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 Post subject: Possible Job
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 9:43 am 
Hi All,

Just a couple of quick questions for anyone that has taken on a job before.

I have the chance to do a shoot at my daughters' (both of them) twice yearly dance and acting performance show. I will not be paid to take the photographs, instead after taking the shots I will make up several contact sheets and the parents get to see if they would like to buy any and they then pay me direct. Last year the photographer was charging £13 each for 6x4 prints and I was thinking I would do it for a little under half that - for many reasons not least as I am completely new to this. I understand that although many parents complained about the price and the quality of the pictures at this price (hence why he is not coming back this year) he still sold several hundred images - there are over 180 kids taking part.

Anyway I will have access to 3 full shows, backstage, changing rooms (when advised that the girls are all dressed) and the corridors where the next acts wait to go on stage, plus the full dress rehearsal and a couple of non dress rehearsals.

My question is basically any advise please? I know the lighting will be fairly dark and there is a no flash policy, so I am thinking I may take nearly all my "stage shots" at the dress rehearsal where my flash will be allowed and do more candid work in the corridors etc during the shows (hopefully I should get some nice emotional images then). Any shots I do take of the show I assume would be best done with my fastest lens (the 1.8 50mm) but until I get in and see the stage I am not sure if this will get me close enough to the action, any advise on this as well would be much appreciated.

I will be buying a few new things for the shoot, more compact flash cards are definitely on the list, is there anything else you can think of that I might overlook?

If I get this right and the parents like the images and price it could lead to me being the resident photographer for the stage school, across the area they do about 6 different shows a year I believe.

I will be going to the theatre to take some test shots and get a feel for the all the areas in the next couple of days and the show is not until June so I have some prep time - I will do lots of reading and get heaps of practice in, anyone have good book recommendations for this line of photography?

All help greatly received - thanks in advance.

A very nervous but extremely excited

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:10 am 
Tread carefully with this one. Do seek permission (and get this documented) from the school and the parent-teacher association (PTA) to cover the event. The school should then inform the parents of the children who are performing that their child may be captured by camera, and that prints will be made available after the show.

To cover an event happily, you will need more than the 50 prime as moving with your feet might do for the stage, but when it comes to backstage where there is less room, moving with feet just won't do. I have a fast mid-zoom to cover this, and a fast short telephoto on two bodies to reduce the need to swap lenses. Fast lenses will be essential if you're going to be relying just on available light.

To have a rough idea of what I bring to cover a medium sized event, look here.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:32 am 
Hi Ed,

Thanks for the reply mate.

It's not a school event as such, it's a Stage School and the acting classes and dance classes are all combined into a show. The kids come from all around the area to take lessons on a Saturday and Sunday from the organisers and are all from different "educational schools".

All the parents are informed via the class organisers that there will be photographs taken and that they will be available for viewing and if they wish purchasing for a set period after the production (normally 3 months or so I am told).

But I was wondering should I take model release forms and ask all the parents to sign them , this would need to be done through the class organisers as obviously it would be a logistical nightmare to obtain them all over the course of the shows.

Lastly, I am considering buying the 2.8 L 70-200 just for the show, as I am fairly confident the profits from the job will get close to paying for it from knowing how many images were sold at previous shows. Is this advisable? I know it's a lot of money but I can offset it against my business and as I say I seriously believe that the profits will get very close to paying for it anyway, the pictures my wife purchased at the last event are so poor I actually thought she had taken them with our p&s Fuji F10 as she gets backstage access because she is a chaperone.

I don't really want to buy a new body but was considering maybe a Ring Flash or upgrading to the 580EX for the work in the corridors (flash is only forbidden in the theatre itself everywhere else is fine) and Steve-Exeter has offered to come along and be backup photographer which will give me some additional security should the worst happen to my camera.

I am seeing the show producers tonight and hoping to get confirmation of whether they want me to do the job or not (I'm told it's pretty much in the bag if I want to do it), so I should know for sure in 8 hours or so :!:

Again thanks for any help / tips you can offer.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:08 pm 
You're welcome.

With regards to release forms, I'd be skipping on this - if you have permission from the school and the parents have not pulled their children out of the performance because of the photography, I don't see the need to have so many forms. What you should do though is if you're planning to build a portfolio and have some images that you think are suitable, get in touch with the parents of the child(ren) in that image and ask them to agree to a release. Otherwise if it's private sale as you're planning to do, then it shouldn't be much of a problem without a release. You've been given tacit consent.

The 70-200 2.8 USM - will this be the non-IS edition? IS is a feature worth having, but before you make a huge investment perhaps you can consider hiring a lens for the event and see how it goes. After all you should be able to recoup the cost of the rental and if you find you don't like event photography, you haven't made an investment into a lens that could be overkill for general use.

For flash, a ring flash isn't terribly useful; it's an overused/over-rated means of lighting from my perspective, and natural light is best. Of course in a theatre that will not be the case, so you will need to consider a flashgun. On camera flash isn't the most flattering light possible, so again you may want to consider an off-camera attachment if you're planning to do this longer term.

Having a second photographer is handy, and I do try to work with another if I can. I'm covering an event tonight and my secondary has pulled out, so it's just me. Sharing the pressure can make things easier.

If it's for 8 hours, do take a look at my event bag list in the link I attached earlier - the water and snacks in the bag will help. Comfy shoes are a must, and if you haven't upgraded your camera straps, the Op-tech range will make carrying your camera far more comfortable than the generic manufacturer straps that come with the bodies.

Let me know if you need specific advice regarding event photography.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:30 pm 
Hi Ed,

Thanks again for your time mate it is much appreciated.

I took a look at your list and have made a couple of notes.

The Lens I would buy if I invested in it would be the IS edition I can get it for £1050 from a supplier I use a fair amount (maybe even a bit cheaper as I do spend a fair amount with them and occasionally get some discount), but there is no Canon cash back on it. I will give the idea of renting it some thought though as it obviously is a big investment, although if it helps me get the continued rights to photograph future events it will be money well spent.

I have the EX430 flash although I must admit I did not research before buying it and the EX580 seems to be far, far superior so I am not sure whether to chance the 430 for this one event and invest in an off camera attachment for it instead (which I believe would be suitable for the 580 should I upgrade later).

Any advise on how best to use my time would be greatly appreciated, what should I be planning or rather how do you plan for events, and as I have the luxury of 3 full, near identical shows should I invest some of the time in the first one trying to identify decent opportunities in the later shows or just keep shooting through all 3? (obviously the dress rehearsal would be ideal for this but I want to take some shots through that anyway so I can use the flash a bit). Anything you think will help a first timer lol I really am excited but already when I think about it I get nervous as well... Having Steve there will definitely help and I will be asking for permission to have a 2nd photographer there when I speak with the organisers this evening.


 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:19 pm 
I'm not a Canonite, but from my experiences with their equipment, the 430EX isn't as bad as you make it sound. Of course the 580EX would be a step up, the 430EX is suitable when starting off with event photography. Plus as you've mentioned, the flash won't be playing a major role here.

As for planning for events, three generic things to consider in general:

The venue, the subject and the lighting.

Once you know the three well, you can plan the equipment. Lighting is key, so if you know it's going to be dark, then fast lenses and upping the ISO will be necessary. Knowing the venue will help you plan the best viewspots for photos, and similarly knowing the subject (here, the show performance) will help immensely where you can position and time yourself to get the best image of a certain act.

The way a photographer subsequently plans is down to personal preference, but these are the three generic things to keep in mind. Going to a dress rehearsal will be beneficial and will get the performers more comfortable with being photographed as well. Interact with them when they're not on stage and see if they inspire ideas for you (e.g. if you don't know the show, ask them what their favourite part is - perhaps that would make a good image opportunity...) Etc.

Again, generic thoughts; I'm sure you've already thought up things to plan, but do PM me if you need some specific things answered. It's good to know you're excited and nervous, because for some, making photography a living will kill the buzz; it's why I will refuse to move it into a full-time thing.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 8:03 pm 
Thanks Ed, I may well be in touch in the next couple of days :)

Spoke to the main lady this evening and she has confirmed I have the photographers position for the shoot, although we only had chance to speak for a couple of minutes as she was running a class so I will be speaking to her in more detail tomorrow on the phone. So I got the Gig YAY! Now I'm REALLY nervous lol

I've got to take some group shots on the 11th May for the main cover of the program and some portrait shots for the inside images, so this will be a good warm up and I will get to meet a fairly large number (if not all) of the students, which will give me chance to try out some of your suggestions Ed, like asking about the favourite parts of the show etc.

Oh well I will keep you all informed of how it goes! :)

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 8:50 am 
Well yesterdays non dress rehearsal (as it eventually turned out) has been and gone, and it was a disaster - well not totally but here's what happened:

1) The stage was completely unlit as the theatre company charge them to use the main lights so I learnt nothing with regards the lighting that will be used on the night.

2) The lighting that was in use, was so bad that the actual shot I went to take (group shot for the back page of the Programme) was not really possible inside, although having said that as I was so nervous I forgot to bump the ISO up and may have actually been able to get the shot had I done so.

3) I suggested we take the shot outside which was agreed (in the meantime I had realised my mistake about the ISO and bumped it up to 800 and was taking some reasonable test shots and making notes), about an hour or so later we went outside for the shot and found the best place to take it, it was a narrow wall with a fairly good background (a bit too narrow to get all the group in front of though :( ), the sun was very high and bright and like a complete idiot I forgot to put my ISO back down (I had 3 minutes to organise the group and take the shot as they were paying for the Theatre by the quarter hour and I really felt nervous about capturing the shot, I checked the histogram to ensure I got a reasonable image to work with - or at least hoped to get at least one).

4) I ended up working for hours on the background as the shot I managed to salvage had a Blue commercial bin in the background right, and the edge of the wall with a distracting window background left - it really was the best place to take the shot though and with the way they wanted the shot to look I couldn't think of another way to compose it in the short time frame I had to work with.

5) I was asked to get the image prepared for today so they can get it to the publishers for tomorrow! I had no idea it was such a tight deadline and was literally asked this as I was leaving.

6) It turns out there is practically nowhere for me to stand other than the central isle that leads up to all the seats, the seating goes all the way to the walls, so I am going back through the week to see about positioning myself as best I can behind the curtains to see if that will work, over the 3 shows I should be able to get enough variety to cover myself.

Upshot of all this is that I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED MYSELF, learned more about taking images in that short 3 hours than I ever thought possible, have some great notes and new knowledge for future similar situations. But I can definitely recommend to anyone thinking of taking on a job for the first time to go and have a good chat with the organisers and do everything you can to get a good look at the place you will be shooting before the actual day...

Image as it was after cropping:

First option:

Second Option:

In hindsight I wish I had cropped the arm of the girl on the right and bought the edge of the wall in so it balanced the image more and also removed the drainpipe, but it's too late now as I don't have time to put it right - have far too much work for my business to do today. But I am fairly happy with the pic and it will be on a page no larger than A5 so with any luck will look ok without too much grain :oops:

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:10 am 
Mark you could "extend" that background so to speak, instead of having to crop it...that way you wouldn't loose so much of their arms so to speak-

As when it comes to the framing you choose i think that the 1st option is the better one, but the kids maybe would like to see the "music" symbols in the shot. I just think its a tad to distracting. Could it be possible to make that "VIBE 2008" a tad smaller and the same goes for "the edge" it just seems to take up all the space from such a good looking group photo.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:18 am 
Hi Alex, Thanks for the feedback mate.

Unfortunately the girl on the left actually has her arm cropped in the original image (I was sure I had got it in the frame but I guess not in the heat of the moment).

The Second option is actually using their company logo which is why I gave them the option of using that but now you mention it I agree it's a bit on the large size. I have sent them the images now as I knew today would be extremely busy, but I might try and scale them down a bit and resend them. I have just heard back from them and they are really happy with them.

Hi Mark,

Thank you so much for doing the photos so quickly!!! We think they're great and will be a fab addition to the programme, I don't think they need any changes at all! Please let me know what you would like to be credited as in the programme (don't know if you have a business name or anything!) Huge thanks once again. See you in a couple of weeks. If you have any further queries don't hesitate to contact us.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:21 am 
Exciting stuff Mark. :)

I'd go for the 'first option' shot. I know all about forgetting the iso button haha. :?

Just as well your DSLR produces very decent results at iso 800 ey. As a rule I always reset my iso to 100 whenever I switch off my camera after using higher iso's.

Let us know what the payout was if you don't mind. I'm always keen to hear what 'the rate is' i.e what people get from an event.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:24 am 
No problem mate,

if you wanna send that photo over its a quick fix. I could strech the background and mask out the arm back in without any problem. I have this great masking tool

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:38 am 
Thanks Greg:

Payout is 0 for this shot, but I get to be the only official photographer and freedom of movement within the event (I am considering taking my strobes in and setting up in one of the rooms that will be spare and taking some decent portraits with the kids in costume - talking to a few of the mums they have all said this sounds great and they would definitely be interested in paying for shots taken like this), after the show I will make up contact sheets and get to sell the images to the parents and all proceeds are mine (although I will probably make a donation to the show organisers if the outcome is favourable). From past shows I understand that several hundred images are purchased and I have to be honest the last lot were rubbish and he was charging £13 each for a 6x4 print.

I will be going to ALL 3 shows, plus the dress rehearsal and I am aiming to get at least 2 good shots of every child at the event, I am hoping to do the prints for around £5.50 each I am not sure whether to get a decent A3 printer and do the prints myself on quality paper or take them to a printer and see if I can bag a decent price on a quantity order. But either way I am hoping that the profits will at least cover the f4 70-200 IS L lens I am ordering today :)


Thanks for the offer mate, but to be honest I think I will leave it now as I have submitted the images to them I don't really want to send them another lot, thinking about it I don't know how good that would look.

By the way I forgot to say that only about 35% of the kids turned up for this rehearsal, a lot of the mums had said at the Saturday class that they were going to the coast as the weather was nice :(

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 9:48 am 
I thought you said you were going for the F2 IS L 70-200?

I reckon you'd probably save yourself a lot of time and money by just getting the prints done by someone else.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2008 10:00 am 
Greg, Yes initially I was going to go for the f2.8 but looking at the lighting in the theatre now with no spots on and the results I was getting at f7.1 at ~50mm at ISO800 I am fairly confident that the results will be really good using the f4 lens (this lens has f4 across the focal range), also the fact that the f2.8 lens is twice the weight I really don't think it would get very much use at all outside of any event work I might get.

I just hope I don't live to regret the choice :?

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