Thursday, November 09, 2006

Faking It

Today I tentatively tried on a new hat - School Photographer for the day. I had a hard act to follow - my husband did the photos at our son's school last year and as a professional photographer set a standard way beyond normal school photo levels. Unfortunately the whole job took up quite a lot of time, not the taking of the photos but the digital resizing, compiling and printing of the photos afterwards. Being a perfectionist he also retouched all the incipient teenage acne and blemishes, effectively providing them with a studio portrait.

So this year, with him being too busy, they asked me. I'm technically fairly competant with a camera, knowing my apertures and depths of field and stuff, and have the benefit of access to a decent camera, excellent advice and a kind of absorption by osmosis of photographic techniques, but I suffered a degree of anxiety about the other part of the job. There is more to people photography than exposing correctly and clicking the shutter release. What my husband is so good at is getting a rapport going with the subject, relaxing them and so getting a natural smile rather than a plastered on mask of a grimace. Not to mention the organising of a hundred people into a whole school group shot.

So feeling a little apprehensive I hustled us all out of the house in good time, dropped off the strawberries to sell at the farm stall, my six year old at the kindergarten and met my kind husband at the school, where he was going to help me set up. He checked the cameras for me, took a few trial shots and with a reassuring "You'll be fine" left me to it. In the end it was fine. He'd chosen the right outside spot with a background of dappled sunshine on leaves, with the subject in shade, set the camera for fill in flash to soften the shadows, so all I was left to do was to coax an approximation of a smile out of each child. Some of them looked like I was torturing them, then would smile beautifully just when the camera flash was recharging.

I had youngest along with me. She spent most of the time sitting under the tripod, only occasionally saying she wanted to go home. When we did get home I immediately downloaded the whole lot with trepidation. Would there be a usable photo for each child? There was. Maybe room for improvement to reach my husband's high standards, but good enough and as I am no perfectionist myself that will be good enough. Now all I have to do is crop, resize, fit into a template and print eighty or so portraits and class photos. Luckily my husband is also an expert on the necessary computer skills so I'll be learning fast over the weekend.


  1. I envy your photography skills. I can barely hold the camera let alone actually take the picture. I'm sure they'll turn out great.

  2. Wow ... you just crossed the threshold of fear and trepidation for me. I once got some good advice ... "Talk to people conversationally from behind the camera, just like the camera isn't there." O geeze you mean for me to get photos like there's no camera I have to pretend I'm not behind a camera? I managed this once ... at a birthday party where I actually knew very few of the people. I had to answer to no one for the photos. I could just play. Worked out pretty well ... but not something I'd want to answer for. I am impressed! And so relieved for you!


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