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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> Graduation Photos - advice, tips?
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05/29/2009 02:36:28 PM · #1
Ok, so my son's high school was very impressed with the portraits I did for their mom/student tea event (they are easily impressed) and asked me to shoot the graduation ceremony next week. It will be indoors and I haven't seen the place yet and I am just looking for advice and/or photo examples/inspiration. The plan is to shoot each student receiving the diploma and also offer an optional family shot after the ceremony. This is sort of a volunteer / barter situation, but I obviously want to do a great job on them. In addition to the lenses in my profile, I will have a 70-200 f2.8 L IS for the event. So--- anyone done a grad ceremony and want to share tips and photos?
05/29/2009 02:54:50 PM · #2
I would use a flash/ umbrella with the solo shots, I've seen them used in grads before, just a little off stage.
05/29/2009 02:55:42 PM · #3
The most important thing is that you are officially "official", and that they allow you to stake out a prime spot for the "diploma handshake", which is what it's all about in the end. Typically, the the handover might take place at an elevation (about half the time in my experience of maybe a dozen graduations) above where the audience is (a stage, a proscenium, whatever), and this can be a problem, angle-wise.

Also, typically, the presentation is centered in front of an aisle and the new diplomates are walking down that aisle to return to their seats; they'll line up to one side of the seating area, file onto the stage, then return down the center aisle and file into their seats. So obviously the returning diplomates are gonna be a problem as far as obscuring a dead-center camera angle goes. You have to work this out. If you're forced to one side or the other, you want to be towards the same side that the presenter is standing on, so the obscured face will be the presenter's, not the diplomate's.

Now, if you're fortunate enough to have a rise from stage to back-of-audience, you can likely get in the aisle a good ways back and set up, and use the 200mm reach to get unobstructed views... And oh, yeah, shoot in burst. Why? Because there are gonna be p&S flashes firing right and left, and you want to be sure you have an exposure that doesn't grab unwanted flash from elsewhere.

As far as the family groups go, it's gonna be hell unless you can get an area with some sort of a reasonable backdrop scene taped off for your use. Trying to organize a pose in the midst of the milling throngs is incredibly frustrating.

May I recommend bringing Godzilla as an assistant? He might be able to keep 'em in line.

05/29/2009 02:58:15 PM · #4
If the auditorium is dark - pretty usual in such situations - then you want to make sure you have a f/2.8 lens. Preferably the 24-70 f/2.8 Canon or some Sigma equivalent. The 70-200 seems a little too narrow to me. You will have to jack the ISO up high and get there early to see what the light is like. Shoot a custom white balance white card. Don't shot on auto wb. Shoot in RAW. You will need a flash and it better be a good one too. If you do not have a battery pack, then you need multiple sets of AA rechargeable batteries ready at hand. Blasting off shot after shot at 1/2 power, batteries get consumed fast. The problem comes when one set is drained and you have to load more batteries fast. If you can stop the ceremony to do that, OK, if not you will miss a couple of kids.... On camera flash is OK, off camera flash units to the side are better. Depends on your equipment. I suggest you scout out the hall first, days in advance. Speaking from experience here.....

Maybe NYC high schools are different from where you live. But here there can be 900 students in that diploma line. That requires some serious equipment.

Message edited by author 2009-05-29 15:32:31.
05/29/2009 03:04:12 PM · #5
Up-gown shots...
05/29/2009 07:18:40 PM · #6
Thanks everyone (except you, Slippy) :P

Does anyone have any sample shots?
05/29/2009 07:35:26 PM · #7
Originally posted by Art Roflmao:

Does anyone have any sample shots?

Here ya go. For inspiration purposes only, I won't pretend to be partiularly good at graduations. I'll let you decide if this is a "what to do" or a "what not to do". BTW, with the exception of the police commencement, I was only shooting candids/PR shots.
05/29/2009 07:48:02 PM · #8
Inflatable Godzilla :P
05/30/2009 01:26:59 AM · #9
Originally posted by nickp37:

Here ya go. For inspiration purposes only, I won't pretend to be partiularly good at graduations. I'll let you decide if this is a "what to do" or a "what not to do". BTW, with the exception of the police commencement, I was only shooting candids/PR shots.

Thanks Nick - that does help!
05/30/2009 01:28:33 AM · #10
You're more than welcome!
05/30/2009 01:32:58 AM · #11
Originally posted by faidoi:

Inflatable Godzilla :P

I'll just have an option to 'shop him into any of the group/family photos and charge extra for it. It's always my biggest selling service. :P

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05/31/2009 10:08:57 PM · #12
maybe this will help some shooting high school graduations ;-)
06/01/2009 12:29:16 AM · #13
Originally posted by Skip:

maybe this will help some shooting high school graduations ;-)

Thanks, Skip! You always deliver and inspire! Very helpful post.
06/08/2009 06:41:29 AM · #14
Thought I'd post the outcome of this for those interested. The grad ceremony Friday night went down pretty well for my first ever event like this - in fact, it was the first time I had ever been to a HS Graduation for any reason. This was relatively small - 28 Graduates.

I made some mistakes, but got all of the diploma handover shots and I learned a lot! I know for sure I would've been much better off with that 24-70 2.8L - I ended up using my 24-105 f4 and the 70-200 f2.8 (mostly at high ISO and no flash). Many of the pics have lots of noise. :-(

As for processing - I knew from rehearsal the angle and position of where I had to shoot from was going to make the short black backdrop cut a line across the heads during the diploma handover - and also some of the other school officials up on stage were right in the background of the shot - grrrrr - I spent about 10-12 minutes on each of the 28 diploma shots editing the background and in about half of them, I edited out the person in the background (a huge pain!).

I got a couple group shots (didn't know I was going to do those). Sky is blown - if I had known, I woulda used a polarizer or grad filter thingy.

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So I posted the more decent, formal shots for sale at the higher prices and various sizes and I put all the other keepers in a sort of snapshot gallery and set a pricesheet to make only 4x6 prints available at 1.99 ea. Some are pretty crappy but I figure there were some students whose parents weren't there or live in another country etc and these might be the only ones for them.

You can see some more shots here...

Just for fun, I did a video slideshow (ProShow Gold). I posted it on YouTube: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZlMauWgx0Q

Of course, I know time/profit wise, I am sucking wind, but this is just prepping me for things I may or may not want to do. Total time was about 18 hours including prior day rehearsal, ceremony, processing, posting, doing the video, and setting up an account at Exposure Manager to sell prints (thanks, ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Skip!) and customizing the site. I can see getting this down to 8 hours maybe, but even at that, I am having a hard time seeing this as worth it. I guess an average sale of $20 per student (probably muy optimistic in this instance) comes to about $560 - about $30/hr - I could live with that for this time, but would have to do much better on future events. Still, considering I am getting $200 off next year's tuition, I shouldn't complain.

I'd also like to say it would have been a train wreck were it not for ' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Skip's help!
06/08/2009 08:38:06 AM · #15
If you hit those washed out one with topaz spicify, it brings out the background nicely...

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and this one I hit with topaz exposure adjustment, vibrance and the built in noise reduction...

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Message edited by author 2009-06-08 08:46:35.
06/08/2009 09:10:00 AM · #16
Great shots Art! And an amazing article by Skip there too.
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