I’ve been MIA for a few days because work has been very busy. We had our Baccalaureate Mass Friday night and graduation ceremonies Saturday morning, and a lot of preparation and extra time goes into all of that. I decided to take the weekend off from Flickr and the blog since I knew I’d be busy, and after the big event was over, tired – but of course I also had to take pictures of graduation for the school’s Facebook page, so I want to discuss that experience and share a few photos.
I still don’t know how appropriate it is to share student pictures here, but I think a little collage of some of my best shots is OK, so that’s what I have to show you. But first I’d like to talk about all the ways in which this type photography is different from what I normally do. Well, I won’t talk about all the ways since that would be too long and boring because it couldn’t be more different from my usual work. But let’s get down to what I am willing to take the time to discuss (and I’m warning you, this is gonna be a pretty camera-geeky post, so either scroll down to the photos or strap yourself in).
First of all, I’ve had to suck it up and revert back to using auto camera settings for the time being, since trying to set things like exposure and shutter speed manually ends up taking too much time and making too many mistakes. What I need for social media pictures are decent shots I can edit quickly to look better, and I can’t afford to blow an entire series of photos because I didn’t get the manual settings right. Plus these events are occurring at time when I am also working, so I can’t be all wrapped up in what aperture to use to the detriment of everything else I’m supposed to be doing at the time. For now I am favoring the “Creative Auto” setting on the school’s Canon T3i that I’ve been using, but I may play around with others as I still get red-eye on occasion (and yes, I’ve also been accepting the need to use the on-camera flash and try my best to edit some life back into the pics later). Speed and accuracy are of the utmost importance, so some quality is going to be lost to achieve those aims, unfortunate but true. But, much like any other type of photography I’ve tried, I’m learning each time, and may be able to eventually switch back over to manual settings. We’ll see.
I’ve also decided for now to shoot in JPEG – a huge concession, I don’t mind telling you. I hate editing JPEGs with a passion, but I don’t yet have the proper software at work to edit RAW files – although I did purchase Photo Ninja to use at the office, it isn’t very compatible with my system there, it crashes often, and it sometimes can’t read the RAW files when I try to open them. Working with RAW files in PN is also laboriously slow when I’m at work; it’s not too speedy when I’m at home for that matter, but I have more time and need to edit my personal pics than I do these anyway. Social media photos don’t really require all that extra time, work, and arm strain to be perfectly acceptable, and for now I’ve decided to shoot in and edit JPEG files as a practicality. On occasion I take a photo that’s so good, it pains me to know it’s already lost so much quality, but what can I do. I have to keep in mind what the main purpose of these photos is and let it go. So JPEG it is. I can still do some fine-tuning in Photo Ninja and a little more in Snapseed without draining the quality too too much, and they look great on Facebook even if they won’t print up all that fine.
One additional thing I’ll add is that I am seriously eyeing the Canon SL1 for a school purchase if I’m going to continue to take photos for them next year; I first came across it while discussing new cameras with my blogging friend Rebecca, and had my interest rekindled when sharing gear ideas with Beth: what I like about the SL1 is how freaking small and light it is, yet it still gets great reviews from people whose main body is a 7D like mine or even an MKIII. It can handle my lenses (although to put one of my big ones on it would be ridiculous) and while I don’t know if it has a hot shoe for my Speedlite I’m not sure I care, as that would be pretty silly too, and I am learning to make peace with an on-camera flash for its convenience in these off-the-cuff, in-the-crowd scenarios where I’d be using it to take pics. The few times I’ve taken my 7D up to the school, I’ve noticed it rather freaks the students out. Most of them have never seen such a big camera (especially once I get my 17-40mm loaded onto it and my Speedlite) and it is very obtrusive for candid crowd shots – you are not going to aim that thing at someone’s face without them realizing you are doing it, and it ruins a lot of shots. I never really thought about how much camera size affects people’s reactions to a photographer, but it’s a real thing. And, with my constant right arm struggles, I admit I love the idea of owning something exceptionally light for me to use when taking handheld shots, not just at school but whenever possible. I’m being reminded by using the school’s little Rebel that it’s not just an expensive body that makes a digital picture great, and I can get a lot out of a cheaper, smaller camera than I remembered. I’d like to get the school to buy an SL1 first so I can try it out for awhile, then possibly get my own as well. I think the SL1 body with my 50mm lens would be the perfect combo for school photos, and for walkabout stuff outside of school as well.
Speaking of the 50mm lens, I decided one way to make my photos at the school better right off the bat was to bring that lens up there whenever I want to take pics. Some days I’m still stuck with the 18-55mm lens that came in the T3i kit, but if I have any advance notice I try to bring the 50mm in to work for the day. At first I tried to bring my 7D each time, but it’s just too much to lug around and cart back and forth, so I settled on using the Rebel body with a better lens. The 50mm is known for being a damn good walkabout lens – in fact, if you follow the Facebook page of Humans of New York (and if you don’t, you should), the photographer who started that phenomenon said it’s the only lens he ever uses – and it’s fairly light as well as super-fast, which I love. So, without further ado, allow me to share with you some of my best shots taken at our senior graduation for May of 2104. Almost all of these were taken in the worst light imaginable – super-bright sunlight at high noon – using a Canon Rebel T3i set to Creative Auto, with the on-camera flash for some fill and my 50mm EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens (click the collage for a full-size view):
To edit these, I ran them through PhotoNinja to reduce chromatic aberration, add sharpness, enhance the color, and reduce noise. Even though they were already JPEGs I edited and saved once, I opened them again in Snapseed to further sharpen and add detail. So there you go. Not bad for a fairly cheap digital camera taking photos in a lossy format. I do think the color is all over the place here, but again the light was the worst so I’m willing to overlook it.
And of course, all of these shots would be fabulous even if taken on my phone, underwater, and in a dark cave, because just look at those happy smiling awesome faces. How could a picture go wrong? I don’t talk about my job much anymore here, but I can’t look at these pics without realizing how great it is to get to know kids like this every year, and help them off on their way into the world. I’m blessed to have both a job and a hobby I love so much and am fairly good at to boot. People tell me ALL the time I should take up photography as a full-time job, but the truth is I love the job I do now, which is work with high school students and spend the year getting to know them and helping them out when I can. Yes, I am looking forward to returning to the classroom, and counseling has been a challenge, but at the end of the day working with kids like this is the best job ever, and then on weekends I get to dress up and dance around and be fabulous, so why would I mess with this plan? I know I’ve bitched a lot about work here in the past, but the truth is I am one seriously lucky gal to have the life I do. And then to get to share it with all of you is a blessing as well…I’ll bow out now before I get any more sentimental and everyone thinks I’ve lost my damn mind. What can I say – graduations bring out the sappy old fool in everyone, don’t they?