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Photography Question 
Kellie M. Moats

Backdrops for Portraits

I need to be able to shoot 15 to 20 people on a backdrop for a ballet studio. What is the best size backdrop needed for this? do you recommend seamless paper or muslin? Or is it preference?

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12/27/2009 6:06:18 PM

John H. Siskin
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  Hi Kellie,
You aren't going to fit 15 people on a 9 foot or even a 12 foot wide background. I would get a roll of 9 foot wide seamless and use it sideways, so it is 9 foot tall and 30 feet long. This takes a lot of stands to set up. I usually need help. Either you will show the floor of the studio or cut off the feet. For groups this size, theatrical curtains are also a good choice, just hard to find.

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12/30/2009 9:48:30 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hi Kellie,
John gave me an idea - can you shoot them at a theater in front of the curtains ? If they are performing at a local theater, they usually have off-hour access for rehearsals, stage prop setups, etc. Plus, a theater will give you some cool angles to shoot from. If you do any single or small groups try some low angle captures of dancer(s) flying through the air & high angles looking down from directly above of the dancers spinning below type of shots.
Just tossing some ideas around. Have fun and good luck with your shoot.

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12/31/2009 6:44:23 AM

Diane L. Thomas
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/21/2004
  Hi Kellie, Try you may want to rent the backdrop. They have all kinds to choose form. Diane Thomas

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1/5/2010 3:37:10 AM

Bruce A. Dart   Hi Kellie,
John is right in the amount of space you will need. I photographed a dance studio for years with similar groups, usually one each hour. It was like a dress rehearsal for their concert and practice for them too. In between we did group and individual photos. For background I did use seamless paper, one hung horizontally and fastened to the divider curtains (not usable, except for that) and one on the floor. Like all seamless, it soon got torn and covered with footprints. I did better with two muslin backgrounds, 10x20. One was hung 20 feet wide on the wall and one on the floor, stretched and taped. If you have a place to fasten them, clamps and duct tape helped ease the need for extra stands. Of course the two backgrounds had to be the same or very similar and this gave essentially a 20 x 20 working area. Even then, on the large groups we had to "squeeze" them in a little to keep from running off the background. Those were pre-photoshop days and now you could fix the background in photoshop if you had to. (Much better not to have to!!) If you are photographing for the parents and the ballet instructor, these are posed shots and not candid images. As such, they are not your most creative images. Presuming you are selling these photos, you can pick a fair amount of money for the job. Probably 100 kids or so at $10 - $16 or more -- what we call "special events" through the lab photos and the unit price is pretty low. You are selling small packages or "memory mates" (a group photo and individual; maybe even some extra wallet photos.) In my case the dance instructor helped pose each student... think about it. Each student was posed CORRECTLY for the dance and ballet poses, not how some photographer THINKS it ought to be. The creative, competition images are done in a private session in the studio. These are wonderful money makers. What we call "bread and butter" images. They bring in money to pay the bills that allow you to do more creative things another time. All students in the same class were essentially posed the same for their individual images. In the film days, I shot a polaroid of each group and one individual and thumbtacked them to the bulletin board where the parents could see what the group and individual pose were like until we got the photos done. Now you can post them to a web site and/or provide images for the web site of the ballet school. (Another reason to have them posed correctly as it shows off the good teaching of the instructor for those who know the difference in the poses -- and even the students who have had these classes for several years know the difference!!) It is a fun job; the students, especially the younger ones, always look cute in their costumes and if you do a good job you can count on doing them year after year.

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1/5/2010 6:10:16 AM

Jerry & Karen Bengtson   Instead of shooting everyone at once, shoot them in smaller groups against your background. Then merge the photos together to make one large group shot.

Another option is the shoot the entire group in front of your background knowing that the ones on the edge will be beyond the background. Before shooting the group take a photo of the background only, with no one in front of it. Use that photo to add the background to the group photo. You can edit the background photo to extend it before adding it to the group photo.

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1/5/2010 8:25:15 AM

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