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Photography Question 
C.W. Williams

Church Photo Shoot

Hello There
I Have a Father's Day photo shoot at our church. I have a minolta XTsi with a 3500 flash. This is my first job and I want to do as well as I can. I'm wondering what type of film I should use, distance (camera to subject) and subject to background. If anyone can help me I would greatful.
Thank You.

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6/14/2002 1:32:10 AM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001

Wow, you've got to do this in less than 48 hours!

If you can get to a camera store (you don't have much time) and purchase some professional portrait film, I encourage you to do so. Kodak Portra 160 NC, or Fuji NPS (also ISO 160) will work fine. Both have superb skin tones, and wider latitude, and less saturation than general purpose consumer films. In general, their with color balance, color saturation and contrast are much "friendlier" for making portraits of people. If you cannot get some pro portrait film in time, I recommend Fuji's ISO 200 consumer film. IMO, it's not as good as using a portrait film, but does better for portrait type work than Kodak's consumer films.

Camera to Subject Distance:
Subject distance from the camera should be based on your lens focal length and how much you want to fill the film frame with the person. A "traditional" portrait lens is 75mm to 135mm in length, although you can use a 50mm standard length. A slightly longer lens is a little easier to work with and gives a more natural looking perspective of people's faces. You want to avoid using a focal length less than 50mm, especially when doing a close-up of someone. It can make nose size look unnaturally large (because its closer) compared to ear size (because its farther).

Basic types of "classic" portraits are named for how much of the person they show in the photograph:
The bottom edge of a 1/3 portrait is about the bottom of the rib cage, or about halfway between the waist and bustline. The bottom edge of a 2/3 portrait is about mid-thigh; about halfway between the knee and waist. A full portrait is from head to toe. Avoid placing the bottom edge at a body joint (waist, knee or ankle), and leave a little space in the image above the top of the head.

I don't recommend full portraits for this. The face ends up small in the photograph. Go for 1/3 or 2/3 portraits. I prefer a 1/3 type unless someone wants to show more of the entire person.

Subject to Background Distance:
Keep the subject at least 3 feet from a background (wall or anything similar). This helps with shadow control, and makes the background slightly darker and less distracting (becuase its farther from the flash). When selecting a background, look for one that is relatively plain (uncluttered) with a neutral color that will contrast with skin color. Especially avoid placing people in front of objects that end up with parts of the objects sticking out from behind them, especially from behind the head. In a photograph, it can look like something bizarre is growing out of their body.

Good Luck!

-- John

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6/15/2002 12:36:20 AM

C.W. Williams  
Hello John, Here are some of the photos from my church shoot. Tell me what you think.

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6/20/2002 6:13:52 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
You certain you haven't done something like this before? If you did this with a single flash, mounted on camera, you did about as well as could be expected.

Some remarks about each one (the "nits" are *minor*):

1st Photo (Anthony):
Body could have been turned just a little more without "losing" the low (far) shoulder and would allow adding a little more head rotation. This would make the body appear a little thinner and lose the piece of ear showing on the right (his coat accentuates body width some, but you cannot control that part). There's a very, very slight shadow showing on the right too. Head position in the frame is OK, but not quite as good as your third photo. If making an 8x10 from this one I would take a little more off the top than with the other two.

2nd Photo (Mom & Pop):
If a neutral mid-scale background wasn't possible, then having him against the lighter portion (to keep from losing his hair in it) and her against the dark portion (to keep from losing her hat in it) was about the best you could do. There's more shadow on his right than in the other two. Don't know what you did to fill them using a single light, but presume you couldn't do it with this one. Nice tilt on his head toward the low shoulder and her (a man tilting the head toward the high shoulder [closer one] looks unnatural, even though it's more than OK for a woman). Their respective heights are at the edge of being too different. The salvation here is her hat. His head is very close to the top of the frame . . . something you're almost forced into with their height difference.

3rd Photo (Justin):
This one is the best of the three overall. Excellent pose! Eyes are on you, and the head is turned slightly to just barely lose the ear on the left side. Chin is resting nicely in his hand without puting the full weight of his head completely on it (which would deform the skin on his chin too much). No shadow I could see on the background either. Head nicely positioned in the frame with eyes at about the upper 1/3 line. Makes them the first thing a viewer "sees."

Overall, you did well given the preparation time and equipment on hand.

Standard Caveat:
These are my opinions; ask 10 photographers and you'll get 10 different ones.

-- John

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6/20/2002 7:51:03 PM

C.W. Williams   How's it going John? Thanks for all the info. At this point in the game opinions are what I'm looking for. I'll keep shooting and let you see what I come up with.

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6/22/2002 4:52:38 PM

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