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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 12:59 pm 
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!

What kit?
All I had to choose from was my trusty D80, SB800 flash, 50mm f1.8 and my 18-200mm VR.

**Lenses: 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. :(

**Flash?: 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.

**DAY 1**

Settings and why?

RAW: For obvious reasons.
Flash WB: 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.
Continuous AF: 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.

The Goal
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.

The problems.

**The Models: 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 :D ). 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.

**Lighting: 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.

**Lense: 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?

**Flash: 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.


**DAY 2**

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! :D 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.

**Conclusion**
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.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 1:35 pm 
Wonderful insight into the world of fashion photography TelexStar! Thanks for sharing.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 5:30 pm 
TelexStar,

Fantastic post. A lot of it rings true to any photographer without the right equipment with pressure to deliver. Continuous AF will be affected by more your lens than the body. The 18-200mm is an AF-S so it shouldn't be using the internal focusing motor of the D80. The 70-200 2.8 would have helped vastly with the AF and success rate - in low light, it hunts around much less. You can also position yourself so that range wise, you can get a full length photo at the end of the runway at 120-150mm, which gives you reach to have close-up head and shoulders at 200 and full lengths further down the runway at 70mm. Did you try the 50 1.8 on the second night at all? Working on your feet isn't necessarily a bad thing if you're the only photographer. It lacks the convenience of a zoom, but it does teach you on thinking about body positioning to get a composition. As a wiser photographer told me once when I asked him for a recommendation on a wider lens: "Easy. You just take one step back."

Catwalk shoots aren't terribly easy without experience and the right equipment. I hope you've caught some gems over the two nights. I'll also let you know how I get on with the shows I'll be covering in March.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 11:29 pm 
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Hi telexstar - great post!

It's also interesting to push your equipment like this - tracking moving subjects in low light is a challenge for any system and seperates the enthusiast kit from the pro kit. As you suspect and Photoj has confirmed, this is an area where an optically fast lens can prove invaluable. But as you say, they're pricey.

Did you find the contunous shooting was fast enough at 3fps? I've not done much fashion shooting, but whenever I shoot action, it's amazing the differecne between 3 and 5fps...

But given the choice between upgrading the body to a 5fps model or getting an f2.8 lens - I'd go for the latter!


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 10:36 am 
Photoj wrote:
Did you try the 50 1.8 on the second night at all? Working on your feet isn't necessarily a bad thing if you're the only photographer. It lacks the convenience of a zoom, but it does teach you on thinking about body positioning to get a composition. As a wiser photographer told me once when I asked him for a recommendation on a wider lens: "Easy. You just take one step back."


I tried it in the warm-up before the show but with the lighting situation being what it was, I would still had to have used the flash. I completely agree on your point of prime lenses teaching you composition but the seating layout (about a metre from the runway) meant I just would’ve really wound up the punters as well. It’s probably a personal inhibition I’ve got to overcome but I didn’t want to be worrying about the crowd AND getting the shots I wanted. Looking back, I probably missed an opportunity to really put the 50mm through it’s paces in low light, which is a shame.

I look forward to hearing how you get on with your events!


Gordon Laing wrote:
Did you find the contunous shooting was fast enough at 3fps? I've not done much fashion shooting, but whenever I shoot action, it's amazing the differecne between 3 and 5fps...

But given the choice between upgrading the body to a 5fps model or getting an f2.8 lens - I'd go for the latter!


The reliance on the flash made continuous shooting a bit redundant so I couldn’t test this aspect. The flash wouldn’t recycle anywhere near fast enough so I just mentally marked three points on the runway where I would try and get a shot of the model. If the venue was decently lit (and with a fast lenses on the end) then continuous shooting would have definitely been useful – especially as you don’t know how the models have been choreographed. On a number of times a shot was ruined because of an unexpected flip of the head here or a turn there. Like you, I think I'd go for a f2.8 lens over a higher fps body though.

Anyway, here are some of the results…

The only edits made so far have been crops and red eye. I have some lightening left to do. :)

Day 1
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3195/228 ... 54df_o.jpg
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3119/228 ... d7ef_o.jpg
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2369/228 ... 7075_o.jpg
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3112/228 ... f774_o.jpg


Day 2
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3119/228 ... c54a_o.jpg
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3061/228 ... 6496_o.jpg
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2234/228 ... a818_o.jpg
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2076/228 ... 01d3_o.jpg


Last edited by TelexStar on Sun Feb 24, 2008 3:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 1:09 pm 
Sorry TelexStar, but we can't view your images as you've set them to private on Flickr.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 3:27 pm 
So I have. I've edited the links now.

Thanks!


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 4:25 pm 
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Looks like you did a really good job, though I must say the day 2 images looked a lot better and I definitely think it was the lighting. Maybe next time, if you can use more than one flash at multiple angles and grant it I'm sure you don't want light stands but what about lying one on the side of the run way facing up at a lower power and to get some really neat effects you could use CTO and CTB gels.

All-in-all great job!

Jake

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 5:19 pm 
TelexStar,

Some very good results given the conditions. I disagree with Jake's comment that the second night results look better because of the lighting. The sample of the second night's photos were better in main because you gave more distance between the model and the background, which reduces the shadowing. The lighting actually looks about the same, though having an off-camera flash helped as well. A small critique would be that the faces on the models are too dark, and would have benefitted with some lighting - this is where two flashes come in handy - one off camera to reduce shadows from behind, and a low power one on-camera to brighten the subject.

I hope you found the challenge enjoyable, and you did do a great job.


Last edited by Photoj on Sun Feb 24, 2008 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 9:46 pm 
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Well TelexStar: I can really imagine what a challenge this was!
As I have never done such an assignment, please take my comments just as that: uninformed ramblings :wink:
1. I would have upped the ISO at least to 800 or even 1600 on the D80
2. I would've taken the zoom too!
3. How did you solve the problem of where to direct the flash from that remote location?
4. The ceiling is nasty. Would have preferred to shoot more horizontal.
5. I would have tried aperture prio and fixed the aperture to fully open. As you need all the light you can get in such a situation. But in the end, I think your settings also produced almost always wide open apertures. But a 1/60 sync speed could have led to a more balanced lighting.
6. My experience with continuous focus on the D80/18-200mm combo is: forget it! I would have used normal focus.

As I said, no idea of what I'm talking about :lol:

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Last edited by Thomas on Mon Feb 25, 2008 8:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 9:36 am 
Photoj wrote:
A small critique would be that the faces on the models are too dark, and would have benefitted with some lighting - this is where two flashes come in handy - one off camera to reduce shadows from behind, and a low power one on-camera to brighten the subject.

I hope you found the challenge enjoyable, and you did do a great job.


Agreed. With the SB800 off-camera I only had the built in flash to provide fill from the front. It should have been enough given the distance I was from the models at their 'end of runway' pose though, so I don’t know what happened. Thinking back, I had the metering set to centre weighted and perhaps this caused the built-in flash to fire with less power on account of the SB800 lighting up the background…? Who knows. Perhaps spot metering might have been better.

Thomas wrote:
Well TelexStar: I can really imagine what a challenge this was!
As I have never done such an assignment, please take my comments just as that: uninformed ramblings :wink:
All comments are welcome! :)

Quote:
1. I would have upped the ISO at least to 800 or even 1600 on the D80

Well I had Auto ISO enabled so the D80 could use ISO 800 if it needed it. With the base ISO set at 640 on the second day (400 on the first day), I ensured that the camera wouldn’t ever use an ISO below that. I'm really not a big fan of ISO 1600, even on the D80.

Quote:
3. How did you solve the problem of where to direct the flash from that remote location?

It was a case of setting it up, taking a few test shots while the models were practicing their walks, and then leaving it. The flash was positioned in quite a broad location on the far left so as to provide general fill. You can see where the flash is bouncing off some peoples’ heads in photo 3 on the 2nd day for an idea of where it was.

Quote:
5. I would have tried aperture prio and fixed the aperture to fully open. As you need all the light you can get in such a situation. But in the end, I think your settings also produced almost always wide open apertures. But a 1/60 sync speed could have led to a more balanced lighting.


1/60 sec would have been way too slow for capturing the models walking. I needed as fast a shutter as I could get, otherwise I just would’ve ended up with 4gb worth of blurry, un-usable photos with slightly better balanced lighting. :)

Thanks for the comments guys!


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2008 3:06 am 
TelexStar - I've finally gone through one fashion show this week and I now can pop up a few examples. I took the D200 with the 70-200 and then the D80 with the 10-20 Sigma rather than my prime which was in my bag (the 10-20, 50 and 70-200 are pretty much my staple assignment lenses, though sometimes I carry 7-9 lenses). I didn't use the prime because of a lack of room to move. Fighting with another 20+ photographers, I rotated around the runway between sets to get different angles and explore the poor lighting (the venue couldn't set up spotlighting, so it was all ambient lighting). So unusually I had to settle for my flashgun, diffuser, bounce card and wooed a handy side-kick from the audience to hold a 22" white reflector.

Here are some examples (with minor post-processing) from the D80 and 10-20 Sigma:

EDIT: I've removed the image.

1/60, f9, 20mm, ISO 800, flash fired (+1.0)

EDIT: I've removed the image.

1/60, f9, 20mm, ISO 800, flash fired (+1.0) - the girl on the right obviously knew which photographer to look at!

EDIT: I've removed the image.

1/60, f5.6, 20mm, ISO 640, flash fired (+2.0)

I find my composition rather dull when doing these shoots - I stick to two rules - get the face sharp, make them look tall - which accounts for the majority of my shots at a diagonal. I didn't want to fight with other photographers at the end of the runway, so I haven't got many shots from that position. Comments welcome, and I hope you don't mind me saddle-backing your thread.

EDIT - I should mention that I used one flashgun which was on-camera. I should have had a second to help me (I hadn't planned on using on, but conditions forced me to). I think I just about got by with the bounce card and reflector.


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