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09-22-2009, 06:21 AM   #1
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Graduation photography advice needed

First off, judgment day is on October 10th. I've accepted the opportunity to be the official photographer of the graduates belonging to the student body of technological and natural sciences of 2009 (does that sound about right?) at the University of Uppsala.
I will do the group photo's of about 200 graduates, but I'm still gathering info on if they want all two hundred in the same photo or smaller groups.
Information gathering is one of my queries in this thread. I don't even know yet whether the photo's will take place indoors or outdoors, or both.
I will also photograph the ceremony (indoor auditorium) and be the dinner photographer at the dinner later that day.

To put it bluntly, I'm scared s***less. I think I might be a bit over my head or maybe it's just the next step in my hobby and I should relax.
I consider myself to be an OK photographer and I know my camera well, as well as most basic photography techniques and unwritten rules, but pointers are always welcome.

My gear consists of my K10D, the DA18-55 (first edition) and an assortment of filters for it, the Tamron 70-300 4-5.6, the 50mm A lens F2 (yeah, the manual one), one 360 flash with diffuser and a number of gels, a 160 flash (old, simple and weak but it works when you need that little extra light source) a light stand with a soft-box for my flash and two Cactus V4 triggers.
I will also have access to two studio strobes with one soft-box and one umbrella, these can be triggered by cable (or Cactus trigger connected to the cable) or optically. I think that's about everything. Also, I will bring a laptop so as to see the pictures on a larger screen right away.

Now, finally. HELP!
I have done one group photo so far and it turned out pretty lousy because I couldn't place the second flash above the group so the shadows protrude on the wall behind them.
It is mainly the group photo's that I'm worried about. I don't know how to approach the group and coordinate them in a good way...
Just as those school photo's that were taken way back when, should the tallest people always be in the back?
Comments on group photography are especially welcome.

During the ceremony, how much should I be running around and photographing? Will it be annoying if I use a soft-box in front of the podium, or should I avoid flash altogether?

I'm the least worried about the dinner because I have done a lot of club and party photography and I figure it will be quite the same, however tips and tricks are welcome.

This post became a bit long but I wanted to be as specific as possible.
Many thanks to anyone who comments on this topic and I hope it will be of use to other people as well.

09-28-2009, 07:42 PM   #2
Ash
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Well, you accepted the job, now accept the challenge!

I've done a graduation gig before, and it's a run-of-the-mill setup that as long as it's all done right at the start should be reasonably streamline.

Shooting on the move will be harder as lighting/background conditions change, though you may find it hard without flash. The 360 may frustrate you that it cannot be swivelled for bouncing off the ceiling in the portrait orientation, but work with what you have.

For formal sittings, if you have a standard backdrop plus powered strobes, set them up the way you want (I had two - one on each side of the camera set for equal light intensity and metered for f/8-11), then switch to M mode, hook up the sync cables and away you go.

There are others who have more experience than I would on this, so take my advice with half a grain of salt.
Hope it works out for you.
09-29-2009, 04:06 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by StarDust Quote
First off, judgment day is on October 10th. I've accepted the opportunity to be the official photographer of the graduates belonging to the student body of technological and natural sciences of 2009 (does that sound about right?) at the University of Uppsala.
Congrats on the gig - but yikes, October 10 is right around the corner.


QuoteQuote:
I will do the group photo's of about 200 graduates, but I'm still gathering info on if they want all two hundred in the same photo or smaller groups.
You can get 'em all in the same photo - BUT it will take planning and might take a wider lens than you have.


QuoteQuote:
Information gathering is one of my queries in this thread. I don't even know yet whether the photo's will take place indoors or outdoors, or both.
Would be good to know a.s.a.p. so you'll know what kinds of practicing to do.


QuoteQuote:
I will also photograph the ceremony (indoor auditorium) and be the dinner photographer at the dinner later that day.
Get a lot of sleep the night before.


QuoteQuote:
To put it bluntly, I'm scared s***less. I think I might be a bit over my head or maybe it's just the next step in my hobby and I should relax.
Or both. This is perfectly natural.


QuoteQuote:
I consider myself to be an OK photographer and I know my camera well, as well as most basic photography techniques and unwritten rules, but pointers are always welcome.
You THINK you know the camera. Trust me, you'll learn a lot about what you don't know in the next two weeks. With luck, you'll learn MOST of it before the 10th of October.


QuoteQuote:
My gear consists of my K10D, the DA18-55 (first edition) and an assortment of filters for it, the Tamron 70-300 4-5.6, the 50mm A lens F2 (yeah, the manual one), one 360 flash with diffuser and a number of gels, a 160 flash (old, simple and weak but it works when you need that little extra light source) a light stand with a soft-box for my flash and two Cactus V4 triggers.
Well, this isn't the best collection of lenses. I don't use filters and can't think of any reason you'd need 'em here. SHoot raw, auto-white balance, and try to do a good job on your exposures and you'll be okay in that department.

I have to run in a minute so I have to be brief.

Are you going to take a photo of each graduate as he or she walks across the stage and gets a diploma from the president or dean or provost? You need to figure out where you're going to stand. This can be a very difficult decision. If the faculty/staff member is willing, you may be able to get them to pose for 1 second for you to take ONE shot. Or else you just get the handshake + handoff of the diploma. If they'll let you stand on the stage 8 ft behind the faculty/staff person, you can shoot over their shoulder, get the happy face of the graduate and the handshake and have the audience in the background. Shoot wide-open, which won't be very wide with your lenses. If you can, use your flash.



QuoteQuote:
I will also have access to two studio strobes with one soft-box and one umbrella, these can be triggered by cable (or Cactus trigger connected to the cable) or optically. I think that's about everything. Also, I will bring a laptop so as to see the pictures on a larger screen right away.
I think the laptop will be a waste of effort and a distraction. You aren't going to have time to fuss with it, at least I've never had time at the graduations, First Communions, Confirmations, weddings and other ceremonies that I've shot. You are going to be busy and you are going to be moving around. You're not going to want to worry about all that clap-trap.




QuoteQuote:
Now, finally. HELP!
I have done one group photo so far and it turned out pretty lousy because I couldn't place the second flash above the group so the shadows protrude on the wall behind them. It is mainly the group photo's that I'm worried about. I don't know how to approach the group and coordinate them in a good way...
The group photos will be difficult and I urge you to do anything and everything you can to try to practice this - a lot - prior to the day. Take a couple of friends (fifty would be better, but whatever you can get) and go to the hall where you will actually shoot and practice. Stand the friends apart from one another so they represent the distribution of a large group. Fix your flash and shoot - and then see what you get.

IN spite of all of my experience shooting school graduations, etc., my first wedding was a big challenge. I did rather well everywhere EXCEPT on the formals. I hadn't practiced enough. I played with my flash a lot prior to the wedding, but you don't need conceptual knowledge now, you need something closer to a recipe. You need to Know What You Are Going to Do. And you need to be confident that it's going to work because you can't keep the attention of a group of people for very long.


QuoteQuote:
During the ceremony, how much should I be running around and photographing? Will it be annoying if I use a soft-box in front of the podium, or should I avoid flash altogether?
Got to run now but will try to look back here later.

Will
10-01-2009, 12:39 AM   #4
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Was almost giving up on my thread for a while. Thanks for the detailed answers!

QuoteOriginally posted by Ash Quote
Shooting on the move will be harder as lighting/background conditions change, though you may find it hard without flash. The 360 may frustrate you that it cannot be swivelled for bouncing off the ceiling in the portrait orientation, but work with what you have.
I've used the 360 in my hand from time to time and it works pretty well. That way I can control the flash even more than if it were on the camera itself.

QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
You can get 'em all in the same photo - BUT it will take planning and might take a wider lens than you have.
Space is not a problem, I'm working outdoors and in big auditoriums and entrances to big buildings so I can back up pretty far.


I got some info on the group photography. If weather is good it will take place outside on the stairs to the university building. Here's a picture:

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Unfortunately it's on a hill so it's sloping downward and if I back up way too far it might be an awkward angle. The above picture was taken at 18 mm.

If the weather is bad, this is where the shoot will take place:

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This photo is taken from the hallway on the floor above. Below me I can back up at least another 3 m until a couple of palisades start blocking the view but at the time I was doing some recon I had the crazy idea that I could take the picture from above with the group (say 20 people) looking up at me and smiling while shaped as a half circle. Bad idea?
The text says: To think free is great, but to think correct is greater.
Oh yeah, and the gray area at the bottom of the picture is actually the railing, not the floor. The railing is covering a small flight of stairs perhaps a meter in height.


If possible, all 152 people will be shot together and then smaller groups will be shot as well but it's not necessary. That's going to take some time to line them up...

QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Well, this isn't the best collection of lenses. I don't use filters and can't think of any reason you'd need 'em here.
I know, but they work and these people would be thrilled if I came with a p&s. I have plans on aquiring an LBA in the future. ;D
I was thinking of a particular filter for the dinner actually. I have a CS filter that my girlfriends aunt found in their garage. It's fun to play with and could light up jewelry very nicely.

QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Are you going to take a photo of each graduate as he or she walks across the stage and gets a diploma from the president or dean or provost? You need to figure out where you're going to stand.
Yes, this is part of the ceremony, and yes I will need to find a good place. Again, there is a balcony I could use and would probably be on it alone so I could take pictures from different angles.
There will be a practice ceremony just after the group shots (I will by the way have 2.5 hours of group shots, should be enough) so I will try and ask how much freedom of movement I have, flash and so on.

QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
you may be able to get them to pose for 1 second for you to take ONE shot.
The posing is a good idea! I'll ask!

QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
I think the laptop will be a waste of effort and a distraction.
The laptop was solely for the group shots to see that the photo is in focus, no-one is blinking and so on.
Still think it's a bad idea?

QuoteOriginally posted by WMBP Quote
Take a couple of friends (fifty would be better, but whatever you can get) and go to the hall where you will actually shoot and practice.
I'm reading alot on forums and getting some practice but the friends idea is pretty good. I'll try to do something like that. At the moment I have alot of free-time so practice is not a a problem


Again, thanks for the replies guys!

10-01-2009, 05:44 PM   #5
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Don't try to get the whole scene. You can grab one of those shots as you can. Get down in it. Usually, front row left, for people receiving diplomas, then scoot out, back around, and get right on the aisle for people leaving.

Depends who's wanting the photos of course. If it's the institution, you can mix things up. Maybe try scoping out the location again with a friend to go through the motions as though they were one of the graduates. It'll be the same on the day, just with more people.
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