Not Too Proud To Learn
Sometimes it pays to pay attention. I found this out this last weekend.
I was asked to take series of family group pictures and as there were to be 10 people involved, I knew that my little studio would be strained to do it. Not that the little studio is a bad place - I have Elinchrom lights and shapers to deal with lots of different situations. I use a Nikon digital system now and am very pleased with the resolution and colour rendition it provides ( particularly since I coordinated the in-camera white balance with the actual output of the lights and the Adobe Camera Raw section of the computer - I now get what I expect...).
But it is a little studio. I can do fighter jets and motor cars and ships at sea, but the Superior paper roll is still just 2750 mm wide. Some of the groups I take are 6 or more people and they tend to flow over the edges. I can composite and retouch but once they go past the edge of he paper it all gets time consuming.
So - I purchased a book by Matt Koskowski on photo compositing. One chapter was devoted to precisely the situation I was facing yesterday. And Koskowski was very specific on how he solved it - fixed positions for the subjects, light, and camera. Fortunately I practised the technique the night before using myself as model and on the day it all worked like clockwork. The selections and final assembly were a breeze and as soon as I figure out exactly how I want the shadow to fall I can complete it. I hope the family won't mind if I give a preview.
Note as well: Big-name exclusive fashionable studios and the international award-winning legend mentors may wish to turn away and sip their hemlock cocktails now. I am going to suggest that small-name photographers with little studios that aren't exclusive at all might benefit by taking a leaf out of North American books. ( For the chronically anti-American amongst you, pretend that this is all Canadian...). Small studios there make a good ( Canadian) dollar out of high school graduation photos, Christmas card photos, and Halloween photos. Call it corny, call it trite, call it what you will - I call it money.
It might be difficult to get a chance at school pictures here in Western Australia - big firms have this sewn up and they do a good job of it. And it is a tough business - dealing with battle-hardened primary school teachers and their ravening hordes of children. I should not take it on with a Gatling, myself. But there may be high school yearbooks and senior classes who would welcome off-site studio shots of their graduating classes. If you are prepared to apply a little taste and a lot of patience, they can be the highlight of the school year.
Likewise Halloween. Throw yourself around like a pig in a fit if you will about the North American tradition of trick-or-treat, but if you advertise Halloween photo sets and then stock up with skulls and spiders and bats from Toys R Us, you can do a lot of good in October. Heavily gelled lights and photoshopped moons and graveyards are the go so don't hold back on the schlock - your customers will love it.
Christmas images for cards are a good idea, but don't get stuck with dong the cards yourself - provide good templated images on disc to the customers and get them to have the printing done by a commercial firm.
You'll end up with a lots of props to store, but take heart - the seasonal holidays come back each year and the corny props never date. And you can make pie out of the Jack-o-Lantern on the 1st of November...