Problem Solving and Workflow

Alright, I have the aforementioned technical problem solving routine running, I am working on my rapport with the group, I am now all setup and ready to start shooting so there is one last thing that I need to start doing before I snap away, and that is posing. Posing is one of those things that can really make or break a photo, or at least be the difference between a good photograph and a great photograph. It is also, at least for me, one of the hardest things to practice since it’s not like I can dry run it in the garage like I do with lighting setups, so it’s good to spend some time really thinking, researching, and knowing what to do prior to meeting with your subjects. Fortunately for me I found the CreativeLive series with Lindsay Adler, Posing 101, and spent a considerable amount of time building that skill. It’s amazing what you can learn from that class, how many posing mistakes you’ve been making, and how easy it is to fix them once you recognize your errors. I highly recommend that you invest the time in watching her class and reviewing all of the materials she provides with it. Anyway, back to the business at hand. I need to get a group photograph and my group had a very specific goal and look they wanted to get that was along the more “traditional pose” lines. So I want to knock this one out immediately and then start having some fun and going for some more interesting images. Here’s a sample of the first pictures we took. The kids started off pretty well but began to get the “dental exam” smile, so I thought this would be a good time to have some fun with them. I brought a pack of mustaches and doled them out to the kids and thought, what the heck, and gave them to everyone. We had some fun with them and as I had hoped, did get the kids back on track, although I’m pretty sure the family thinks I’m insane now.

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With the required group shots in the can, we move over to a different area while I scout out the next place we’re going to shoot. I know we’re going to end on the beach, but currently the sun is reflecting directly onto the water and I want to let it set before I try to tackle that one. I decide to take a break and let the kiddos play which gives me a good opportunity to get some images of them on the railing that is currently being backlit by the setting sun. I really like getting backlit images where the sun is behind my subjects and I pop light into the front of my subjects to keep them from becoming a silhouette, sort of like a light sandwich. The kids are way too dynamic for me to add a speedlight this time, and although an assistant with a reflector could track them, I didn’t have anyone qualified for the task. I also didn’t want them to really notice that they were my subjects if I could avoid it so I could get a series of natural and candid images. To solve the problem of the kids from becoming silhouettes against the setting sun, I set my exposure to capture their faces, and that will let the sunlight simply blow out which, at least in this context, I’m alight with. I do try to change my angle to the sun so I’m not shooting directly into it to help compress the exposure a bit.

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After a few minutes the jig is up and they see that they’re back in my crosshairs so I get a few more mildly posed images of them together trying to get them engaged in my silly dialog with them, trying to keep them from clamming up and forcing their smiles. Of all of my exposures from the shoot, this one proves to be the toughest series to capture correctly and the setting sun keeps the proper exposure moving at a pretty rapid rate. One of the things that I love about my Fujifilm X-E2 mirrorless camera is that I have the electronic viewfinder to help me nail the exposure. I set the camera to display each image I shoot for half of a second so I know if I’m going too far off of the reservation.

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I get a few more images of them together and individually before we finally lose the sun behind the hills on the other side of the river. I move the crew down the walkway on to the sand at the water’s edge and begin to setup the lighting for the next series of group shots. My plan, or goal image if you will, was to shoot the group with the blue sky behind them and the ambient exposure being under exposed by a stop or two to darken it down while using a speedlight shooting into an umbrella again to properly expose my subjects. My problem was trying to balance the ambient light with the flash. Even though the sun had just set, it’s light was sill too bright to underexpose the background while keeping the shutter speed from going above my camera’s maximum sync speed of 180th of a second. I just couldn’t get the look I wanted here and even if I waited for the sun light to fade down to the level I needed, I still had another problem that I didn’t initially spot; those dang power lines. I’m sure I could have pulled them out in post, but that does require lots of time, especially when you have a lot of them to edit. I begin to review my options to solve these problems. As stated earlier, I could wait it out to allow for the lighting ratio that is desired, but I don’t want to burn the time in the hopes that I’ll have the image that I need to realize my goal image. If this series of images was going to be the perfect shot and/or I didn’t have any better options I would just wait and fill the time with building my rapport with the group. I could bust out a Neutral Density filter that would reduce the overall lighting to a point that would allow me to introduce more cowbell, er, speedlight output to achieve the lighting ratio I desired. Not a bad idea, but I know this series isn’t going to be end all be all of the series so I deiced to just punt and turn my attention to the kids who were once again playing along the large boulders on the beach. He’s an example of the images that I was getting from this series. I tried rotating them/myself to avoid the distracting power lines from stabbing their way through the background, but the background just gets worse and the lighting power level was getting uneven as well. Punt!

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