and run it a/c like all the rest etc.

Thanks for feedback!

---------- Post added 04-19-18 at 07:10 PM ----------

Does the K-1 come with an mini HDMI to HDMI cable? I ask before I hunt in my attic (for hours) for the box and all the cables I just left alone at the time...
04-19-2018, 03:24 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by rawr Quote
You could do stuff like connect a HDMI monitor to simply display your shots on a big screen straight out of camera,
Iʻd be cautious here. If youʻre doing this for your own reviewing and proofing before moving on to the next portrait, then it can be very helpful. In a pro shoot for an ad agency, the art director may insist on constantly monitoring your results (unless you have the clout and respect that it would an insult for them to direct your work).

However, if this is to share with the subjects, which will probably include teachers, staff, and admin, youʻre inviting armchair photographers to critique the results and this can burn up a ton of time as you try to please them. Often we donʻt like the way we look and our own harshest critics.

This is of course different if youʻre set up with a strict time slot per person and want and need for each person to review the poses and to pick one. But this is more for parents, which will mean a web site or emails after the shooting day to pick the preferred pose.

Youʻll be juggling even with a simple set up....so Iʻd keep the tech as simple as possible. The more tech you bring to the equation, the more chances for issues, delays, disappointment.

04-19-2018, 04:01 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
Iʻd be cautious here. If youʻre doing this for your own reviewing and proofing before moving on to the next portrait, then it can be very helpful. In a pro shoot for an ad agency, the art director may insist on constantly monitoring your results (unless you have the clout and respect that it would an insult for them to direct your work).

However, if this is to share with the subjects, which will probably include teachers, staff, and admin, youʻre inviting armchair photographers to critique the results and this can burn up a ton of time as you try to please them. Often we donʻt like the way we look and our own harshest critics.

This is of course different if youʻre set up with a strict time slot per person and want and need for each person to review the poses and to pick one. But this is more for parents, which will mean a web site or emails after the shooting day to pick the preferred pose.

Youʻll be juggling even with a simple set up....so Iʻd keep the tech as simple as possible. The more tech you bring to the equation, the more chances for issues, delays, disappointment.
Thanks for the valid points.

On a school photo day there are no parents, it's just teachers (group only typically) and kids. The intention is purely to have an instant review of the shot taken (in scenarios that work well, such as during the kids portraits under controlled lighting). It would be for my eyes to see only, caring purely for focus, sharpness and DoF stuff etc, just something bigger and better than the LCD screen, something to stop the necessary zooming in and checking on eye focus etc.
As pointed out earlier, the benefit of this is so I can take another shot, either straight away, or recall 'x' back to the studio afterwards etc (if a later review is only possible), rather than pack up, get home, review and then facepalm

I have no idea how the software interface works, what happens when you connect an HDMI cable into the K-1 etc. In a perfect world I would simply like to operate every function from the camera as per usual, take the shot, get a 3 second review splash up on an external display with a higher resolution and larger image for scrutiny, and carry on, that is all. I don't know if this is possible at this stage and what I might need, but I would assume it's a basic 101 demand from photographers but seeing as this is Pentax I'm kinda nervous and worried my expectations are pitched a tad high...
04-19-2018, 09:07 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by BruceBanner Quote
It would be for my eyes to see only, caring purely for focus, sharpness and DoF stuff etc, just something bigger and better than the LCD screen, something to stop the necessary zooming in and checking on eye focus etc.
Yes, not a bad idea IF you were hand holding using AF at f/1.8, but youʻre really going to want to be around f/8 with a tripod at a standard distance for similar head sizes on manual focus. Once you run tests at before the first sitting, it should be locked down.

Iʻve been advising yearbook at a high school with 1700+ students and nothing looks worse or gets more complaints than if head shot sizes are inconsistent. I know uniformity sounds like the death of creativity, but school portraits are expected to be one stage better than ID photo mug shots. There are plenty of other places in the yearbook for environmental portraits or other creative photographic expression.

The micro type D HDMI port on the K-1 when connected to any other HDMI display will work fine, but from your rear camera screen, you should be able to quickly ID the truly important redo which are blinking eyes.

https://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&DEPA=0&Order=BEST...=-1&isNodeId=1

Last edited by Alex645; 04-19-2018 at 11:01 AM. Reason: correction on HDMI port size
04-19-2018, 10:54 AM - 1 Like   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by BruceBanner Quote
Does the K-1 come with an mini HDMI to HDMI cable?
Sadly not.
If you are looking around for a cable that will fit, note that the K-1 has a 'Type D micro' HDMI socket.
04-19-2018, 05:05 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
Yes, not a bad idea IF you were hand holding using AF at f/1.8, but youʻre really going to want to be around f/8 with a tripod at a standard distance for similar head sizes on manual focus. Once you run tests at before the first sitting, it should be locked down.

Iʻve been advising yearbook at a high school with 1700+ students and nothing looks worse or gets more complaints than if head shot sizes are inconsistent. I know uniformity sounds like the death of creativity, but school portraits are expected to be one stage better than ID photo mug shots. There are plenty of other places in the yearbook for environmental portraits or other creative photographic expression.

The micro type D HDMI port on the K-1 when connected to any other HDMI display will work fine, but from your rear camera screen, you should be able to quickly ID the truly important redo which are blinking eyes.

micro hdmi d - Newegg.com
Thanks for that info.

I think you're living in the past however...

I'm well known in the current school I work in for my photography style, I do shoot wide open a lot so there are a certain amount of expectations surrounding this style. Smartphones are producing incredibly good photos nowadays, whilst school photography is doing the same thing it has been doing for the past 20yrs... it needs to do something else now (that smartphones can't) in order to stay alive. Indeed I have seen other friends of mine (with kids in other schools) showing some school photos and the photographer has decided to ditch the backdrop entirely and instead head outside and do some official nice outdoor natural light portraits (with a tree as a backdrop) etc (monochrome even! <gasp!>). And honestly... it's looking better than what our company last produced with a traditional shot. Change is already happening and I think it's down to the smartphone/camera/tech angle.

Doing something that is 'one stage better than ID photo mug shots' is just not going to cut it in this industry, not now and certainly not in the future.
The reason the parents and school staff are seeking a new photographer is because they are unhappy with exactly as you describe, it's 2018 and they don't want to pay $45 for some shots that look no different than what an iphone x might accomplish. The shots simply look staged, flat and 'boring' but at least consistent and traditional.
Many parents don't even care for print anymore, wall space is becoming rare, they consume images on screens now and not so much photobooks. I'm not saying I wouldn't print but I think offering digital only packages is becoming the norm.

As technology progresses and smartphones continue to get better and better I believe we will lose a certain degree of the market. For sure we'll always be required for Weddings and such, but I seriously wonder how many parents out there whom are not seeking family portraits of their family because they already have captured hundreds of images with their own highend smartphones which has filled somewhat of a degree of contentment. Not only are the latest handsets doing fantastic shots, they are easy to take, instant and consumed on vibrant screens, whenever and whereever they want and of course most importantly... easily shared.

So... I would indeed like to explore the idea of a secondary larger high res screen to not simply have an easier time to see if the kid has blinked or not, but actually ensure I have a certain level of focus that is acceptable and in the right place if shooting that little bit more daring than f8.

Time will tell, I'm pretty sure if I just undercut the whole process and still produced the same result the school and parents would be happy if simply paying less for a similar result (or in other words getting better value because I believe the uptake this year was very poor indeed, they are just simply way overpriced).

Back to the HDMI port, I will have a look around in the attic for my original box, does the K-1 come with this type D HDMI cable or....?

EDIT: Thanks rawr, just read your post now.

What happens when connected? A mirror image of what you see on the Live View screen in higher resolution on the panel?
04-19-2018, 08:19 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by BruceBanner Quote
Thanks for that info.

I think you're living in the past however...
Yes, relative to Australia, I am living 20 hours in the past here in Hawaii. Youʻre always a day ahead of me.

I wish you the best with your ideas. I am just trying to give you one perspective from someone that has been yearbooks for over 22 years. Every year we re-examine our success and failures, and build on them. Iʻve seen many photographer and photo studios come and go. Iʻve talked to hundreds of yearbook advisors and know the opinions of years of parents and students and administrators.

Ultimately you have to learn for yourself. But I am eternally grateful from all the advice and wisdom others shared with me when I was starting out that saved me a ton of stress and allowed me to build from their foundation. When the dust settles after one year of wearing the school photographerʻs hat, let us know how it went. Do you think youʻre in it for the long haul, or is this a short term experiment?
04-19-2018, 08:46 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Alex645 Quote
Yes, relative to Australia, I am living 20 hours in the past here in Hawaii. Youʻre always a day ahead of me.

I wish you the best with your ideas. I am just trying to give you one perspective from someone that has been yearbooks for over 22 years. Every year we re-examine our success and failures, and build on them. Iʻve seen many photographer and photo studios come and go. Iʻve talked to hundreds of yearbook advisors and know the opinions of years of parents and students and administrators.

Ultimately you have to learn for yourself. But I am eternally grateful from all the advice and wisdom others shared with me when I was starting out that saved me a ton of stress and allowed me to build from their foundation. When the dust settles after one year of wearing the school photographerʻs hat, let us know how it went. Do you think youʻre in it for the long haul, or is this a short term experiment?
Oh don't get me wrong, I appreciate the responses, thoughts and ideas presented. As with all things in life we absorb the ideas and things we think are worth it and reject those that aren't... and mistakes are made lol.

I believe this is definitely the start of a business direction, a lot of work ahead for the year, websites to be designed, pricing calculated, a means to take payment etc etc. I know an opportunity when it comes along, I believe I can do a good job and from there start 'hitting' other schools in my area and beyond. This opportunity didn't fall out of nowhere tho, I have been snapping and creating a name for myself both within the school and broader community for over a year now, I created this opportunity and will take full advantage of it.

I realise that photography varies immensely, I know of amateurs who shoot better than professionals, I know of wedding photographers who charge $10k and those who charge $4k, and then those even less, and less... etc. I think it's important to slot yourself somewhere where you think your talents meet the price, perhaps even underselling your work so the clients are extremely satisfied and the word of mouth itself pays for more work to follow.

I don't think there would be enough work in a calendar year to make a satisfactory income from doing just one style of photography (not in my 'close' proximity district). It is not uncommon for wedding photographers to also do newborn and family portrait shots too, and perhaps even just those things are still slightly inadequate in terms of overall income.
I don't think at this time I can say no to any work, I need to broaden my experience across a variety of 'genres', and more than likely continue to do a multitude of different photography over the years to come. My income may stem from a combination of Weddings and School Photography primarily, with some landscape work sold and family portraits in amongst.
04-19-2018, 08:59 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by BruceBanner Quote
What happens when connected?
It's just like what you see when using LiveView on-camera, basically.

Initially you see the camera info screen. To see anything more, select Live View on the camera and then you can start shooting. You can also playback images stored on the camera, of course.

Try your camera HDMI output on your TV to see what is possible and how it might look.
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