Be Ready

I would like to prepare our interns to be ready for anything. Not in a surprise-obstacle-course-challenge! kind of way – but in a we-need-a-professional-photographer-NOW-and-You-Are-It sort of way.

I wasn’t told that I was going to be taking the ‘official’ photos for Leah’s graduation ceremony until about 2 minutes before this photo was taken. This was sort of a pre-graduation ceremony that the School of Social Work was having just for their students before the actual cap & gown ceremony in two weeks.

Long story short. The hired photographer never showed up. I was there. I got the paying job.

Now I know there’s some degree of backlash against the distinction of using the term ‘professional’ photographer – like it’s a dirty word just because so many unprofessional people use it and so many actual professionals don’t. I use the term ‘professional’ because I find there are few alternatives that appropriately convey what it means to be a professional photographer. However, now is not the time for definitions. So let me tell you about this shot.

I was downstairs with all of the family members while the graduates were still in the theater supposedly taking their group photo. Five minutes later, Leah comes running up to me saying that the hired photographer never showed up and I needed to take the photos. Without blinking – Okay. No. Problem.

As I walk up the stairs I’m thinking about the lighting in the theater – and it’s normal theater lighting with lots of dark shadows everywhere except on stage. I also know that I don’t have my off camera flashes – and even if I did – I wouldn’t have time for ANY setup. These people wanted to get to their families in the lobby.

This is how it looked when I first got back in the room – straight out of the camera:

You can see the big difference in exposure levels. People on stage brightly lit – people off stage, in darkness – but it’s not that bad. I can work with this.

Now that I know I can get a usable shot – in my head I’m thinking now’s the time to at least look like a professional and direct these people into the shot that I want.

– Alright everyone, get together. Closer. You – stay on this side of the plant. You guys, lean back, but keep your necks out, shoulders down. Get closer. Squeeze in. Look right at me. If you can’t see me I can’t see you. – You, I can’t see you! – alright everyone – LOOK. RIGHT. HERE. 1.2.Three. Again.

The ‘session’ lasted about 6 minutes from start to finish. No extra lighting, no light adjustments and no tripod. You have to quickly realize what you can do – and then do what you can. For me – 98% of the time when I’m taking a photo – it’s an audition for more work. There are no excuses – if these photos were unusable, I couldn’t give everyone excuses about how I wasn’t prepared, how the lighting was really bad, how blah blah blah. They don’t care – not really – but they will care if I deliver usable photos that they might possibly like – and just maybe they’ll remember how I appeared out of nowhere, with no preparation, and immediately stepped up to get THE SHOT.

At some point, if not already, I want all of our interns to have the confidence in their abilities to do the exact same thing without flinching – and be professional photographers.