South Cheshire Ballet and Dance School

I and my photography partner Fay undertook a photography opportunity to be the photographers for South Cheshire Ballet ad Dance School. We were tasked with taking single and group pictures of over a hundred children aged between 4-20. We had time schedules booked for each different dance style and age. Therefore this consisted of time management and organization.

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We set up our pop-up studio at the dance school. We played it at the back of the room to allow the other half to be occupied by the dancers to wait for their photo schedules. We both set up the backdrop the night before the shoot. This saved time the next day and ensured that the backdrop would be suitable. It was the first time using this backdrop, which was very useful and the vinyl material ensured that no creases were created and made it easy to clean.

We set up two studio flash lights with one umbrella and a constant light with a softbox 30 minutes before the shoot began with some test shots to understand what camera settings and lighting output should be used. With better preparation before the start of the shoot would have better prepared us and reduced amount of concerns that I had. We should have set up earlier to allow more time for practice. 17264960_236198016786911_5652427306728521395_n

I felt overwhelmed with the day because we started at 9 and didn’t finish until 1 with no breaks. I was relieved that there was two of us, which made the experience easier. It was tiring and difficult to keep up with the quick pace. Due to a large number of people, we only had time for one or two photos of each dance person per person, not allowing room for mistakes.

I was concerned that the images may not all be sharp and did not feel comfortable with the lack of time to experiment with the portraits. However, looking back at the images I think that they have turned out considerably well for a stressful and busy first large portrait shoot.

It was difficult to work with a lot of people in a small room. I stepped back to frame the picture but found myself tripping over children and the parents did not have much control. In reflection, everyone should have been more organised with where they should wait and a border could have been created around the set so everyone knew not to step over the line.

A negative from the experience was the issue of health and safety around the children. We only had the one background stand to hold the backdrop. However, the backdrop was considerably heavy and the stand was weak. This meant that the stands were unstable, which were noticeable by the sides bending and the whole backdrop moving if slightly touched. This then was a risk to work with when taking pictures of people, but especially active children. When not taking pictures I stood near the backdrop and lights to ensure nothing falls over but this will have to be changed for future projects. We will have to invest in a durable stand that is meant to hold similar weights to the backdrop. We also need to purchase safety mats for the wires to make sure no one has any accidents.

During the shoot, we noticed that shadows were created on the white background. We moved the lights and added an extra softbox directed at the background to reduce the number of shadows. However, in the final pictures, there are still shadows on the right side of the frame. In editing, they were reduced but it would have taken too much time to remove every shadow for hundreds of images. I think for our first group shots I am still pleased with the results but we need more lighting practice. Setting up the backdrop in our own time and practicing with setting up the lights in different locations will improve the final outcome.

The backdrop was too small for the group shots and the stands were not high enough for taller individuals. The group could not exceed over 5 people depending on their size, such as younger dancers could fit more people on the backdrop. Some people sat in front and others stood in the backdrop to reduce the amount of space used on the backdrop. For future shoots, we will purchase a stand that will be suitable for taller people so that they there is no concern of cropping out any part of their body. For example, in the shoot, the dancers wanted to hold their hands up but in some images, their hands have been cropped out.This does not create a professional appearance and m17353621_238446029895443_8161552690913788683_nakes the limited amount of space on the backdrop difficult to work with.

A positive experience was working under pressure. This allowed us to become familiar with time constraints with a lot to be achieved. We were able to face problems with quick resolutions to improve the situation and found that we still worked well under the stress and were able to satisfy the clients.

As a team we worked successfully together, sharing the role of photographer and solving problems faster by both our involvement with the issues. We checked with one another regularly to ensure that the setup was correct and that the images were suitable. If we were unsure of anything we would discuss the problem and agree on a resolution. I think that it has been easier to work with another for this project and others, especially the wedding shoot that we will be conducting together. Together we met the deadlines for when the photos had to be edited and provided to the dance instructor so that they were printed for the final performance, also keeping up with the strict shooting schedule. 

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