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Come in! There are a few adventures I’ve written about, but most of the content offers classes in photography and mentoring for photographers, including photo theory, which, although a vital part in our profession, is largely an overlooked subject in all published media that profits from and feeds our gadget minded mindset today.

An Insider’s look at shooting photographs on assignment – A30

September 19 2009 - Photo Technical

From the last issue I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures of April 16th birthday party hosted by The Triton.  What can we say… every Triton party is a hit.  I’m sure all of you that attended enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed taking photographs of all of you.  I took two hundred and fifty images!

Of course space is limited and the people at the helm of The Triton made their random selection, changed them to black and white, and cropped them to fit their pages.  Part of my job, you can say my challenge, is to provide them with nearly all properly exposed, attractive and usable images.  I aim for and (knock on wood) always seem to achieve over a 95% rate of return.  You never completely know which pictures will be deemed most important by the people you work for, or even by your family and friends.

For this article I am writing about the process of doing this assignment for The Trition.   Sure, everything will not apply to your photography, because for most of you taking pictures is for fun and memories.  Nevertheless you want your picture taking to be successful and I think following my thought processes and preparations for this job will provide you some applicable guidance and tips.

All photography, especially if it is unplanned, begins with preparations.  If your batteries are nearly discharged you will not be taking many shots.  For this job, I knew I would be depended on flash fill, so I made sure I had charged batteries and back up power supplies on hand.

These Triton parties are always packed with happy sailors and I know I’ll often be snapping in close proximity to wild party goers, so, if there are lens options I’m thinking from normal (50mm) to wide angle (28mm) equivalents for a 35mm format.

The one benefit of using wide angle you may remember from a previous article is having much greater depth of field and that means I can drink on the job as focusing is more forgiving (the drinking… not, for me anyway).  Wide angle also offers a lower aperture for better use in low light conditions.

One last thought on preparing for this job, as you would for a long journey, is knowing a lot of shots will be taken.  I have a 2Gbyte memory card.  That may or may not be big enough depending how I shoot (Raw, Tiff or jpg), but it certainly will not be big enough if I still have old photos on it that I want to keep.  With this in mind, if I have not already done so, I download those old pictures to my computer and format my memory card.  Formatting was discussed in a previous article…. It’s like washing the blackboard before writing on it again.

So, I head out for the job prepared.  Now I’m thinking about digital file format.  I have the ability to shoot in the robust and large RAW format (some of you may have a large TIFF format available) or the less versatile, compressed and therefore smaller JPG format.

All of you have the latter, JPG, format on your cameras and I am with you on this one.  Shooting RAW would be overkill and takes a lot more time for me to process.  JPG’s are also camera software compressed files, again meaning smaller, so more can be taken on my 2Gbyte card.  But when shooting these smaller, meaning less forgiving, meaning less correctable JPG’s I can’t afford to be sloppy.  I need to make sure my exposures are consistent and on the mark.

The use of flash, flash fill will help in this regard.  First, what’s the difference between flash and flash fill?  I’m glad you asked.  I say just “flash” when without it, with little to no ambient light for all usable purposes; you will not get a photograph at all.  With “flash fill” … well, there is enough ambient light to give you an overall usable photo, but it is made better with a little fill in light.

Here is the best example I can give.  You are taking a photograph of your sweetheart at high Noon.  It’s the only time you have in this location.  The sun is directly above.  You take the shot without flash fill, and you see most of your sweethearts face looks fine, except for the eyes… You see raccoon eyes and with no definition are they blue or brown?   With flash fill you eliminate this problem.

I’m at the party now taking pictures.  The first thing I like to do, especially also because parties often begin with some ambient light before night light falls, is take overviews.  In film this is called establishing shots.  Let the viewer know where you are and where the event is taking place.

Oops.  Just checked the statistics and I am running long.  Believe it or not, next time this article will bring us back to Lightroom, the topic I was on in the last article, but now I’ll ask permission to come ashore… Oh, and Email me some questions!