High school diploma accepting pictures

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by r._a._haentzler, Mar 28, 2010.

  1. I may have the opportunity, to take a picuture of every student being handed their diploma at an evening graduation ceremony outdoors. Around 250 students in the senior class.
    Here is the layout of the situation and I would appreciate your input.
    • Ceremony is on the football field, starts at 8, still have decent light but when the ceremony rolls around, it will be dusk or dark.
    • The stadium is modern so the lights are good for sports, not sure how good for this. FYI--I have shot many good football action photos with out flash, using the high iso capabilities of my 7d, and I always shoot raw.
    • Basically I don't want to slow down the ceremony, and it will be discussed on how much of a turn and pause to look at the camera will be allowed.
    • My equipment--I shoot with a Canon 7D, have some fast glass: 70-200 IS 2.8, 85 1.8, 50 1.8, kit lens 17-55. I do have the canon 580 flash.
    My thoughts / concerns
    • I have a tripod, and can set up where I need to get a nice composition of the student and school board pres handing the diploma
    • no time to change batteries if 250 shots won't last completely
    • I suppose I can get some type of battery booster to wear on my side, not sure what they call it
    • I am assuming the largest print that parents would want to buy would be an 8 x 10
    • I know I don't want to compose to tightly
    • I would like to use the 70-200 if I can work that lens into the set up and be far enough back
    • Off camera flash is not really an option, unless you feel it is absolutely necessary
    • I was considering shooting in Aperture priority, see what f stop gives me a fast enough shutter speed. I know the tripod will help here. My flash synch speed is 200.
    • Certainly red eye is a concern with my on cameral 580 flash, due have a diffuser.
    • Do to my success on that field taking sports pics without flash, I would like to be able to continue with out flash, if possible.
    Anyway, I would appreciate any suggestions and input regarding lens choices, things I need to be aware of, etc etc. I need to pull this off flawlessly.
     
  2. I haven't shot a graduation ceremony with a lot of students before, but I have shot smaller ones--maybe 100 people, and also awards ceremonies. Some of my observations.
    1. You don't have time to change batteries, etc., and you don't have time for any failures of any kind, so my best advice is to have multiple, complete camera kits ready to go, and an assistant. You may want to rotate camera kits. Flash abuse of this kind could be bad, particularly if it was the 580EXII you have, since it has a thermal swtich, etc.
    2. I would not consider going without a flash unless you had plenty of light to shoot without using extreme high ISO, could use a high enough shutter speed to stop any motion, and the light on people's faces was even with existing light. You will also have to change your settings over time as the light changes.
    3. Due to item 2, I would go manual camera settings all the way. I would even consider manual flash settings, given I nail down my exact position and shoot every student in exactly the same way. This kind of shot is not about art, it is about absolute consistency and getting faces shown clearly.
    4. I would get right up on the stage. I think shooting with a long tele does not make sense here. If you are the official photographer, everyone knows that--I would not be shy. Get the best position, nail the settings for it, and shoot for 'good faces'.
    5. Make sure the presenter know exactly what to do, and make sure they know to tell you if they blink.
     
  3. Why is off camera flash not an option?

    External battery packs help the recycle time but are not going to stop you overheating your flash, check out distances and lighting level beforehand, if you able to shoot at low power your speedlight *might* be fine for the job but do some tests.

    The professional thing to do would be to rent a proper strobe that can deal with this kind of situation rather than trying pushing the envelope with a speedlight that may or may not cope on a job entrusted to you.
     
  4. I have taken many graduation ceremonies, indoors and out. Not the easiest to accomplish
    1. Not everyone is going to cooperate. They will not stop, they will not turn, you have to be on your toes. Find a location that is best suited, in my case about 45 degrees to the left of the presenter. The students enter from the left, handed their diploma by the presenter on the right. You have to pick a side where the tassle is not obscuring their face. In the above situation over which I have no control the tassle is indeed on the right side of the face, the side facing me.
    2. The camera battery is not an issue as I use a grip that provides additional battery power. Make sure you have an additional camera with a flash. Or get a grip that provides enough power to last the entire ceremony. Alternatively you could change batteries just before the diplomas are handed out if you know the battery will last 250+ shots.
    3. Flash power (as in battery life) will be an issue. If you use flash you need an external pack. I use a high voltage pack so the internal electronics to convert from low voltage to high voltage does not contribute to the flash heat. Flash overheating has never been an issue.
    4. I have done several in a football stadium, one where I used two AB 800's clamped to the lower hand rail of the bleachers. Radio triggers naturally. Anywhere else and the lights are too far away. Did it only once and never again. Shadows always occurred when a student that just got their diploma walked in front. Even without that shadows were still an issue. An on camera flash avoided the problems although the light was a little flat. You can't control that. Indoors with flash clamped to the walls, and higher up, bounced, this was not an issue. So I only use AC powered flash indoors where I can bounce off the ceiling.
    5. Parents will purchase few, if any, of the graduation pictures. They all have their images from their P&S cameras.
    6. Use manual exposure, moderate DOF so that focus is not as critical. Even then you will suffer a few blown images from flashes from others.
    7. Lights on the field are not an option. Chance of tripping is too high as the students walking do not look at their feet are instead looking up into the stands.
    8. Be prepared for weather. If the weather does not cooperate the ceremony may be moved indoors. Even if outdoors sometimes weather can move in. Happened to me once and I was soaked. I could not take pictures for the last 20 minutes of the ceremony.
    Graduation is about the students receiving their diplomas and the relatives living vicariously through their sons, daughters, grandsons, grandaughters, nieces and nephews getting something that some of them don't have. They are not there to get their pictures taken.
    And yes, I have free roam of the entire area for graduation.
     
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I have shot a few and still regularly do an High School Function each year. (indoors)
    My techniques have not changed that much from film: recently (since about 2003, I think) I have used DSLR. I note your function is outdoors if it were my gig I would use the same technique as indoors – and I would use Flash. The only difference is, I would be cognisant of the short period of time where Flash Fill might become Flash Key if the Ceremony goes after Dark.
    1. Three cameras operational, two with Flash units mounted ready to shoot - two spare Flash units.
    2. Bounce-card Flash.
    3. Situation on stage, Freedom to move. Not that you need that much backwards and forwards movement, just sideways - keeping the SD (Subject Distance) about the same for each shot.
    4. Depending upon how far back you are; 45mm to 85mm lens on a 135 body (Full Frame), shoot half shots, with the “handshake” and “Diploma” in frame. I prefer Vertical format Half Shot. I Prefer a Prime lens.
    5. Zone focus / zone flash, basically F/8 to F/11 and be there with a good DoF.
    6. Overheating Flash is just as much a problem as battery life.
    7. I have mentioned this episode before on other threads . . .
    I think it was the second year I was using DSLR: my 20D froze "Error 99" - I dropped it and began using the second "ready camera" my 5D and it seized after two or thee frames; I dumped it and Mounted the Flash on the spare 30D and swapped the 50mm lens (from the 20D) to the 30D also and then continued.
    The Presenter and Announcer paused slightly for the second failure, maybe we lost about 5 - 10 seconds I don't know for sure . . . and I gave the "Thumbs up" signal to continue.
    If there is an Announcer, you need to have eye contact and rapport with them as they set the pace.
    The Presenter needs to know where to look as their action will have some direction for the Recipient.
    [BTW I did have a fourth camera. My trusty 303b with a 45mm lens (never leave home without it) and yes I did have enough 400ISO colour film, one roll already loaded - had I needed to use that camera I would have needed to direct the Presenter to hold for Film Changes, which I would have directed at appropriate points in time to suit the function, such as Changes in the Award Categories and NOT necessarily when the 36 exposure ended.]
    When we did these events with film only, I did have a Loader . . . I thought with DSLR would be OK flying Solo . . . I am not so sure, but I still do it solo now, and I have carry four DSLRs now, three with Flash units and lenses mounted, ready to shoot .
    The two main Metz Flash Units I use have a big battery, quick release / insert slide, and with six charged batteries and between the two will handle 250 presentations easily, rotating the cameras, which all have battery grips, two camera batteries each.
    I use Canon 580s as my back up Flash Units.
    I am not a fan of remote Flash for these type of presentations as if I have a recalcitrant or obnoxious Student I like my Flash to be moving with me so I can move myself, and am not dependent upon the Student controlling the shadow by where they look or choose not to look. I am not a fan of Brollies & Lighting Stands etc on stage, becasue as sure as eggs, someone will trip on the Stand, oneday ,and if that Flash Fails . . . it takes more than 5 seconds to rebuild .
    Obviously, from the FL of the lenses I mentioned I am working fairly close, I do not know of any other method which maintains the control and rapid communication necessary if there is a major stuff up which I described and also requires minimal sideways movement for the greatest effect should you need to move quickly, for example, to get the best shot possible in the case of an obnoxious Student.
    My discipline at one off events has been predicated on start with the worst case you can imagine and work backwards from there and be comfortable with that. To that end I expect that I always will arrive about 1 hour early, which seems crazy to some, but although I am constantly mentioning I am “running late” that “running late” includes my “emergency time”, which I never mind spending sitting quietly at the venue.
    The last resort Minolta 303b is a "wind-up" camera - I don't even keep the LM battery in it any more.
    These functions have traditionally been a good money spinner for me, and as I now do this remaining gig Pro bono, it is a money spinner for the School.
    I think there are a few major elements which determine if the Print (or File) “sales” are big, or not.
    The first is the type of Ceremony itself - be it more formal or more relaxed; for example if Flash from the Auditorium / Audience is allowed, or not. I think the more formal the Ceremony the more likely the Family will want the Official Photo.
    The second is the perspective the Official Photographer shoots – I think that Close Perspective Half Shots will kill any Available Light shot from the Auditorium Floor that Mum or Dad captures with a 200mm lens or a P&S with Digital Zoom.
    The third is the Elevation from which the Official Photographer shoots, which is especially noticeable if a raised dais or stage is used.
    And lastly the price – really, I think that most Families would spend $10 to $15 (US$) on the 10 x 8 print, or Hi Res file – they do here, but I don’t know your Area and your Client Base or how the Function will be managed and how you will market your product and collect the money.
    WW
     
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Gidday again, R.A.
    I first wrote out the answer below. It is in point form addressing each of yours. I did not post it because when I read it back to myself it kind of read to me as being a bit “snooty”, which it absolutely is not the intent.
    So I re wrote more a dialogue answer, which I posted, above. Ha – then I had a coffee and was thinking maybe you are a Mum or Dad of one of the Students or have some other affiliation with the School or School Community . . . so I feel now that being blunt, and answering each of your concerns is ultimately in your best interests to allow you to ponder a task which, IMO, requires precision to do well and to also warn you of a very easy egg on face situation if the gig is stuffed up.
    Here we go . . .


    “Ceremony is on the football field, starts at 8, still have decent light but when the ceremony rolls around, it will be dusk or dark. The stadium is modern so the lights are good for sports, not sure how good for this. FYI--I have shot many good football action photos with out flash, using the high iso capabilities of my 7d, and I always shoot raw.” USE FLASH
    “Basically I don't want to slow down the ceremony, and it will be discussed on how much of a turn and pause to look at the camera will be allowed.” DISCUSS ALL YOU LIKE that will likely NOT effect what happens. Re read what I wrote about Rapport and Communication
    “My equipment--I shoot with a Canon 7D, have some fast glass: 70-200 IS 2.8, 85 1.8, 50 1.8, kit lens 17-55. I do have the canon 580 flash” I would use the 7D and the 50mmF/1.8 . . . and three other cameras and three other FLASH UNITS.
    “I have a tripod, and can set up where I need to get a nice composition of the student and school board pres handing the diploma” Forget the Tripod.
    “no time to change batteries if 250 shots won't last completely” Likely Correct. A more important question is do you know about how many frames you get out of one battery set on manual at F/8 under stage lights shooting at 15 ft? And then do you know the agenda so you can manage a pause if necessary. And how long does it take you to remove and replace the 4 AA cells, and what pocket are you keeping the new cells in and where are you keeping the spent cells? – systems are vital.
    “I suppose I can get some type of battery booster to wear on my side, not sure what they call it” Battery Pack - if you go that route I suggest two. (Canon CP-E4 Compact Battery Pack)
    “I am assuming the largest print that parents would want to buy would be an 8 x 10”
    Agree. Some additional points already answered in detail.
    “I know I don't want to compose too tightly” I think you are wrong.
    “I would like to use the 70-200 if I can work that lens into the set up and be far enough back” I think you are more wrong.
    “Off camera flash is not really an option, unless you feel it is absolutely necessary” I think it not being an option, is a favour to you

    “I was considering shooting in Aperture priority, see what f stop gives me a fast enough shutter speed. I know the tripod will help here. My flash synch speed is 200.” I think that Av mode and Flash Fill in the (changing) light you describe would OK if you are skilled at that discipline. I think that many Pros would use Manual. There are many threads on Av mode and Canon dedicated Flash units and what they meter, when there is a slight change of scene in the shot. I think you should read those and fully understand the automated functionality of Canon Flash at Av mode.
    “Certainly red eye is a concern with my on cameral 580 flash, due have a diffuser” Bounce card Flash is easier IMO. Up close enough a Diffuser might be OK, but that depends on your Ambient EV, including the Floodlights. Certainly a Diffuser, OUTDOORS, with a 70 to 200 on a 7D wityh not too tight framing, is NOT any option at all.
    “Do to my success on that field taking sports pics without flash, I would like to be able to continue with out flash, if possible.” I consider I have reasonable success with Sports Photos sans Flash, mainly because Flash is prohibited at all Official Swimming Meets – EXCEPT for the Awards Ceremony, when we use Flash – and I use a bounce card and we get in tight – some guys use that new Fong Thingy and get in tight, my mate and I don’t, we still use a Bounce Card . . . though I do have a SofTen thingy and use that for some single shots, sometimes.
    WW
     
  7. Very good advice by all above. Re the tripod--not a good idea for several reasons. First, you simply don't have time to fiddle with camera placement. The presenter and student will not be in exactly the same position each time, so you need to move, not them. And as Raymond said, not everyone is going to remember or cooperate. You have to be able to move as needed, and to even be close enough to stop someone should you need to take a picture again. Another reason a long tele is not a good idea.
    As for flash units and external packs--if you have 580EX II, I would be very careful. The thermal cut off is not a laughing matter. It has stopped me from getting shots before, and while an external pack helps, it does not prevent the cut off. If you have a 580EX, you won't have the cut off problem, but you *might* be overheating your flash. Again--you will need a flash, not one but two or three, even if only for back up. Rotating is a very good idea.
    I doubt red eye would be a problem unless you ARE shooting with tele, from a low position. Again--I'd be right up there on the stage. You can find out what kind of photos the school administrators will allow. I like to be basically right next to the presenter, within talking distance. But some places don't want to stop for even an offical photo, so you need to just muddle through without being able to get the 'looking into the camera' shot. I personally would use a simple flash bracket, so that if I need to do verticals, you don't get the side shadow. I would probably use card bounce or an on camera/flash softbox, or I like my homemade beauty dish for very even light.
     
  8. I've done a fair amount of these a while back, mostly colleges though. I don't recall shooting quite 250, that's a pretty hefty group. Also sometimes the "official photograph" was pre-paid, and we followed the bullitin and only paused and shot one or two quick snaps of those pre-paid. There was usually an assistant to load film and track the graduates, but some I did solo. I was always pretty close up, short-normal lens, never tripod. As far as the flash problem, look into some more pro stuff. I've been using Lumedynes for a very long time, since maybe 1989. They could handle this without any problems, they can handle up to 1200 shots with a big battery, 250-300 on lower power is nothing, they will get a little warm and could be done with a regular battery. Problem is today they are VERY expensive, I don't know if you can rent. For me, I would set up two rigs on brackets and be ready for quick switch if needed, probably not though, just shoot through. I would just make sure my camera batteries were charged and ready to go, the Lumedynes will way outlast the camera batteries. Enjoy your Pomp and Circumstances BTW, older Lumedynes are manual and need a PC connector, newer ones have dedicated modules I know nothing about ;)
     
  9. We always shoot with a white-lightning, diffused bulb (no umbrella), to the side of the stage where they are walking to. We pre-sale all prints, but they can re-order. We don't use a tri-pod, but again, we are at a relatively fixed distance, but able to move a few steps here and there. I wouldn't dream of shooting a graducation with a shoe-mount flash, simply because of recycle time and overheating. I would recommend a white-lighting (or other high-end strobe) and a plug-in. I think you would be surprised about the accessability of an outlet even on a football field. I doubly-wouldn't-dream of doing it without a flash.
     
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I envy you having that lighting latitude, Jen.
    All our Mains electrical equipment requires tagging and is also designated for use type. We can't use indoor designated mains gear outdoors, that means under marquees, etc also. I wouldn't be able to get / would void my location insurance otherwise. The location insurance goes up, if we use Mains gear, not by that much $ when we are inside, though. Different rules different places.

    WW
     
  11. I use on camera flash because getting power to "studio" strobes is always a hassle on a football field. Running cords over the grass is not allowed so that limits the locations of the lights. I tried the railings on the bleachers, not good. One creatin even unplugged one of the lights and stole a radio which I later found on the ground.
    Using a high voltage pack which provides 300 volts to the flash has suited me well. There is no voltage conversion in the flash which is a fairly significant source of heat inside any flash unit. By moving the conversion outside of the flash heat issues are significantly reduced.
    The external pack also allows for sub second recycle time when not using full power. I am also able to get over 800 flashes with a single battery pack. I do not carry any batteries in the flash.
    A lot will depend on the venue and how it is set up. What works for me may (will) not work for others.
    My biggest problem with outdoors is that the ceremony starts at 7:30 and the sun sets behind the speakers platform. People in the stands have to shield their eyes during the first 45 minutes of the ceremony because of the sun. That really adds to the problems.
     

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