Following on from the two photo shoots I have conducted under the titles ‘Model Photo Shoot’ (found on my TAOP learning log) and ‘Model Photo Shoot pt.2’ (found under the projects tab of this learning log), this final entry in the series outlines my thought process and the procedures I followed while taking photos during my great nephew’s christening weekend in March 2013.
Of course, when my niece asked me to take the official photos at my now 6-month old nephew’s christening I said yes without hesitation, but again I found myself groaning inside, as I once again find myself outside of my comfort zone and in the too common position of not wanting to ‘let the side down’.
This shoot would be very different to the previous two we conducted, as they both took place in the comfort of a homely environment, where I was able to manipulate the light, in very familiar surroundings. However, this time round part of the photography would take place on location, in unfamiliar surroundings, were I would be using camera settings alien to me, being at the mercy of the gods (in every sense of the word).
Having just completed the DPP workflow assignment, I felt confident that I could easily manipulate the workflow procedures I had recently put into practice, with the hope that these would help me to plan and execute the requirements of the day, all I had to do was sit down and get stuck into my planning.
As always, my first port of call was the Internet, were I conducted some image research to get a feel for the kind of photos that are associated with christening photography.
There really is nothing that special about the construction of these shots, in fact they appear to be part of a generic grouping always present in the christening photographers portfolio; although there are always slight variations to background and the groupings of people within the frame (parents, godparents, grandparents etc.).
I also looked through my back stock of photography magazines to see if I could find any mention of christening photography within their pages, and I also took the time to sit and revisit some of the books I had read during the research I did for my first two photo shoots:
The essential guide to Portraits: Everything you need to shoot stunning mages with your digital camera (3rd ed)
The Art of Children’s Portrait Photography
The essential guide to Portrait Photography: Our best tips and tricks for success from The Digital Photography School
Children’s Portrait Photography Handbook – Techniques for Digital Photographers
Full credit of these titles is found below.
Building on this research, my ideas began to center around specific group shots, shots of the actual christening and where possible, some abstract images of the church and guests, which would make for some interesting alternates, and would satisfy my personal photography needs more than those of the parents!
Even though I would be predominantly photographing family members during this event, I decided to treat the day as a professional photography assignment. By doing this I could a) get my head around how it would feel to work on a professional level and b) help get over the nerves of dealing with and taking photos of people I know and love; I started scribbling some notes and jotting down formal information.
Firstly, I sat and thought about the kind of photos I would like to take, which naturally led me to thinking about the best locations for capturing these images. So as not to miss anything, I created a flow chart of information, which I intended to show and confirm with the client when I met them closer to the christening (the original scribbling’s can be found in my sketchbook).
Once this list was in place, I had to think in more detail about the locations I had identified and the unique conditions and requirements of each:
The Client’s Home: Having shot here before, I knew the layout well and what lighting conditions would be available to me. Dependent on weather conditions, I would probably need the help of diffusers and reflectors to manipulate the available light in this very light and airy apartment.
The Church: Having visited this family church many times before, I have only once taken photos inside, during a family wedding (my writings surrounding this can be found in my TOAP learning log). Although I was aware of the venue, I still needed to reconfirm the floor plan, the order of service for the christening and what requirements/rules needed following during this part of the photo shoot. I also needed some questions answered about the available light sources on the day.
The Church Grounds: As with the previous location, having visited this churchyard, and taken photos in the grounds, I was vaguely familiar with the layout, but I needed to scout the location further to look for the best scenery and angles for taking group shots after the event.
The Luncheon Venue: Of all the venues, this was the one I knew least about other than it was a medium sized room, with small windows and lots of florescent tubing, I could see me using AWB the most in this location.
At this point in my workflow, the only other step I could plan for were my equipment requirements, and as I was not 100% sure of my needs on the day, I decided to pack for every eventuality, details of which are outlined in the following flowchart:
During my original planning, I had every intention to exclusively use my 50mm portrait lens during the church portion of this photo shoot. Being a prime lens, it performs very well in low light conditions, so it would be the perfect tool for this occasion, but reading the following statement, I changed my mind and decided to stick with my 28-300mm telephoto lens, keeping my 50mm in the bag as a back up if necessary:
“With a super zoom you can get everything from wide-angle shots to candid close-ups, without missing shots due to changing lenses” (Gatbonton 2011)
Thinking logically, changing my mind here had a few definite advantages; firstly, I am used to my telephoto lens, I use it all of the time and understand how to get the best performance from it; secondly, as stated in the article, it would be easier for me to use my zoom instead of keep changing lenses, especially as I did not want to miss any photo opportunities during the christening; and lastly, by using my telephoto, I was able to keep my distance during the service and not get in the way of proceedings. The only down side I could see was image compression when using long focal lengths, but then again, I would be in a small, narrow setting so this should not cause too much of an issue.
As I would be shooting in four very different locations, each with its own unique requirements and lighting conditions, the following fundamental settings would be used as my base, and my shutter speed, in camera meter and the use of the histogram would be relied upon to govern exposure:
- Image Type; RAW will be used to produce the final client images, but JPEG images will be used to show the client and share with others
- Shutter Speed; Continuous High
- Metering; Spot
- Camera Setting; Manual
- Aperture; As wide as the camera and settings would allow
- Focus; Single Point Auto Focus
- ISO; High, but not so high to create too much noise in the photos
- White Balance; AWB due to the movement between venues and the unfamiliar light sources within each
- Use natural light as much as possible; use the light from windows and open doors, and pray for a sunny day.
- Alternate light source; there will be an uncontrollable amount of alternate light sources, all giving different temperatures and different effects to the photos. Knowing this before hand helped my decision to shoot using Auto White Balance, with the knowledge that I could make subtle tweaks, if necessary, after the event.
- Flash; at this point, not being 100% sure whether flash would be allowed inside the church, and as I am not a regular user of this light source, it will probably not be used, but I will carry a small flash unit in my bag in case it is needed.
- Range of reflectors; during the last two photo shoots I used all of my reflectors, but it may not be possible to do so this time round, but I will have them in my bag – just-in-case.
Before the christening weekend, upon my return to the UK, I was able to secure a show round at the church. This enabled me to have a look at the location, find out the rules surrounding photography in the venue and get a general run through of the service. I took a couple of ‘snappy’ photos, so that I could determine the best places to stand to capture my images, and sketched the layout of the church so that I could keep a record for future reference.
Conducting this meeting prior to the actual day of the christening really worked in my favour, as I was able to establish that flash photography would not be allowed during the ceremony, which was something that did not surprise me. As I had been keeping an eye on the long range weather forecast, I was pretty sure that the weather on the big day would not be good, so when the vicar advised that we were more than welcome to utilise the church after the ceremony to take any additional photos I was relieved, as this meant that we should be able to get most of the photos discussed and that we would have a warm, dry location when doing this.
THE PHOTO SHOOT
Unfortunately, (and once again), the day of the christening rose murky and wet, so my biggest concern now would be how to capture the light, especially in the church. I had established that flash photography was out of the questions, and as I intended to move around the venue, I would not be able to use reflectors, as I had done in the past, to help capture any light available, so I had to rely on my photography knowledge to allow me to get the best photos possible, a daunting thought indeed.
But on the upside, after the church service, we would be able to use the venue to get most of the individual and group shots the client wanted, so at least all was not lost!
My first port of call for the day was at the clients home, where I was to capture some images of the family getting ready. The surroundings here were very familiar, as I had taken photos here many times before, so I was able to relax and let the baby do the talking.
I find taking photos of this happy little guy really easy, and very rewarding, and it has been amazing to see his growth over the past six months.
While he was playing in front of the window, by ramping up my ISO to 500 and above, I was able to get some nice photos, especially when zooming into the frame.
There has been very limited (if any) cropping in these shots, and I have used Photoshop to lighten them just a little more, although doing this has highlighted the noise in the last photo, which is a shame as baby’s expression here is priceless.
Even though the day was dull, I was pleasantly surprised with the light inside of the church as it was brighter than I remembered it being a few days before and the combination of candle light and the tungsten bulbs cast some interesting shadows within the structure.
Using my camera on manual (as usual), I was able to set my ISO high for the duration of the work inside. This, combined with the widest aperture I could muster, the lowest shutter speed I received was 1/6, which was not too bad, but a little to slow in some instances.
I did come across issues with motion blur and focus during this shoot, which was mostly due to the very slow shutter speeds being used, but at the time I did not want to run the risk of increasing the noise levels in the photographs too much, I have commented further on this in my conclusion.
I am glad I decided to use the auto-white balance setting, as I was able to capture the colours almost perfectly without giving any thought to this during the shoot, and with minimal tweaks needed to the RAW files in post-processing, I was able to recapture the colours of the images easily.
Using the interior of the church for the group and family shots turned out to be a bigger bonus than expected as the stain-glassed window to the side of the pews gave us a perfectly unique backdrop for the bulk of the images, and even though the light outside was bad, the colours from the glass helped to lighten these images nicely.
For this photography assignment, I conducted my post-processing slightly differently, as I gave the client a copy of all of the photographs (once the initial technical edit had been performed), and then asked them to choose their favourite images, so that I could then tidy them up and make any post-processing changes as necessary. My workflow for this is documented below:
I uploaded the images to create two batches; the first was given the title Pre-Christening, which included 58 photos and the second batch was given the title Christening, which included 233 photos:
After running the initial technical edit on both batches of photos, I sent them to the client, who returned with a final wish list of 39-images. This included four images four images from the pre-christening batch, and 35 images from the christening photographs:
Of course, I had different ideas of what I thought were the best images, and my choices are below:
Once these final choices had been made, I then ran each photo through a simple editing process in Photoshop, where I looked at colour management and white balance, as well as exposure and cropping. Although there are issues with focus within some of the images, which I have written about in my conclusion, the final batch of images from the can be found in the gallery below.
My biggest issue on the day of this christening was the light, or should I say lack of light, especially while photographing in the church. Being a dark place anyway, I was always going to find this a difficult venue to deal with, but with the day being wet and dismal, I was not able to pull on any natural light at all, which left me relying solely on the light sources being supplied by the venue, and my current knowledge of manipulating my camera settings to let light into the sensor. It is now obvious that this combination was not quiet good enough to produce a perfect batch of photographs, as in some instances I was not able to keep my shutter speed high enough to keep my images in focus. I did try and counter balance this by increasing my ISO, but in some pictures this had made the noise much higher than I wanted, which is evident when lightening and cropping some shots, thus spoiling some of the images. As I struggled with the speed of my shutter, the slightest movement has been captured in some shots, which although has given some interesting returns, it also made for disappointing results, as although I was able to get most of the photos from my original list of requirements, I had more blurred images than good ones.
The decision to shoot in Auto White Balance did work in my favour, as I have been able to use Photoshop to make some minor adjustments to those images that needed a helping hand, which in turn has made them a better representation of the scenes that I was as I shot the photographs.
I was also really pleased that we were able to utilise the stained glass window for the individual and group shots, as this actually helped me with the light in these photos and also made way for some good family shots.
All in all the day went well, and as I got into the swing of the assignment I became quiet shutter happy, and although I produced more unusable images than usable ones, the client seemed happy with the final results, but that was probably down to the fact that the client was my niece! That said, it did give my confidence a boost, and in the future I am less likely to shy away from this kind assignment again.
As a final point, during my post-processing analysis, I came across evidence of an old, reoccurring issue of focus within the frame. This originally came to light during TAOP, and was documented in the latter entries to my learning log for this module.
Due to the shooting conditions on the day, some of the blur in my photos can be put down to slow shutter speeds and unavoidable camera shake, but there are some instances where the main focus of the shot is wrong. For example, in the photo below, baby’s face is the main focal point and should be sharply focused, but as you can see, it is slightly blurred; with the hand holding his mothers around the bottle being pin sharp … this is wrong …
Thinking about this, and doing some research into the settings of my camera, I may have identified the issue and found a possible solution.
When I take photographs, I tend to use the setting ‘single point auto-focus’, perfect when shooting stationary subjects, which I do most of the time, but not so good when taking photos of moving objects, such as wriggly babies. In hindsight, such a lovely thing, what I should have thought about was changing my auto-focus setting to ‘Auto-area AF’, as my camera would then automatically detect the subject and then keep it selected as the main focal point within the frame. Using this focusing facility may also have helped my focusing in the low-light shooting conditions I found myself in, but having never worked in these types of conditions before, I was not aware of the possible issues. If I get the chance, I will have to experiment with this and log my findings.
Also, during my post-processing for this assignment, I made additional tweaks to my workflow, which I will write about as a separate entry to my learning log.
Fry, D. (2005) Christening Photographs of Josh [Online Image]. Available at: <http://www.douglasfry.com/blog/tag/christening-photographer> [Accessed 13 March 2013].
Gatbonton, A. (2011) Top 10: Tips for Better Baby Christening Photography [Online Article]. Available at: <http://weddingphotography.com.ph/4957/top-10-tips-baby-christening-photography/> [Accessed 14 March 2013].
Hanson, N. (2009) James Christening [Online Image]. Available at: <http://neilhanson.wordpress.com/2009/09/20/jamess-christening-at-trinity-college-oxford/> [Accessed 13 March 2013].
Sira Studio. (n.d.) Alisha Rose Christening Photography [Online Image]. <Available at: http://sirastudio.com/christening-photography-harrogate/> [Accessed 13 March 2013].
Rowse, D., et al. (2012) The essential guide to Portrait Photography: Our best tips and tricks for success from Digital Photography School [eBook]. Available to download from: <www.digital-photography-school.com>.
Hurter, B. (2010) Children’s Portrait Photography Handbook – Techniques for Digital Photographers. 2nd ed. Amherst Media, Inc. Buffalo
Lackey, T. (2009) The Art of Children’s Portrait Photography. Amherst Media, Inc. Buffalo
Digital SLR Photography. (2012) The Essential Guide to Portraits: Everything you need to shoot stunning image with your Digital Camera. 3rd ed. Dennis Publishing Ltd. London