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02-24-2009, 08:22 AM   #1
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Advice on Photo Project - Daughter's 1st Communion

Ok, so this is my first real "photography project" for my daughter's communion. It's not until May 3rd so I have some time to think about it, gather information, prepare equipment, etc.

Typically on these events I'm directly involved and therefore I just give some family member our P&S and ask them to document the event as best as possible. But this time I'll have no formal role and be free to take photographs.

Here's the situation:
- it will be in a church. Typically there is a lot of light, many windows and good orientation to the sun during spring afternoons, the light comes in some high windows and bounces off the angled ceiling to make some really nice light down where we sit. There are several stained glass windows lining the lower walls but they're far away from the alter to not cause colour shadows (if that makes sense). If it's a grey overcast day then the church lighting is typically dim, not great, but not really dark (not like a night club) at least the lighting is consistent

- it's a large church, which means I have no idea where I will be sitting or where my daughter will be positioned, either during the actual first communion or during the bulk of the mass. I could be 10 feet away or 60 feet away from her. I don't even know if the Priest will allow photographers to get up and move towards the altar during the communion.

Here's my available equipment:
- K20D
- DA*16-55
- Kit Lenses 18-55 & 50-200
- AF540FGZ flash
- tripod (but I think this will not be convenient to use in a church where I will have to move around)
- monopod (this is a definite option)

Here's my initial thoughts:
- I'd like to get there early to get a good seat, but so will every other parent and I won't be able to get in any earlier than about 1 hour prior (due to an earlier mass getting out). I will go as early as I can to try and sit near the front on the end of a row for ease of in and out

- I'm leaning towards the DA*16-50 with the monopod and no flash. This would be the most convenient/portable setup, however, this would mean I'd need to be relatively close

- my other thought is the 50-200 with the AF540FGZ, but I'm not sure how the flash would work at different distances, potentially at the 200mm end of the lens.

I'm nervous from a couple of perspectives. If I show up with this "professional" looking system, my family and friends are going to be expecting some fantastic photography. Less pressure would be to just bring the P&S and do my best - but I don't want to give in like that. Maybe the kit 18-55 with the in body flash would also be a relatively "low obtrusiveness" option and I won't be carting around a 10lb setup...

The other perspective is that I don't want to be a nuisance to any other parents (with or without cameras). This is a spiritual ceremony and I'm going to try and enjoy the ceremony as well as photograph it. I don't want to become so embroiled in taking the photos that I don't pay attention to my daughter and disturb the other parents celebration of their kids achievement. We're very proud of her and making this step into the Catholic Faith is very important to our family.

Any thoughts/advice?

02-24-2009, 09:53 AM   #2
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Well, one thing you can do is check things out with the church staff or priest that'll be running things, ..oftentimes flash photography will be frowned upon, but not always, last time I covered anything in a church... I would bring that flash anyway, and learn how to use it for fill, (can go nice outside) even if you don't get the chance or need to use it indoors. the fact is most nice churches are *designed* to have interesting light, though, and you have a reasonably-fast lens and can get away with bumping your ISO up, so don't be in too much of a hurry to throw your own light from the pews or wherever.

Actually, being up front isn't as important as getting on the *aisle* if possible: you can shoot as the kids file in, (Here, there's likely to be little flashes popping off all over, anyway, btw, but try and get an idea of your framing and any tricky light in advance. ) If you're allowed to move around, being more toward the back is useful, you can slip out of that seat and go back around toward the right, (Most priests are going to be right-handed, if that's not even a requirement, so you'll have less trouble about awkward hand angles from there. )

I'd consider manually setting a daylight white balance for your JPegs, ...to preserve any mood you might get off the aforementioned interesting light qualities. You can shoot RAW+jpeg and have files to correct later if anything comes up terrible looking (I'd usually use daylight film when I shot weddings and had no problems in nice churches that way.)
02-24-2009, 11:27 AM   #3
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Excellent suggestions, thanks.

Luckily I do have intimate knowledge of the layout, although I haven't been to a Communion ceremony in this church with this priest yet. But I can definitely talk to him ahead of time to confirm the "flash policy".
02-24-2009, 12:58 PM   #4
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Here's another thought, should I consider renting a DA*50-135?

That's definitely my next purchase (but gotta pay for the communion first), and although it would really stand out among all the point and shooters I know I could get some distance with it and not be part of the crowd, would give me a little more mobility around the church.

Just going through all my options.

02-24-2009, 01:58 PM   #5
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My ideas - your mileage may vary considerably (assuming photography is allowed during the mass):

- Forget the P&S camera. Give it to a family member to take photos outside the church (the kids walking in, ....).

- No tripod, no monopod, unless you want to take photos with available light (or flash is not allowed).

- Use the - DA*16-55 with AF540FGZ flash. Use the 50-200 only when you know you have time to switch back to the DA*16-55 in needed. It is easier to take a photo wide and crop later.

- For photos with flash, leave the ISO at 400. Without flash, 800 or even higher.

- Take RAW and worry about adjusting white balance later.

- Have a family member videotaping the event. In general, camcorder (without the silly light) is less intrusive that a camera with flash.

- Above all, be happy. Your daughter is still blessed even there are no photos.

Outside notes on P-TTL with AF540FGZ flash: I learned not to trust P-TTL. Unless when I need wireless or highspeed flash, I use my AF540FGZ in A-mode. P-TTL gets fooled very easy.
02-24-2009, 02:20 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by SOldBear Quote
- Above all, be happy. Your daughter is still blessed even there are no photos.
Thanks. bottom line, good photos or not, I'm committed to enjoy the event and celebration with my little girl - although I'm a little nervous about seeing her in a white dress walking down the aisle, ah a Father's fears.....

Thanks.
02-24-2009, 02:55 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Leaf Fan Quote
although I'm a little nervous about seeing her in a white dress walking down the aisle, ah a Father's fears.....

Thanks.

Real fear? After the ceremony she comes up to you and asks for the car keys and money for a down payment on a flat.
02-24-2009, 03:09 PM   #8
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Having gone through this a few years back, I'll give my two cents - for what it's worth.
I got there early - to get a seat on the aisle, and to get close (but not too close) to the front. Since the rest of the pew was empty, when other started to file in, instead of sccoting down I stood up to let them get by me. Once they saw the camera, I think all understood what I was doing. While I'm sure every church/priest is different, there didn't appear to be any "restrictions" on people with cameras. There were plenty - many with flashes.
Our church has the typical 457 foot ceilings so I've found the flash is really only good for very close range. Since it sounds like you will probably have pretty good natural light, I'm sure you'll be Ok. I chose my position as I wanted to be in the "right" spot to get them coming down the aisle - in BOTH directions - (hence the not too close comment above), and still be close enough to the front to be able to zoom in on action at the alter. This strategy seemed to work pretty well. I did notice some of the parents taking the opposite approach. They got in the pew, and slid all the way to the outside. Then as the ceremony was progressing some of them would get up and stand next to the massive pillars that are at the ends of some of the aisles to get shots. The pillars help to shield them from some of the congregation, so they didn't seem too intrusive on the ceremony.

For the most part this event is attended by some regular mass-goers, but mostly it seems it's the relatives of the kids that make up a lot of the audience. I would think the general expectation is that there will be LOTS of proud/happy relatives that wish to have picture taking be part of the event.

Good luck.....

Tim

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