In addition to the brief foray into food photography
that I had the opportunity of trying for a local restaurant, I was also asked to photograph a local 2-night fashion show that my wife was putting on for a charity at the school she works for. I thought I’d write up my experience so apologies for the long post.
Firstly, I have to say that this was probably the most challenging shoot under pressure that I’ve under taken and what
a learning experience it was!
All I had to choose from was my trusty D80, SB800 flash, 50mm f1.8 and my 18-200mm VR.
I thought about using the 50mm f1.8 as I had reasonable control over my position in relation to the runway (at the front, slightly to the right) but the fixed range proved too limiting. I’d need to run around trying to get the shots I wanted and I’d be getting in the way of the audience so I opted for the 18-200mm with its’ f3.5-5.6 aperture.
In professional fashion shoots it’s not normal for photographers to use flash guns for two reasons; a) the runway and surrounds are usually decently lit to compliment skin tones and garments. b) firing a flash gun will annoy the other photographers around you who aren’t using flash guns themselves. Seeing as I was the only photographer and I couldn’t afford a nice lens like the one Photoj has just reviewed HERE
, I had to use the flash.
I knew that the show would be repeated on the second day so I was relatively free to try things out and hopefully perfect things for the second day.
Settings and why?
For obvious reasons.
My SB800 would override most of the tungsten lights.
Manual AF point select:
Nearly everything was in portrait with the AF selector set for their faces.
Again, obvious with models walking towards you all the time.
Image review OFF:
This was mainly so I could quickly change the AF point selector at a moments notice. Sometimes models would come on two at a time and I needed to be able to adapt to get them both in frame and focused.
Shutter Priority @ 200/sec:
Set to the max flash sync speed.
Base ISO @ 400 with auto ISO on:
This was to try and conserve flash power and reduce recycle times.
My aim was to get a posed full length shot of the model/s as they entered the runway. Another two (if I can) as they’re walking down. And a final posed shot at the end. Occasionally, I’d get a shot of them walking back if the outfit looked good from the back.
For 17-18 year olds with no experience, a lot of them did a fantastic job. With my wife running the show, I had some input into how long I wanted the models to wait in the pose (3 seconds) when they entered the runway and again at the end but due to nerves, a lot of them just forgot. Some of them looked like they were trying to catch a bus as they marched on down while others simply looked terrified (bless ‘em
). Some of the girls, however, just walked and looked great! I suppose there’s really very little you, as a photographer, can control in this respect but it’s still something to potentially contend with.
School lighting often leaves something to be desired. It was a bit dark (not too bad but not great), some of the lights would fluctuate and all in all it was a real challenge to work with.
As much as I love my D80 and the 18-200mm VR, they are not really built for a fashion show environment. Even with Continuous auto-focus I found that the lense/camera were struggling to keep the models in focus as they walked towards me. Given that these weren’t professional models, some of them would walk a bit fast and this made my job even harder. I’m not sure if the Continuous AF problems are down to the D80 or the lense. Any ideas?
On the first day I had the flash mounted on camera. Angling the flash in any position other
than straight on would result in a full flash burst and a full 3 second (approx) recycle time. Not good! The ceiling was just too high for any kind of bounce and the dark blue curtains on the side were not my friends either.
With the flash straight on however resulted in nasty shadows/dark background, as you’d expect, regardless of any diffuser I had attached.
The set up was the same as Day 1 except I tried seeing if I could position my flash off-camera, somewhere safe where it wouldn’t get blocked or knocked over.
With no tripod for the flash, I was fortunate enough to have a handy shelf on the left side of the hall where I could sit the flash to provide fill for the background and a nicer light on the models. A very kind student who was running the video for the event had one of his vid cams set up right near my flash unit and offered to provide interference to anyone thinking about standing in front of my flash!
This was very much a perk of the location and not something I could’ve relied on elsewhere. I was lucky!
The lighting proved much more favourable this time round.
I can safely say that I now know why some of these f2.8 lenses cost the amount that they do. I imagine they would be indispensable at events like this.
By far and away my biggest problem was the Continuous AF (which I still had issues with on day 2) but I imagine that this was either down to the D80, the lense or just the lack of favourable light, I’m not sure. I would’ve loved to try out an f2.8 lense to see how this would’ve faired. Would the focusing have been quicker on something like a 70-200mm f2.8 over the 18-200mm?
I haven’t had a chance to go through all the photos yet to see how good my success rate was. I know there are some sharp and others that aren’t so we’ll see. I’ll post some results when I’ve gone through them this weekend and would love to get some feedback from anyone who might have done something similar.