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Shooting a formal event, want some tips

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hey guys,

My fraternity is having its annual formal dinner and dance in a few weeks. This year it's going to be huge, as we've been on campus for 105 years, so a lot of alumni are coming in. However, with all of the other preparations, we ran out of money to hire a professional photographer, so our alumni chapter asked me as the chapter photographer and archivist if I would shoot the event. I feel like the actual event will be no problem, as I'll just be shooting pictures of the folks milling about. Payment is minimal--they're waiving the $30 fee for my date--but I get on the good side of our alumni chapter, and it is technically my officer position.

What I am unsure of, is that I've been asked to shoot a "couples" photo of every couple as they walk through the door. I just figured I would say what my current thoughts are and then get some feedback and suggestions.

It's probably going to be low light, so my kit will definitely include my 30 f/1.4. I also expect some group shots, so I'll bring my 12-24 f/4. My flash isn't the best, but it will probably have to do or I might pick up a used SB-600 or SB-700 or maybe a flash cord.

For the couples shots, I don't know whether I should go for a more full-body type shot with my 30, or if I should aim more for upper-body shots with my 50 f/1.4. The issue with the latter is that the 50 is manual focus, I'd lose out on time there. I would try the 70 mm setting of my 70-300, but it's a heavy lens to carry all night and a little slow.

Backdrop is provided, I'm assuming some neutral grey shade.

I don't think tripod will be practical, mainly because I don't have one, and it's just one more thing to worry about.

I'm thinking that maybe it's worthwhile to rent a 17-55 f/2.8 for the event, but seeing as I'm not being paid much that kinda makes me hesitant.
post #2 of 11
Well, to be frightfully honest, not sure how they expect you to walk around and catch candids when they want you to be there for couples. Perhaps the couples thing should be setup to go off at certain times and everyone should be 'strongly encouraged' to participate (i.e. a free drink ticket or something). That way, you know when you have to be there to snap some photos of couple, etc, but it gives you plenty of time for wandering around, etc.

It's too bad you're shooting on the dark side, if you were in a tough spot I would have sent you my 50 F/1.4 for use for that weekend.
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post #3 of 11
What flash are you using?

Grab yourself a Gary Fong Lightsphere for your flash and you should get pretty decent pics in low light without the flat "flash look" It'll also let you shoot in portrait mode without light being at a weird angle.

My thought is to do Full body shots with the 30mm and then spend the rest of the night with the 70-300 ( or even the 50mm0 to take candids so you're not in people's faces all night.

Here's a shot I did at a band camp dance with the lightsphere with a 50mm at f/5. IT was outside at night.

398



BTW: What fraternity is it?
Edited by capitaltpt - 2/4/12 at 4:55pm
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post #4 of 11
Flash? ISO 6400 f/1.4 what is flash?

But for group shots, YN460II x2, umbrella, stand, flash bracket. Should be under 200 total, which is all under the price of a SB700.
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MistaBernie View Post

Well, to be frightfully honest, not sure how they expect you to walk around and catch candids when they want you to be there for couples. Perhaps the couples thing should be setup to go off at certain times and everyone should be 'strongly encouraged' to participate (i.e. a free drink ticket or something). That way, you know when you have to be there to snap some photos of couple, etc, but it gives you plenty of time for wandering around, etc.
It's too bad you're shooting on the dark side, if you were in a tough spot I would have sent you my 50 F/1.4 for use for that weekend.

The idea is I shoot couples as they walk in, and then do candids the rest of the night during cocktails, dinner, and dancing. I still need to talk a bit with the guys coordinating it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by capitaltpt View Post

What flash are you using?
My thought is to do Full body shots with the 30mm and then spend the rest of the night with the 70-300 ( or even the 50mm0 to take candids so you're not in people's faces all night.
BTW: What fraternity is it?

I've got a cheapo Bower flash. Reasonably powerful, does i-TTL, and has bounce capabilities.

I'd prefer not to use the 50, as it's manual focus only, and I just can't focus fast enough. And as I said, the 70-300 is a bit slow (and a bit large) for what I want to do.

As far as my chapter, I'm a Sigma Nu.
Quote:
Originally Posted by dudemanppl View Post

Flash? ISO 6400 f/1.4 what is flash?
But for group shots, YN460II x2, umbrella, stand, flash bracket. Should be under 200 total, which is all under the price of a SB700.

More equipment than I want. My goal is a lightweight setup.
post #6 of 11
Well regardless of what you do, you're gonna need your flash. That's a given.

Sounds like you're set on your 30mm, so use that and fill up the frame with your candid shots. I would recommend a diffuser of some kind with your flash however to avoid all the red eye and to avoid the "flash" look. Remember that at f/1.4 you're not going to have much depth of field, even with a wide angle. At 10 feet from your subject, you'll have 2' depth of field. At 5 feet, you'll have 4 inches. Make sure to set your focus points accordingly. Using flash, you'll give yourself much more flexibility on f-stops. Just remember that in a darkened room, your background will be mostly black with flash, so again, fill the frame with your subjects which means getting in close with the 30mm.

Be sure to post some shots here when you get a chance thumb.gif
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post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Yeah, that will probably be the plan for the candids.
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Well, event happened last night. Could have gone better, could have gone way worse. I wanted to keep my distance, so I ended up doing couples photos with my 50 f/1.4. Took a few tries to nail the focus at f/4, and even then sometimes I'd be a skosh off. Also, lighting was terrible in the room, so I had to really search for where to bounce my flash and ended up having to settle for 1/40 at ISO 800. Most photos were fine, some show slight motion blur in some areas.

Candid shots were far less numerous, because I was trying to both enjoy the formal with my girlfriend and shoot pictures. Had some good ones with the Sigma, but I'm coming to the realization that its AF is pretty piss poor in low light, so I think if I ever do this again it'll be a fast normal zoom or a Nikon 35 f/1.4. Also, I've realized that my flash is pretty terrible. It had a lot of misfires over the course of the night and chewed through batteries (two of my NiMH sets appear dead so I ended up using my one good set plus two sets of copper tops), and it appears that its zoom head is cracking...

All in all, I either would not take a date next time I did this (and probably rent some gear) or just tell them that it's more worthwhile to hire a professional. However, I feel that everyone is satisfied considering I paid for myself to be there (out of my dues) and then had a free ticket for my date plus $25.

Some examples:

6934131709_2d9840f0a3.jpg
DSC_3913 by laboitenoire, on Flickr

6934132799_c9a8543831.jpg
DSC_3938 by laboitenoire, on Flickr

6788020646_470ee66ede.jpg
DSC_3959 by laboitenoire, on Flickr

6934134307_fc63309f36.jpg
DSC_3964 by laboitenoire, on Flickr

6934135881_daedb441b8.jpg
DSC_3994 by laboitenoire, on Flickr

6788023536_2d572d32da.jpg
DSC_4012 by laboitenoire, on Flickr

6934137411_5b82133d6b.jpg
DSC_4027 by laboitenoire, on Flickr

6934139143_20094d28f1.jpg
DSC_4062 by laboitenoire, on Flickr

6934139209_9fabcaceb8.jpg
DSC_4066 by laboitenoire, on Flickr

6788026334_2b3d19eeab.jpg
DSC_4071 by laboitenoire, on Flickr

6788026612_33fc8dfac0.jpg
DSC_4082 by laboitenoire, on Flickr
post #9 of 11
nevermind, didn't realize you did it already tongue.gif Just wanted to help quickly
Edited by Cha0s_Cha0 - 2/26/12 at 11:12pm
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post #10 of 11
Nice job LBN, some of these definitely came out nice.
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