Most Versatile Prime (Pentax 645/Split 70mm) For School, Dance, & Event Photography Plus Other Questions

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by karl_borowski, Jan 9, 2007.

  1. Hello. I'm trying to get into the event picture business for '07. I've purchased some long roll Lucht long-
    roll cameras for a song, and I'd like to go with a prime instead of the recommended 80-160mm zoom for
    the Pentax 645 lens mount. Not only is the lens quite expensive (still over $700 used), but I don't like
    using zooms, especially in the controlled shooting environment of event photography. I have no problem
    picking up the camera and tripod and moving it back and forth, but I am worried about getting distortion.
    I know that, in 35mm terms, a 50mm is considered too wide for portraiture, because as you get close
    enough to fill the frame, you get distortion on the face due to the close distance heightening the closeness
    of the nose and detracting from the ears and hairline of the subject's face. Anyway, is the same true with
    an 75mm in Split 70? I could opt for a 120mm, but I am worried that might be TOO long were I to be
    taking pictures with big groups.

    Advice is appreciated as I am new to this. I could shoot with an RB, but I don't want to draw attention to
    the fact I am using film with frequent film changes, even the 6x4.5 back only holds what 32 shots?

    Then there is the issue of backdrops. What is an effective beginning backdrop for this sort of work? I
    could go with a greenscreen, but that creates unnecessary digital work. I could go with a white backround
    and gels, but is that too simplistic?

    When it comes to lighting individual subjects, what do you consider too little or too excessive for pictures
    of this sort. I don't want to half-ass this sort of work, but obviously, doing a large event, I can't spend 20
    minutes tweaking lights for each subject(s). Does anyone have practical tips/advice for this sort of thing?

    As of right now I only have the cameras, a tripod, and a basic two-light kit, although I can probably
    scrounge a third light for the work I am doing. I've seen a lot of "one-point"/on-camera mediocre
    lighting, so even two point is way ahead of the local curve.


    ~Karl Borowski
  2. If I were you, I'd figure out the costs of running a long roll camera vs. a digital one.
  3. Steve, already have. The only expensive part is the film (~$100 per roll + $53/processing)
    but that is 640 shots. That's only maybe 25c a shot with 50c total for say a $20 average
    package purchase. For a moderately-sized dance, probably 1/2 roll would do. For a big
    school two-four rolls'd be enough.

    Keep in mind, I only need the film developed. I have the equipment to do the prints
    myself, with paper costs as low as 1.2c per 4x5 proof, with water and chemicals factored
    in. (It pays to have your own lab :) )


    ~Karl Borowski
  4. Anyone, anyone?

    OK, pretend it's a digital back I'm using instead of one hundred feet of Portra 400NC.
    Whatabout now?

    Hello? . . . .
  5. Did I hear someone say "digital" ...?
    I think two things here.....<p>
    If you're going to be shooting solo portraits (waist up, head/shoulders) you'll want
    something equivalent to about a 80 to 100mm in 35mm terms. The 75mm lens is too
    wide - just as a 50mm is too wide on a 35mm camera, and the 75mm I think would be
    even wider than an equivalent 50mm (i think?)... I know a 80mm for 6x6 feels wider than a
    50mm for 35mm. Then for larger groups you'll want something equivalent to about a
    35-50mm in 35mm terms... So if you want primes, you'll need at least 2 lenses to do it
    Second, I really think you should ditch film for this endeavor. Keep film for you personal
    stuff, but it's time to move into the 21st century. Even if you have all the processing
    equipment, etc.... isn't it a fair amount more time to process/print and maintain the
    equipment/supplies versus the comparable job when done with an 8megapixel DSLR and a
    single zoom, batch processing software, and online printing. Time is worth something
    right? And I'd think a majority of your customers could care less if you shot film or not.
    Everyone wants things fast. People also like to see digital images and online proofing can
    boost your sales/business. Are you going to scan all your film as well?
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    As someone that actually does this, I would say that digital is the only way to go. A big part of this is that people expect on-site printing, and if you don't do it, you will get pushed aside by people that do. When I get hired to do this, it is always with the expectation of on-site printing, and if I didn't do it, I wouldn't get the work. Package sales are minuscule compared to on-site sales. I use a digital camera with two printers, a laptop, and an assistant.

    I usually shoot with a wide zoom. Despite what is posted above, if you actually do this, you will find that most situations require a wider lens, sometimes because of space limitations (you will usually not be in a position to control how much room you have) and often because many people want to be photographed with spouses, friends, big groups. This isn't like team or school photos, it's a social event and people are social.

    Regarding lighting, it depends on what the setup is. When I have the room, I work with two lights with softboxes, but that's pretty rare. More often, it's one light with an umbrella and a background light, or, when I do this in clubs, with one light and no background light.

    Backdrops depend on what the event planners want. I have been given a full setup with painted backdrop. I have been given a space so small I have to use whatever walls or curtains are available in the space. This is why a zoom is so important - you are often not given a setup that is optimal. You seem to think it's "controlled," but the control isn't with you most of the time, it's with the event planners or the venue managers.
  7. Thanks for the responses, I think. Do you two actually have the word "digital" bookmarked
    or something?

    I don't have $4k just laying around for new equipment, sorry. I DO have several package
    printers lying around though, that are more efficient and easier to operate than you would
    think. Either way, I'd probably have to use a lab to index and package it all, so it isn't as if
    digital is going to be free to use either. There'd be no way I could print digital myself, so
    that would probably make it MORE expensive than using film. I'd rather be printing than
    photoshopping four hundred kids, personal preferance. I'd say that's about an even
    tossup for time.

    On-site printing, with 400-person schools? Sorry, I wouldn't put myself or an assistant
    through that. I've never seen that used for schools, ever. For small school dances? Sure,
    but even that's more often outlabed and returned a week or two later. Remember, I am
    going for the type of photography with the little mailers that you put your check in and
    check off the package you want, in partnership with daycares, schools, sports leagues, or

    As far as lenses, I uses a 180mm for closeups with 6x7, so that'd probably be around 150
    for 645. So, if I were to go with primes, I should get a 150 for closeups and another lens
    slightly longer than 80mm (50 for a 35mm) focal length, or slightly shorter than that?

    I know that I'd need a 150 for run-of-the-mill shoulder-length portraits, but I'm curious
    as to what prime would work best for say proms where you'd be doing couples and
    groups. I have almost no experience with those.
  8. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It doesn't sound from your questions on lighting that you have done this before. Are you saying you have?

    This isn't really event photography you are talking about, if it is more like schools and churches. Still, the market for that stuff has moved quickly so that online printing and viewing is the expectation. People buy their packages online.

    It's not a film vs digital thing, the market has already moved, so there is no "vs." It's very quickly becoming all-digital for this type of work since the expectations of the customers are there.

    Also, I don't think you want to be changing lenses while you're shooting, it's another thing that is a disconnect from expectations.
  9. I've only done professional event photography once Jeff. That was two years ago. I've
    done a lot of studio work, but none of it is serious (for money). I know all the basics of
    key, fill, bacground, and hair light, tending to work at 4:1 or 2:1 myself, but have never
    shot a school, or a dance. All I did was a fundraiser for my former high school.

    I used two umbrellas, I believe a Metz light kit, and just found a part of the wall that didn't
    look too objectionable. Shot with Portra 160NC on a C220 and no one seemed to have a
    problem with it.

    I agree that changing lenses is not an option. My idea is to have a pair of setups, one with
    a longer lens for individuals or couples, and a shorter lens on the other for large groups.

    I don't find that moving the tripod back and forth is too distracting, so I just went with that
    on the fundraiser I shot, an 80mm I believe, is what I used with the 2 1/4 square camera.

    Again, I find that parents (not as technologically incllined as those my age) tend to prefer
    paper, as do I, for ordering packages. I don't have the fastest computer, but it's fast
    enough for that sort of work. Paper wins, hands down, when I'm putting packages
    together because I can keep the negatives with the order forms, and I'm not tied to a
    computer or a laptop trying to categorize everything. I'm sure you can embed information
    with the picture files as you shoot them with a DSLR, but I find cards easier to deal with
    than staring at a monitor for long periods of time. I'm not saying one is better or worse.
    I'm not doubting that in some areas that it isn't acceptable anymore, I'm just saying that
    here paper IS still acceptable and I'm not worried about using orderforms. If people want
    to order online, they can do so, by paying a premium to deal with the lab and take money
    away from me, or sending me an email with their order number from the paper form. I
    honestly don't see how an email or online ordering is more convenient than a phone.
    When I used to work at a tuxedo store, I found that most of the "business" we were getting
    over the internet was unreliable. They'd order things, then not pick them up, or order
    things then change their minds.

  10. Karl,<p>
    Where are you located, btw? I know location has a lot to do with how you run a business, but I know that in a whole LOT of places digital is the norm. I agree with Jeff's comments about onsite printing. You really should look into that. The cost is not that great.<p>

    Also, for post gig sales, online proofing/ordering is much easier and convenient. Will all the friends/family of the people you photograph be at the gig? Think of all the extra sales you can get by directing other people to your website. Are you always next to the phone to take orders? Will people leave you a voicemail with their credit card info? Do you take credit cards? <p>
    Have you looked into online proofing/sales? You don't need to photoshop every file or do much digital post at all (unless you screw up your exposures)... These type of photos can typically just be output almost right out of the camera, run through a simple batch processing script (all automated), then uploaded to an online gallery where you can give people the link to and they can simply browse/choose/order their favorites right there 24hours a day. The online service takes their credit card info (or paypal or merchant account or whatever), and then either you get notified to send them the order or the images are printed from the files you already uploaded. There is a small fee charged for the service of course, but think of the TONS of time you save and the increased number of sales. You could be out shooting more gigs and queueing up the next batch of sales instead of printing images from your last one.<p>
    Finally, if you're shooting Dance... is that performances? Do you really want to work with a 645 for that? Wouldn't a 35mm SLR and zoom be much more practical?
    <p>Hey, I love film as much as anybody, believe me, but c'mon... It's the 21st century dude!
  11. NI: I?m located in Cleveland, OH. Keep forgetting that?s not listed in this forum, whereas
    it is in every other forum I participate in.

    Onsite printing, as I understand it, costs $1000 just for the printer, then there?s the
    laptop, software, DSLR, and ink & paper. Where?s a 20-year-old college student to find
    the money for this equipment? And why should I charge people more because I have to
    pay over a dollar for an 8x10, when I can get an archival, higher quality print from my lab
    for a fifth of the cost?

    Sure, online proofing is easier, and I can look into that, but that still doesn?t preclude the
    use of film; I still have to build a website and/or pay someone else money. I don?t take
    credit cards or PayPal anyway, so this is really a moot point too. We have a message on
    our answering machine. Are people too afraid/stupid to use the phone now?

    I don?t have a blazing-fast, hell-on-wheels computer, so I assure you that post processing
    the files will take longer than proofing or even processing & proofing film. Again, batch-
    processing software probably costs money that I do not have. I?m 20, so I obviously don?t
    rate my time at the same amount of money as others here do. I?m happy making $15/hr.,
    and when I get good enough to rate my time at more, I?ll probably hire on someone at
    $15/hr. to do the processing work for me. You keep talking about not being able to use
    film in the 21st century. Hey, we should have a base on the moon, an international space
    station with artificial gravity, and intelligent, speaking computers, so by my book, this
    century has already severely underachieved. Why should I compromise my image quality
    (or do you believe split 70 doesn?t resolve more than 8MP?) and give myself more of a
    hastle? When digital takes more time, it is justified as ?more control?, but whenever the
    subject of doing one?s own printing, processing, proofing, or ordering comes up,
    somehow that?s bad extra time. That is quite a slanted take, IMHO. Is there something
    scary about film that I am missing? I?m not talking about shooting stage dances, but
    school/event dances, or dances in cooperation with an organization. I'd probably shoot
    with an RB for that type of thing, frankly, yes probably with a zoom depending on
    situation. I don?t want to have to go it alone, preferring the distribution of some group.

    JEFF: I think you are mixing up what I am talking about doing. These are all events
    through organizations, which handle the delivery and distribution of forms. Around here,
    I am certain these organizations still prefer working this way, probably so they can salivate
    as they count up their 10% cut of the profit. Sure, for independent dances and parties, on-
    site printing is probably a bonus, but that?s really not what I am after here.

    Thank you both for the advice on lenses, but you haven?t converted me.

  12. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Onsite printing, as I understand it, costs $1000 just for the printer,
    I have two printers that cost me $350 for both. You can now buy the same two printers for about $250.
  13. Jeff, could you be more specific? What about media costs? What do you charge for an 8x10?
    I don't think I can get away with the $@0 some people charge for them, so that probably
    limits me to low-end everything, papers inks, etc.

    Do you see ti as fair offering both outlab and onsite printing, with the onsite being sold at a

    I'd feel more comfortable giving people RA-4 output from an archival standpoint.
  14. Jeff I'm sure you make sound and sensible points - you're a pro, you know what you're doing. But from the sidelines it sounds like you are just beating up Karl. He asked about lenses and it turned into a digital/film issue. That's something that you usually tick people off for.

    I wouldn't be seen dead with a film camera now, but there's no need to set fire to a film user when he's asking about lenses.

  15. Yeah, how did this thread turn into a film v. digital argument?

    I still haven't gotten any solid answers about which lens to do. I could be shooting glass
    plates, or hell mercury-vapor developed Daguerrotypes, and, factoring in the conversion for
    the film/plate/sensor size the advice for focal length should be the same regardless.

    Maybe I need to ask some fellow photographers locally, those that don't view shooting 70mm
    (or "living in the 20th century" as some call it) as a crime.

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