Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Prom Shoot with the A900 at the venue

My daughter asked if I could shoot the "Official Prom Photos" at her high school prom. I blogged on the studio shoot a couple days back. This blog is on the shoot at the venue.
Everyone thinks their venue is the most beautiful place. It's the same whether it's a high school prom, a wedding, or a family photo shoot. They see the trees in the backyard as full and green, while in a photo they look like dying twigs.

My daughter said her prom would be along the lake, with trees and an anchor for the background and a grand piano inside if we had to do the photos there. Sounds good so far.

About two days before the event my wife went to take a look. She saw an old coffee stained piano, broken sidewalks to the lake where the grass was mud after weeks of rain and a rusty old anchor that should be hauled away.
I expected to do the photos indoors so brought along the studio lights, a background and four Sony cameras. I would use the A900 and A850 cameras with the 135mm Zeiss and the 24-70mm Zeiss lenses. My wife would shoot back up with the A33 and a 16-105 lens. The fourth camera was a spare but I put the 16mm fisheye on it just as a body cap and to have some fun.

I got to the venue about an hour before the first limo arrived. I had a chance to check out all the suggested locations but each had a problem. The lawn would suck up the girls high heels and I'd be shooting right into the sun. The piano area was now the ticket sales area and a sign-in table. I considered setting up on the dance floor but then my genius came through.

I went outside right next to the main door. This area was out of the wind, in full shade, and everyone would have to come through this door. I wouldn't have to entice anyone to come get their photo taken out on the lawn.... I was going to be right in the action and everyone would be right there.
I attached the canvas to the wall, set the white balance to full shade, or shady house some call it, and used my hand held meter for exposure.

This turned out to be a dream location. Everyone got their photo done, the crowd stuck around and watched which created more buzz, then fresh limos would arrive with more energy. The light colour never changed the entire shoot. I metered every couple with the hand held meter to keep the readings with-in 1/3 of a stop. There was no harsh shadows and no wind. This could have been my best idea of the year.

I think the key to the shoot was the white balance. These colours look so natural, the contrast is very complementary and the light shows off the dresses and the faces. Plus no deep shadows and no blown out white dresses. If I had left the white balance on Auto White Balance each photo would have been slightly different colour, but by using "Open Shade" the colour was consistent.

Since I didn't use flash I didn't have to worry about subject to main light distances and the subtle changes in exposure. Another advantage that removed some of the stress.

Since we were right at the main door and all the guests were around, the clowns of the school were able to ham it up in front of their friends which was alot of fun for everyone, and no real effort for me.

Soft even lighting made everyone look great and the dress colours looked natural. These shots were all done with the A900 or A850. They might be cropped but that's it, I don't own Photoshop and the shots were all done as jpegs at 12mg.

At the end of the night we had shot 892 images between the four cameras. I was surprised how much I liked shooting with the A900 camera and the 135 lens. I went out of my way to use this combo even though it was a bit long. I have to admit the full frame camera was a joy to use and I finished off the night wondering why I don't buy one myself.... I liked it that much.

Rob Skeoch

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