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Old 05-11-2009, 16:02   #1 (permalink)
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HELP!!! Formal Photography

Hi,

A friend is having his formal soon and his mother asked me to take photo's for them at the Pre Drinks with family and close friends. The only shots I have ever taken of people are candid shots when I am out on the sporting feild.

So basically I am asking for a bit of advice from people who have shot formals. Things like how the person stood in the photo, how wide you went, did you use flash and what essentially looked good and what looked bad.

The photos will be taken out door in the early afternoon and I will be using the following gear:
-Nikon D200
-Nikkor 18-55mm Af-s
-Nikkor 50mm Af-d
-Nikkor 80-200mm Af-d
-Nikon SB-900 and SB-800

Any help or guidance would be much appreciated

Thanks in advance,
Dan

(See a thread of mine in the photo's for fun if you need to see my ability to generally operate a camera)
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Old 05-11-2009, 18:10   #2 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

Now that rather depends on what a "formal" is
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Old 05-11-2009, 19:41   #3 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

um ok you just beat me to asking the same thing........................ at least i dont have to look daft on my own now1`
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Old 05-11-2009, 21:49   #4 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

its an Aussie prom and maybe even some
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Old 06-11-2009, 06:53   #5 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

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Originally Posted by stepheno View Post
Now that rather depends on what a "formal" is
Oh yeah sorry about that. Formal is the aussie equivelant of an american prom. They do the usual get dressed up in a suit, good dress etc.
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Old 06-11-2009, 08:22   #6 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

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Originally Posted by dan_fmx View Post
So basically I am asking for a bit of advice from people who have shot formals. Things like how the person stood in the photo, how wide you went, did you use flash and what essentially looked good and what looked bad.
I've not shot a formal (or our adopted equivalent, a prom) but it's no different from a press type photoshoot (which I have shot). What you use all depends on light and setting but a bit of diffused fill-in flash can work well.

Think about the background - better to have an imposing building than the car park (unless it's the limo shot!) or trees and bushes.
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Old 06-11-2009, 08:44   #7 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

agree with Mark, its easy to forget about the background when u are so caught up with your subject.........Dont know if the stretch limos are in fashion over there, they are here,,,, they make a nice background with the occupants ranged along the side if there is not a lot else to use
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Old 06-11-2009, 09:52   #8 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

Thanks for the tips. All the photo's won't be taken at the formal venue, they will be taken at pre drinks at there house. The house is on a mountain and as a nice backdrop to use so thats not to much of a worry. The day light should be reasonably strong as the time of the shoot will be an hour or two before sun down. Just wasn't to sure wether to add flash into the equation or not and wehter the flash should be on or off camera.
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Old 06-11-2009, 10:43   #9 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

The principals will be exactly the same as for wedding photography. You should be using flash to balance any shadows and add the catch lights in the eyes and off camera is always better. If you do a search of the forum using 'wedding photography' you should get quite a few results which should be helpful
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Old 06-11-2009, 12:44   #10 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

I was asked to do something similar, but with a paparazzi style, earlier this year. As all the advice above. I also took along a second flash and small brolly which I used to get a few more formal poses indoors. ie Main flash and fill in with on camera gun.
Used 70-200 for most so that I could get shots from a little further back but also used my wife's camera with 17-85. Second body was handy to avoid lens swapping.

Depends what the punters want.

Roger

PS. I saw your thread and photos. Wow was my comment.
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Old 06-11-2009, 14:05   #11 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

Just shoot a set of candids...maybe set a few funnies up and I am sure all will be fine! a word of warning as you will be working...dont get join in and get drunk!
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Old 06-11-2009, 15:14   #12 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

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Just shoot a set of candids...maybe set a few funnies up and I am sure all will be fine!
If your being hired by the parents then I'm sure they'll be expecting a few traditional 'posed' photos, but I'd definately 2nd Des's suggestion of shooting a good few candids after you've got the posed shots out of the way.

If in doubt talk to the parents again to find out what they're expecting... and good luck!
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Old 07-11-2009, 07:55   #13 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

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Originally Posted by dan_fmx View Post
Just wasn't to sure wether to add flash into the equation or not and wehter the flash should be on or off camera.
Yes, take the flash.
Your shooting "Dusk" shots, and although I am not familiar with the particular form of light your "hour before sundown" presents, but if your inside, you will need the flash at some point....
Outside, you may be getting some long shadows in sunlight, so the flash may be useful.
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Old 07-11-2009, 08:35   #14 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

Dan...
Just had a look through the Motorbike shoot...
Bloody good work there, but can I bring the one of two bikes in mid air in for discussion here..
If this is the "Late in the day" type light, long shadows, etc, that you will be doing your party shots in, you can see there where the problems may lie...
I have no experience on Aussie light, but I believe you see a LOT more of the sun than we do in this little island of ours.
Whereas the main subject is picked out in excellent detail, the background has been lost in darkness...
High contrast between sunlight and shadows, may be your main problem...
Try to keep clear of such areas when planning your shots, and make sure you are using spot metering for light purposes, as anything that averages will try to balance out between dark shadows and light foreground, either burning out the white bits, or completely loosing the shadows, or both....

Dont get too close to the subject, and watch the ground....
Here is one my Dad taught me, he showed me a complete set of shots, and every one of them, had the shadow of the photographer in the foreground.....
They were OK for what he was doing (Police forensic work of accident scene) but would have been a spoiler if it had been of a group of people such as wedding/party/etc..???...
Also, keeping the sun to your back works well with some shots, but when its people posing, you get a row of people squinting into the sun...
(Also, if people are wearing sunglasses, try to get them to take them off...)

If its a subject that you have never done before, formal people shots, the best advice I can give is "Practise"....
Can you hire a crash-test-dummy, or little sister/brother type stand in, and go take a few practise shots, (at the venue) at approx the same time of day as the party will be held in?...
This gives you invaluable knowledge of how shots will turn out, and getting them back home to view on a BIG screen is much better than the little screen you get on the back of the camera, and you have time to study the results in detail, to know what works best and where....
Planning a "That would look good" shot in the field, and then finding out that the "green thing" in the background turns out to be a compost bin?...

My Uncle, who is "old school" in this, always takes the Tripod, lines up the shot, and uses a remote trigger, taking a step back from the camera before he shoots, that way he can see things you may miss in the background, like someones kid about to kick a muddy football into shot....

Anyone else got any good advice on any of that?...
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Old 07-11-2009, 15:20   #15 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

I have shot the odd Wedding and Deb Ball in the past; hopefully I can provide a little advice?

How about this:

1). I would try to keep a lot of the shots informal (almost candid) depending upon the location of the shots.

If the family and friends are having pre dinner drinks etc outside before going to the Formal, take photos with a longer lens and use a shallow / narrow Depth of Field (f4 - f5.6 ish) as this should make the background go soft - unless of course you have your subjects too close to the background.

The longer lens will allow you to take photos without ‘posing’ to many shots and you will have a lot better opportunity to move around.

On occasions, you may need to use fill flash to provide better lighting to the face, however try to ratio the amount of fill so as not to over expose the shot. Remember, here in Australia the sun can be a friend or an enemy to photography – depending on the time of day the photos are taken.

You can always move people around if for some reason the background is not suitable to the mood of the shot, or; if you are having problems with the quality of the light.

If you are shooting indoors….

If it is not possible to take the shot by balancing the ambient light and flash light, I would simply shoot it at about f8 – f11 at the recommended shutter speed for your particular camera – it may also be an idea to use your 80 – 200mm lens. Alternatively, you may have to boost your ISO settings and compensate with a little noise.

Here are a few idea for some shots – I will base this information from my wedding and Deb experiences as I feel that a School formal may have a simular pattern…

1). You could take a photo of the Young Lady about to get ready for the nite out.
2). Take a shot of the girl after she is dressed, perhaps talking with her mother (full length and close up).
3). Take a shot of the girl with her Father (full length and close up).
4). Take a shot of the girl with both of her parents (full length and close up).
5). Take a shot of the girl with her family (full length and close up). Note: Close up shot only if possible.
6) . Take a shot of the girl with friends (full length and close up).
7). Take candid shots of the girl talking / drinking with friends and family (mostly close up and some full length).
8). Take photos of the girl leaving the home and getting into the vehicle (full length and close up) – if possible? NOTE: Don’t forget to take a few good photos of the dress.
9). Take a shot of the girl by herself in the vehicle.

Then, take a simular style of shots for the Boy….

When arriving at the Formal.

Try this:

1). Take a few shots of the Boy and Girl in the vehicle (full length and close up).
2). If they are arriving in a Limmo, take a few shots of them poking their heads out of the sun roof, standing in front of the vehicle etc – after the vehicle has stopped of course.
3). Take a few fun shots of the boy and girl with friends at the Formal.
4). Take some candid shots before the event starts – you may need flash or a higher ISO setting (be aware of the amount of noise).
5). Once the proceedings start, take shots of the Boy and Girl being formally received / presented.
6). Take shots of the boy and girl after the Formal Proceedings (full length and close up).
7). Take shots of the girl and boy with their parents (individually) and then as a couple with the parents.
8). Take shots of the boy and girl celebrating with family and friends.
9). You could take a few shots of the boy and girl leaving the event.

You will need a holiday after all of this….

Cheers
Dean .
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Old 08-11-2009, 13:04   #16 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

Wow! Thanks for all the advice and infomation you guys have provided. This is a great push in the right direction. I mite go out to their house this week and have a good look around and try a few practice shots. Also one last question, would you recomend leaving the 80-200mm lens on for all shots or should I just use the longer lens for the Candid's and my 50mm f1.8 for the full length pose shots.
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Old 08-11-2009, 16:22   #17 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

When I was photographing weddings with my Hasselblad a few years ago, the lens that would stay on my camera for at least 90% of the time was my 150mm lens. The other lenses that I would occasionally use were my 40mm, 80mm and 350mm lenses – depending on the amount of available space and the effect that I was after.

Note: If I was taking photographs of a bride and groom together in a park, I would almost always rely on the 150mm lens, taking either the full length shots first and then repositioning for the close up shots, or doing it the other way... Further note: Unfortunately, I can not remember the comparison of a Hasselblad 150mm lens to the 35mm lens sizes, however; these lenses were fantastic.

If I was you and I had enough room to get a little distance between me and the subject then I would take the full length shots with the 80 -200mm lens... Using one lens will allow you more room to move around and take more photographs.

The decision to use your 80 – 200mm lens will obviously depends on the amount of available space to work in (I'm talking about the formal Family shots that are set up), and the number of people in the shot - if you have (say) five or more people then you are probably better to change lenses. The angle of the available light (the sun) may also affect your decision as to which lens to use. Make sure that you have a good look at the location at about the same time that you will be taking the shots a day or two before…

Some photographers will probably tell you that the 50mm lens is the best for portrait photography and they are probably right as the structure of the face is more true to form (wide angle lenses distort facial features), however; I think that you should be able to get good shots using the 80 - 200mm lens. Don’t forget spare batteries, memory cards, a lens hood, tripod, flash, the correct white balance and I would take a torch (I think some people call it a flash light) and remember to enjoy the experience.

Hopefully this will help?

Cheers
Dean.
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Old 11-11-2009, 09:46   #18 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

Quote:
Originally Posted by clickherephotographytips View Post
When I was photographing weddings with my Hasselblad a few years ago, the lens that would stay on my camera for at least 90% of the time was my 150mm lens. The other lenses that I would occasionally use were my 40mm, 80mm and 350mm lenses – depending on the amount of available space and the effect that I was after.

Note: If I was taking photographs of a bride and groom together in a park, I would almost always rely on the 150mm lens, taking either the full length shots first and then repositioning for the close up shots, or doing it the other way... Further note: Unfortunately, I can not remember the comparison of a Hasselblad 150mm lens to the 35mm lens sizes, however; these lenses were fantastic.

If I was you and I had enough room to get a little distance between me and the subject then I would take the full length shots with the 80 -200mm lens... Using one lens will allow you more room to move around and take more photographs.

The decision to use your 80 – 200mm lens will obviously depends on the amount of available space to work in (I'm talking about the formal Family shots that are set up), and the number of people in the shot - if you have (say) five or more people then you are probably better to change lenses. The angle of the available light (the sun) may also affect your decision as to which lens to use. Make sure that you have a good look at the location at about the same time that you will be taking the shots a day or two before…

Some photographers will probably tell you that the 50mm lens is the best for portrait photography and they are probably right as the structure of the face is more true to form (wide angle lenses distort facial features), however; I think that you should be able to get good shots using the 80 - 200mm lens. Don’t forget spare batteries, memory cards, a lens hood, tripod, flash, the correct white balance and I would take a torch (I think some people call it a flash light) and remember to enjoy the experience.

Hopefully this will help?

Cheers
Dean.
Thank you for this and a big thanks to eveyrone else who has helped. However, if i may ask one more question which may sound silly. But what word does everyone use when getting everyone to smile for the photo, i.e. Cheese! or Monekys! or something like that. That last bit of help would be great.

Thanks,
Dan
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Old 11-11-2009, 10:57   #19 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

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But what word does everyone use when getting everyone to smile for the photo, i.e. Cheese! or Monekys! or something like that. That last bit of help would be great.
I know someone who, when she does photocalls for the press, always uses "T*ts and teeth everyone" - but since she's the one of the group it goes over well and no one's offended (and the 'togs appreciate the help in relaxing the subjects and achieves the result in two ways as everyone smiles and then says it!)
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Old 12-11-2009, 13:34   #20 (permalink)
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Re: HELP!!! Formal Photography

I dont actually use a word as I tell everyone that i need then to smile (and not blink) on the count of three... (click).

This does a few things for me:

1). Firstly, I can tell people what / why I am trying to achieve a particular shot.
2). Secondly, it prepares the people for the shot.
3). Thirdly (and hopefully) it will prevent people squinting their eyes or blinking.
4). Finally, I used to save a lot of film using a tripod, cable release when taking this style of shot...

NOTE: Ignore point four if shooting digital.

Also, if the majority of your shots will be candid you can probably ignore almost all of the advice above. Just enjoy taking photos from different angles etc .

Cheers
Dean .

Cheers
dean.
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