Need advice for taking yearbook photos

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by peapody, Jan 16, 2009.

  1. peapody macrumors 68040

    peapody

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2007
    Location:
    baltimore, md
    #1
    Hey guys,

    I am the co-editor of my grad school yearbook this year and we will be taking photos ourselves to save money from renting a professional photographer. I am in pharmacy school so the students mostly care about studying and school - not so much memories of their torture at school haha. At any rate, my staff will be taking photos and I was wondering if you guys had any portrait taking advice.

    Here is the equipment I have which is not much...

    Nikon D80
    SB-400 Speedlight
    Sto-Fen diffuser
    18-105mm VR
    50mm F1.8
    Tripod
    brown/tan textured background

    photos will be taken in a small hallway with typical warm flourescent light.

    Obviously, I can only use those items, but I am not sure which lens, aperature, whether or not I should bounce flash...I just am not sure where to begin. I'd like somewhat professional looking result, so and advice guys?

    Also my staff will be taking photos too and they have no exposures to DSLRs whatsoever..I figure I can preset everything..but need to figure that out too.
     
  2. Chappers macrumors 68020

    Chappers

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2003
    Location:
    At home
    #2
    Try a few test shots first - it will give an idea of what will work and what won't for the conditions

    And try to stop people doing a full face on photo it flattens things - slight profile works best.
     
  3. Consultant macrumors G5

    Consultant

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    #3
    Small flash will not look good.

    If you are not sure which lens to use for portraits, the photos will likely NOT be any good.
     
  4. H2Ockey macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2008
    #4
    Can you rent some lights or strobes?

    Also look for a portrait lighting book in the school library. It should give you some ideas. You won't need to many lights but more than you have for sure.
     
  5. jbernie macrumors 6502a

    jbernie

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2005
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #5
    Sit a few people down in the area you are going to be working, try various setups etc and see what sort of results you can get. Even though you are trying to save money and not bring someone in, it might be worth renting some extra lighting to improve the results so people will appreciate the work more.
     
  6. peapody thread starter macrumors 68040

    peapody

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2007
    Location:
    baltimore, md
    #6
    Thanks guys I will look into it. But really...this is a small time production. Last year we used my camera and the popup flash. I'm working on no money from the school here as they are already covering other things for our staff. Just got to make lemonade out of lemons. So far the lighting is something I have to worry about for sure. I am going to go in and take some test shots next week.

    Um..that was not helpful at all.
     
  7. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 5, 2007
    #7
    I wonder if you could make a small reflector hood out of card then bounce the SB400 up into it, and forward onto the subject more diffusely. If you see what I mean. It might help seeing as the SB400 can't be used off camera.
     
  8. shady825 macrumors 68000

    shady825

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2008
    Location:
    Area 51
    #8
    Nice encouragement!:rolleyes: You could have offered a suggestion instead of insisting his photos will turn out bad!
     
  9. termina3 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2007
    Location:
    TX
    #9
    I'll let everyone else offer suggestions on lighting, etc., with such little equipment. I'm fortunate enough that my problem is usually deciding which equipment not to use (for sports and portraits).

    As for the posing:

    Pros usually use kneelers that are designed to auto-pose people to keep things simple. You won't want to buy one of these, and making one isn't entirely necessary.

    Diagonals look good in photography. I assume you're taking a bust shot.

    Short of kneeling, it's best if you have the subject sit in a chair or on a short stool (short enough that their legs aren't hanging/hanging much, but tall enough that their knees won't be pushed up. So not really a short stool, just not a tall stool). Or a chair that you won't be able to see in the photo. Have the subject put their hands in their lap, folded comfortably (the hands won't appear in the photo, but if they're comfortable the subject will be able to relax).

    Have the subject face their knees and chest (essentially their whole body) at some point 30º-ish off-camera (to the left or right, just keep it consistent throughout for the yearbook page's sake), and then have the subject turn their head back towards the camera. Shoulders should be relaxed, hands by the side or in the lap (even though this won't appear in the photo). Then, ever so slightly, have the subject tilt his head slightly sideways. It looks terrible if overdone. If the subject's body is facing the right, then his head should tilt to the right (i.e. into the turn of the body).

    Also consider testing out slight leans backwards/forwards--when a subject leans ever-so-slightly forwards it makes them appear more engaging. But without the proper kneeler this is next-to-impossible to perfect (especially on a large scale), so if I were in your shoes I wouldn't worry about it.

    And of course, make sure they aren't blinking when you take the photo... reshoots are terrible.
     
  10. jbernie macrumors 6502a

    jbernie

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2005
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    #10
    One for the more experienced people... can they get away with say some lights from home with maybe some 100w bulbs in them to lighten things up... even if not pointed on the subject but just to make the area itself brighter?
     
  11. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    May 5, 2007
    #11
    Very good point. I assume that the preflash is as visible as it was on my D70 (I haven't taken many people photos recently). On that camera it was possible to trigger the preflash by assigning it to the exposure lock button, at least that's what I recall. Some people will blink at the pre-flash every time, most probably won't.
     
  12. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #12
    Someone's already suggested renting strobes, which is your best option (Key, fill and hair lights would be best.)

    If you can't overpower the florescents, then you're going to have white balance issues from hell, and sickly green-looking people.

    The SB-400 won't swivel into portrait orientation AFAIK, so that's best gotten off-camera. Unfortunately, I don't think the built-in flash will trigger an SB-400, so for the best results, you'll want an optical trigger and stand for the SB-400, use it as a key and the on-board flash for fill, adjusting the power of each manually. You can try a piece of foam core as a kicker to get some background separation- but you're really better off with a hair light. Since the onboard flash won't swivel, you may be better off shooting in landscape mode and cropping the heck out of the pictures.

    You're going to want to spend some time with Google reading up on short and broad-side lighting, otherwise dealing with glasses and hefty people are going to make you very unpopular (well, the latter may make you unpopular anyway- it's often difficult to pose and light folks so they don't look as big as they are.)

    Frankly though, I think going from "We don't want to pay someone" to "We don't want to spend any money at all" is an exceptionally bad choice for portraits. Depending on how many of you there are, if everyone kicked in $10 or $15 and there are about ten of you, you could do a strobist.blogspot.com setup with triggers, stands, brollys and some cheap Vivitars and do a way better job. Otherwise, why not all just march into Sears and pay $23 for a portrait CD?
     
  13. dllavaneras macrumors 68000

    dllavaneras

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2005
    Location:
    Caracas, Venezuela
    #13
    Which brings us to another tip, shoot in Raw! That way you can fix any minor white balance problems you may run into.

    You can purchase a bracket and off-camera flash cord for about $80, like this one. I got the same one (for my Canon XTi) and I love it.

    What are you going to do with the pictures? If you're just going to print them at a small size, then cropping the heck out of them shouldn't be a problem.
     
  14. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #14
    That still makes a "one light" setup, getting an optical trigger would mean that the OP could use the SB400 as key and the built-in flash as fill, at least then they'd only be left with some background separation issues that a kicker or hair light would fix.
     
  15. peapody thread starter macrumors 68040

    peapody

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2007
    Location:
    baltimore, md
    #15


    Very good lighting advice. Thanks. I will try and see what I can do with the SB-400 this weekend...but I doubt I can do much. Like I said, last year we used the pop up flash on my D40, shot in portrait mode and in the end because the we only needed small photos - not big prints. We use an online yearbook program through jostens - and there was no cropping necessary due to the "ease" of use of the program. I did do some post processing of color issues, and for the most part, while the pictures weren't Lifetouch quality - they were fine for what we produced.

    How long does it usually take to get these rented lights? Need to do more research on that. I have considered upgrading to the Sb-600 anyway but I am worried that my staff will be scared of using it - and I don't have experience with it. Do you think if I got the Sb-600 that would be sufficient?

    Here are a few problems that I thought I covered but will elaborate more upon since a lot of you guys are saying "just pay for this or just pay for that".

    1. I am working with multiple departments in the School of Pharmacy, and there are protocols when it comes to spending money. It is not that we "don't want to spend the money" it is that we just don't HAVE THE MONEY/ IT IS A BEAR trying to get money from the school. We are using the schools money to actually pay for the books through our publisher - and that is not even enough - economy.

    - another note on money - ANYTIME we spend our own money out of pocket, it is policy to turn in those receipts for reimbursement - which is very stringently upheld. Reimbursement takes a long time, and is more trouble than it is worth. Keep in mind I have a yearbook staff, who already is putting in their time and effort to produce the book, let alone pay for things for it. It is not fair to them to ask for money - and pharmacy school costs $50,000 a year. We don't have a lot of money. Any money would come out of my own pocket - something I would prefer not to do.

    2. So because we are all "poor" it would be difficult to get students to cough up money for portraits themselves. Pharmacy school is also very difficult, and we are all very studious. For the most part we just don't have time to go to sears and take portraits, some students don't even care and most of our students do not have cars because they are out of state. Other circumstances such as our distance learning campus and time constraints and the general business of the students force me to have our portrait sessions after a required lab every other day over the course a month. I even have to do it right outside of the lab - which is why we are in the hall way - so that it is the most convenient for the students (they are required to be there and to wear professional attire). As you can see, it is very difficult to plan something like this.

    I may not be the most experienced photographer, but I am experienced in logistical planning when it comes to organizational work and the nature of the students at my school. I have to think about the students and the money and the protocol, and the Dean's office, Alumni Office, Publishers, staff, Marketing staff, faculty - which makes it somewhat difficult. Yearbook is just not about taking pictures.

    Sorry for the long diatribe - writing this has actually let me release a few frustrations and organize my thoughts. Like I said - it is making Lemonade out of Lemons. You do the best you can. Haha. But I appreciate all of your advice guys. Helps me cover my bases and do the best I can.

    So far I need to keep in mind -

    1. LIGHTING - I will try to see what I can do with the SB400 - especially in that hallway. Check out rentals, see prices. See if I can make a reflector hood, try out different combinations.

    2. how the students will pose - thank you for that helpful post, termina!
     

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