Saturday, December 19, 2009

Graduation and Family Portraits

Last week, out of the blue; our friend Rachael told us that her twin boys are attending their graduation ceremonies Wednesday next and since her other son and daughter also came back from Perth and Hong Kong just for the occasion; can I take some family portraits for her?

I told her, physically; I am unable to cover the ceremonies. To get a good coverage you are looking at FIVE hours for each ceremony and trotting a bag full of heavy camera and lenses (300mm included) is for younger photographers :)

In Wellington, graduating students from Victoria University traditionally march from the Law Faculty, Government Building in town to Civic Square, 30 minutes (slow walk) away.

Picture above show our eldest girl May-N, Lamont and friends during their march in 2001.

Two years later, our Ming-N did the same route!

After chasing your subjects with a bag full of camera gear, you continue your shoot for the degree presentation ceremony at Michael Fowler Centre (Wellington Convention Centre).

The ceremony at MFC is a photographer's nightmare ;) It is dark, dark, dark! And you are seated miles away!

For the picture below, to get a acceptable shot of my subject receiving the scroll, I used a 180 mm f2.8 lens on monopod and I shoot at ISO 1600; f4 and 1/400 second. The DX size of the Nikon D300 gave me a "true" focal length of about 300 mm. Noise Ninja was also used to tone down the shadow noise.

Our friend, Boon Foo's son; Desmond receiving his degree in 2008.

Even though I was unable to shoot the ceremonies, I think Rachael is happy that I offered to take a few hours "time off work" to shoot some family portraits for her.

So last Wednesday I arrived at her place at 9.30 am, I told her before hand that everyone must be ready by 10 am. I intended to go back to work at 11.30 am.

If you are shooting family portraits as a paid freelancer, it is important that you inform your client what time you expect them to be ready, or it might cost you more time than you estimated for the job.

I decided to shoot the formal pose with my subjects sitting around the leather sofa in the lounge, I like the backdrop of the huge bay window with nice greenery. I proceed to take some test shots to check my exposures.

Thank goodness for digital camera! From the preview of my D300 I am please with the soft fill-in light from my Nikon SB-800 Speedlight bounced off the ceiling. I also decided to use the Nikon 12-24/f4 G ED-IF-DX zoom lens for this group shot.

Knowing many shots need to be taken and to make life easier, my camera/flash combo was sitting on a monopod during the shoot.

The most difficult part of getting a good group shots of more than five is to make sure everyone have their eyes open during exposure! As the number of the group increase, more and more shots will have someone closing their eyes! I call this the "Eyes Wide Shut Syndrome". ;)

This is the best shot out of twenty.

All in the family.. Front, from left; Joshua, Jeffery, Rachael and Hannah. At the back, the twins; Daniel and Sam.

Candid shots are always welcome during family portraits.

Wide angle lens and cheeky pose can be effective portraits :)

The harsh overhead sun tend to wash out the skin tone, if you cannot avoid such lighting; shoot it anyway... there is always Photoshop!

Much improved skin tone and detail after the RAW image was processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop CS4.

If you must shoot a single portrait, use a short telephoto lens and a large aperture setting to isolate the background. A Nikkor 135/f2 was use here. This manual focus lens is about 15 years old and many photographers swear by it as the greatest portrait lens!

All the King's Men... Jeffery, Joshua, Sam and Daniel.
If you must use a shorter lens, in this instance a 20/2.8 (effectively 32mm); you can isolate the distracting background with the Gaussian Blur filter in Photoshop.

Famous Last Words:

Resists using complicated background in family portraits, most often than not the background distract the main subject; the family!

Usually, the more simple the background, the better it bring out the portraits!

Shooting outdoor have it's advantages, a long lens and wide aperture setting can give a pleasant result! The Soh/Tan family was shot at the Petone pier on a cloudy day. A Canon 80-200 zoom was used on my first personal DSLR, the Canon D60.

Sometime "complicated" background can be nice for family portrait too, the picture below of yours truly and family was taken by Lamont Moon, many moons ago ;)

To all my friends and visitors of my blog, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

How is that for DIGITAL MAGIC???

If you still don't get it, Elvis was born Jan 08, 1935 and died Aug 16, 1977.
Martina was born July 29, 1966!


heather said...

Nice family.I like the photo of the family on the couch, No glare from behind and even tones.Nice..One day I will do one like that..

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Family Portraits