The fall of 2014 was my daughter’s first year in high school. Being their first year her and her friends wanted to fit in so they joined sports teams, clubs and basically wanted the whole high school experience including attending the semi formal.
Now I should have clued in as to what was going to happen considering how many trips Rya and my wife Dawn made to all the malls and dress shops in the city but you know I’m a man living in a house full of females, pets included except for the one crazy cat, so I just chocked up all the shopping trips to the “girl thing.” About an hour before she was to leave Rya says “oh by the way dad my three friends are coming over so you can take pictures of all of us.” PANIC ATTACK!
You see I had not had the studio lights all that long when this occurred and although taking photos of family was becoming quite comfortable when I had all the time in the world to make a plan and set up this was quite different. There would not be time to change backgrounds or adjust the lighting setup for several poses for each girl it would have to be set up something pretty generic and go with it. So off I go.
First pick the backdrop. OK teenagers and a semi formal, they’re probably all wearing a black dress so the white muslin will work the best. But the wrinkles good grief the wrinkles. Plan B is the white paper – that’ll work. Group shots will be tough as it’s only 5’ wide but it will have to do. Next is the lighting setup. Do I use the beauty dish and a reflector – perfect for the individual shots but not so much for the four of them. Same scenario with soft boxes. The only choice given the constraints are two reflective umbrellas, one positioned camera right at about 45 degrees and the second camera left at about 30 degrees for fill. These won’t be the most artistic portraits but they will have to do. Thankfully both the camera and light meter had full batteries. I was ready!
Rya is ready. Madi and Julia show up about forty five minutes prior to departure time but where is Ciara? I’m ready so we fire up the lights, check the exposure and get after it. It goes pretty well I think. We’re shooting tethered to the computer so we can make sure the girls like their poses. We make sure to get some serious, some funny and a few with the girls paired up… wholly crap Ciara is finally here and with only twenty minutes to spare. What do you mean she’s not dressed yet – WOW! Off the set go all the girls, Dawn included, to help Ciara get dressed, check hair and makeup and get her ready. Alright we have fifteen minutes to get this done. Ciara stand on the tape, turn your body to your left, no no your other left, okay now turn your head back to the camera, chin out and down a bit. Just as I’m ready to pull the trigger figuring what we get is what we get one of the girls cracks a joke and I capture the most beautiful smile on Ciara. We quickly shoot a few fun group shots, Rya says thanks dad see you later and off they go.
After relaxing a bit with a daddy beverage I decide to flip through all of the shots on the computer. Usually, when having the time and a plan in mind I shoot somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 – 30 images during a one hour headshot or portrait shoot. To my surprise when looking I had shot 70 images in half an hour. Must have been the panic and wanting to make sure I had something appropriate for each of the girls to print if they so wished. Thankfully after culling probably 75 % for one reason or another I did in fact capture at least one very nice image of each of the girls and a couple of fun group shots. Over the next week or so I did some light retouching on the keepers. Not much is generally needed on 15 year olds except for that whole acne thing but it wasn’t much at all.
It turned out to be a fun shoot and helped me learn to loosen up and to go with the flow more than this former bean counter is usually prepared to do.