Being fast, flexible and dealing with it.

Sometimes photographers have to work in far less than ideal circumstances and are still expected to produce images that are used for advertising. This is one such case.Maybe very familiar to some, but to others a nightmare.

A client of mine owns a chain of clothing shops, every year they hold a couple of events to show off the new collections they will be selling. The shop stays open late and clients are invited to have a look at the new collections. Models are hired to walk around the shop and show off the clothes. In all, they have to show about 30 outfits in about 3hours. My job is 2-fold, I have to cover the event, making a photo report of the shop, the customers and the atmosphere that evening, plus I have to shoot each profile in a ‘studio’ so that my client has photos for use in brochures, flyers and any general advertising. It’s an intense evening!

The setup.

The studio I have for this evening is an eating/relaxing space above the shop. Ceiling height of about 2.6metres, about 3metres wide and 6 long. Might not sound too bad, but keep in mind the room is fully furnished too. Oh, and the room is also the main thoroughfare from shop to kitchen, which is in contant use during the evening… I have to move the large dining table, chairs and couch out of the way to even have a chance of getting enough space. As width of the room is tight, I have to use a narrow background paper, standard rolls would be impossible to fit in there. Lighting is cramped too but given that the ceiling and walls are white helps a lot! One flash head fitted with 1.6m gridded octabox is great. Set to the right and touching the ceiling it gives enough soft light to fill the full length model, plus just enough spill to reflect off the walls. Once all setup I just leave it, there’s not time to fiddle with lighting between shots plus some consistency is needed to give all the profiles the same look. I shoot with a 70-200mm so that I can shoot from far enough away to keep the model framed on the narrow background paper.

The time available for shooting each profile is literally seconds, the models get changed in an adjacent room, run into my ‘studio’ grab a few poses, maybe 3 or 4 shots are made of each profile and they have to hurry off downstairs. Once each set is shot,  I leave the studio camera upstairs, grab another camera and follow them down into the shop. Oh, and to just add to the possible stress factors, the models are not professional models, they are friends of the client, roped in to help, suddenly those precious seconds to capture the profile shots becomes even more challenging. It is one seriously manic evening.

Tips for shooting very restricted circumstances:

  • Don’t panic, or at least don’t let the client see your heart pounding through your chest.
  • Take a moment to dump your ‘ideal’ setup thoughts.
  • Evaluate the situation, you’re going to have to make the best of what you have.
  • Set your setup.
  • Be confident in your choice of setup.
  • Enjoy your work.
  • Always have a roll of duct tape in your bag.

Anyway, a few of the shots from a session last year.

  • Jef Janssens - Interesting stuff, good to read real pro’s have stress too 😉

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