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?

11 thoughts on “Congraduations

  1. The collage is very nice. It is hard to remember that kids get excited graduating from HS, but they do! Everyone should have tons of pictures taken when they are 18, and keep them for future use, lol!

    When we were walking around photgraphing yesterday, we noticed a few obvious professional photographers (all men, as it happened) doing the same, lugging huge cameras. Geoff and I concluded that we will get a 7D next and I will take both everywhere, each with a particular lens. I like the fisheye so much that I am going to get a wide angle after all and then we will probably each have two cameras eventually (although I have to remind him to take pictures when we are out together — he forgets and misses opportunities), always with a fisheye, wide angle, 22-40 (the one you recommended)? and telephoto. But, we need to do that slowly. We will get there. And, strangely, even though we both walked around with camera bags and gear yesterday, and I was on the ground and standing up on statues, no one seemed to pay any particular attention. Kids are probably different — hyperalert. But then again, the beauty of the fisheye, is that one is seemingly pointing elsewhere and people don’t realize they are taken into the shot by the lens, so that helped!

    I am so glad that you are excited about being there. And now your job at school has brought in your love of photography. What could be better?

    • Well, that’s another story as it isn’t always exciting to be the school photographer, lemme tell ya…LOL. Actually I think we have talked about that. But I am getting used to it and putting my foot down on some of the expectations and demands. If you want ME to be the photographer, I’m the one who’s going to set the rules, let’s just put it that way!

      The wide angle I’d recommend is the 17-40mm; it’s L-series glass but it’s one of the cheaper ones out there-still NOT cheap, but totally worth it. Here’s a link:

      Also at some point, you probably should own a 50mm lens if you don’t already. The Canon 50mm f/1.4 is the one I have – it’s the mid-range that runs about $350. Couldn’t bring myself to spend over $1000 for the f/1.2. The 1.4 is so super-fast as it is, I don’t mind that’s it is not L-glass. It’s just a lens that every photographer says is a go-to for them, especially to photograph people, that it’s a nice one to have in the bag. If you want to just try it out first though, pick up the cheap one which is still super-fast at f/1.8. The build is plastic, but you can grab it for like $100. I probably should have kept my cheapie because for the SL1 I will probably want the plastic cheap lenses to keep it lightweight.

      Lord listen to us…money pit indeed! Now all we need is Rebecca to join in and talk about the video component and how much money that costs.

      • OG, I am going to copy and print this out. Cha-ching! I forgot about the case. If we get more equipment we will need a new case. I think I will start lining these dudes up somewhere in their cases, with their accessories and start photographing them. This is too ridiculous :-)! I am not going to be a videographer – for whatever reason, that is not appealing to me right now. Geoffrey does that and it is all stupid personal stuff. We cannot make real movies — the very thought of how much that would cost, scares even me.

        Thank you for the info. I know we don’t have a plain 50mm — just the 18-55 and the other lenses we got (telephoto, fish-eye, macro magnifiers).

      • LOL, you may remember that G and I took a special trip to Sta. Barbara (glad it was this weekend, obviously) recently and he left the battery in the charger at home). Yeah, we have backup batteries for our phones. Gotta get one for the camera … and a paper route to support my new habit. 😉

  2. The red robes are so cheerful and exhilarating! They are my favorite graduation robes, and I was disappointed when my daughter’s college (colors crimson and cream)) didn’t have red robes! Glad you’re having fun and keepin busy ;)!

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