Need Help With Photo

slpollettslpollett Major grinsRegistered Users Posts: 1,119 Major grins
edited November 16, 2012 in Technique
Ok...here's the deal...I am a parent volunteer for my daughter's high school band. Photography wise, I am probably an advanced beginner as far as skill level goes. I am also the only resource our low-budget band has to get this done. They have asked me to take a picture of the Jazz Band for use on a poster for an upcoming concert. The musicians usually wear all black, but will wear black slacks and white shirts for this picture. They want the picture taken on a spiral staircase that is located behind the stage in the auditorium. It is kind of like taking a picture in a small closet with a very high ceiling. Not much room for me, and not really any good place to put lights that I can see.

Apologizing for the picture quality below, but I took these with my cell phone holding it out in front of me. The flash fired for one and not the other. This is mainly to give you the idea of the space.

Flash
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No flash
i-Xsx5Tzn-M.jpg


What the Director wants is to have the Jazz band on 3-4 levels of the staircase with the kids leaning over (sort of how my daughter is in these shots), but with their instruments hanging over. He wants the picture in black and white with the instruments in color. (He wants them shiny gold.)

The second picture shows more detail of the surrounding walls. The small squares on the left wall are actually windows. The picture will be taken during the day, so there will be some natural light. There are flourescent lights up the wall on the right. They were on for this picture, but they can be turned off if needed.

I have a flash attachment for my camera that I can use on a pole that maybe someone can hold for me to get my light a bit higher. I don't see any good way to evenly light this whole area especially with the equipment I have so I am begging for some advice here.

I have an Olympus E-5 camera. I have a 35-100 f 2.0 lens and a 12-60 f2.8-3.5 lens available. I have the FL-50 flash, a light stand, a silver umbrella, and a 10 ft cable to connect the flash to the camera.

I don't have time to rent anything else--they want the picture next week so they can get the posters made in time for the concert.

My questions--how do I light this space so that the light reaches all the way up & isn't too harsh down lower? Which lens would you use? What camera settings would you recommend? I know this is a lot to ask of you, but I need some help with this one! I think whatever light is used will bounce off those white walls quite a bit.

Any help and advice is much appreciated. One thing for sure, if I keep hanging around this band I will end up learning a lot about photography! :wink

Thanks in advance,
Sherry

Comments

  • jwwjww UniverseUnderConstruction Registered Users Posts: 449 Major grins
    edited November 15, 2012
    Personally, I would try to talk him out of using the staircase. Just seems like a bad shot with the amount of distance from the first row to the 4th row, the perspective would make the last last row way way too small! Also seems like an unreasonable amount of work given the black and white photo with instruments shiny gold (even clarinets?) photoshopping you have to do in such a small amount of time. Especially if there are quite a few kids in the jazz band. They might not fit that well in that space!!

    If you do pursue his wishes, keep in mind... it is a poster for high school for free. They don't really expect that much. ;)

    I would probably try the lights off at first as they seem pretty harsh, especially the one way up there and hope for a moderate sunny day. Actually the one without the flash didn't seem that bad, except for the harsh light to her right and lower down. Not sure if they can be on, but covered from your view or not. Maybe try some test shots with fill flash first. (lights off, then on) and see what you get. As far as lens, I think I would try the 35-100 at around 80 to see what that gave you, but take both! lol I would be looking for more kids and less to no walls. ;) As far as camera settings... use a higher f stop number for more depth of field and shoot in aperture mode. Also check your DoF preview to insure you have a good range of DoF. You will also need to insure you focus on the midway point of the kids, allowing the DoF to do the work for you.

    I would also try to stop by the day before the photo to do some test shots with your gear or at least an hour before you have them posing. That might help you figure it out a bit better.

    ..and good luck, but just have fun with it. ;)
  • morenofotomorenofoto Beginner grinner Registered Users Posts: 1 Beginner grinner
    edited November 16, 2012
    I agree with the previous post. Get away from that location. Even a well-equipped photographer would have difficulty in that situation. It looks like there is enough available light to pull off a shot, but the faces on that third or fourth level are going to be so small in comparison to the rest of the group. If you do it, don't use a flash on the camera. Use the available light; try to get a tripod and get as much depth of field as you can. Use fairly high ISO like 800 if the photo won't be too big.
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Super Moderators Posts: 22,364 moderator
    edited November 16, 2012
    jww wrote: »
    Personally, I would try to talk him out of using the staircase. Just seems like a bad shot with the amount of distance from the first row to the 4th row, the perspective would make the last last row way way too small! Also seems like an unreasonable amount of work given the black and white photo with instruments shiny gold (even clarinets?) photoshopping you have to do in such a small amount of time. Especially if there are quite a few kids in the jazz band. They might not fit that well in that space!!

    ...

    15524779-Ti.gif Like user "jww" I strongly suggest talking the Director out of this shot concept. Trying to get light that is pleasing, plus the changing perspective, is just not worth the trouble. There may also be safety concerns, depending upon how many individuals are concerned. (You need to consider the load rating of the staircase, plus I would want a mechanical engineer to do a survey of the staircase to check for any structural deficiencies, cracks, etc.)

    On the other hand, "you" might be able to use the spiral staircase to gain an interesting perspective of the marching band on the stage below.

    If you must proceed with this concept, I recommend calling an electrician to see about getting a long string of construction lights. These are incandescent bulbs in simple fixtures, and the electrical cord itself holds all of the lights. You might even need a couple of strings of lights. (Make sure to use frosted bulbs.)

    http://ec2-75-101-138-141.compute-1.amazonaws.com/2006/jun/27fest-lg.jpg

    Hang the lights vertically in the corner of the structure, trying to use the wall-corner as a reflector. A long drape of translucent material would be hung in front of the light string to diffuse the lights. Make sure not to get too close to the lights themselves. This should give you a long, vertical "light panel". (Theatrical departments often have the correct type of drapes for this purpose, although they generally use them horizontally, like bunting.)

    If the electrician can space the lights, try to get the spacing the same as each level where you will have subjects. I would position the lights directly across from, and slightly below, the subjects.

    You'll need to use a very small aperture, in order to get maximum DOF. (That alone precludes an ambient light approach.) You'll still have a relatively long exposure, so you'll need to coach the kids on that.

    For your camera be sure to shoot to RAW files, but you'll be processing for tungsten lighting. Tungsten should preserve the natural gold tones of some of the instruments, which you can propagate to all instruments later in processing.

    Obviously, the larger instruments should be the farthest from the camera, since they will become smaller because of the distance perspective from the camera.
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • slpollettslpollett Major grins Registered Users Posts: 1,119 Major grins
    edited November 16, 2012
    Thank you all for your responses. Wow. I knew the task would be tough, but I didn't quite expect to hear "don't do it" recommendations! eek7.gif

    I think the Band Director and the kids have their hearts set on this location. They have a concept that they want to try. I am definitely worried about the perpective for the upper levels. I am going to try to get them to use just the lower two levels, but that might not work. There are 16 kids, so I think 3 levels are the best I can get.

    They want this picture to be used for the concert tickets and for a poster. The tickets will be 'easier' since they are small and won't show a lot of detail anyway or even all the kids. We will crop so that just the staircase is visible. The poster....now that is another story.

    One of my photographer friends suggested shooting with a tripod & taking a series of shots with various focal points and then merge/montage to keep the sharpest parts of each image. That is stretching the boundaries of my skill level in photoshop, too.

    I like the idea of using shop lights and scrim to add/diffuse and even out the light source. I might be able to make that work.

    I'm going to at least try to get this concept to work for them. I don't know how it will turn out, but I'll give it my best shot. I will also have some alternate ideas & locations lined up just in case.

    Thanks again,
    Sherry
  • ziggy53ziggy53 Still learnin'still lovin Super Moderators Posts: 22,364 moderator
    edited November 16, 2012
    slpollett wrote: »
    ... One of my photographer friends suggested shooting with a tripod & taking a series of shots with various focal points and then merge/montage to keep the sharpest parts of each image. That is stretching the boundaries of my skill level in photoshop, too.

    ...

    That would be a type of "stitched panorama" and, without the appropriate panoramic head it would not match up very well.

    Perhaps a short series of images; 4 - images of 2 kids on 2 levels per image, and then create a montage of those 4 images. This approach gains you the extra detail of 4 discrete images, plus the flexibility to arrange the images in different ways, to best match the needs of the specific application (tickets vs poster). You might be able to do this series of shots with your single flash.

    You could also sell 5x7 and 8x10 photos of the montage, so that each family could purchase a nice memento of the event.
    ziggy53
    Moderator of the Cameras and Accessories forums
  • jwwjww UniverseUnderConstruction Registered Users Posts: 449 Major grins
    edited November 16, 2012
    I agree with ziggy that a montage would be a great compromise!!

    Regardless of what the Director and the kids have their hearts set on, as purposed, I feel they are all going to be saddened at the results no matter how well you do it. The folks up top in the 3rd and 4th levels will be in a sense, completely throw away and really not even seen. Even in your test shots with your camera phone, you can't even tell who is standing on the 3rd level.

    Sometimes as a photographer, you have to replace "hearts desire" with a concept that will work much better and give them the results they were hoping for. ;)
  • slpollettslpollett Major grins Registered Users Posts: 1,119 Major grins
    edited November 16, 2012
    I think I'm going to try to push the montage idea. I think I can make that work better and I think the end result will still be close to what they have in mind. I'll post the final product when I get it.

    Thanks again for the help and advice. I do appreciate ya!

    Sherry
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