Monday, September 19, 2011

Quick Hit Monday: One Great Weekend!

Good Morning Everybody,

0001 - Hannah post-11What a great weekend we had! In today’s post, instead of doing my normal listing of quick hits, I thought I’d walk you through my two day weekend shoot.  It will certainly be a great resource post for anyone shooting Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and even if you don’t photograph Bar Mitzvahs, I hope you still enjoy the walk through, the details, and the images of the weekend that I’ll present this morning.

The Friday Temple Shoot

We spent all day Friday and a good bit of Saturday photographing one of my favorite client’s daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.  You may be wondering why it was a two day shoot.

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Years ago when I began shooting Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s, I knew I wanted to get the best images possible for my clients.  I also quickly realized that I was not going to be able to do that on the day of the big event – there is just two much going on. Friends and family members arriving from across the country and many parts of the world. Also emotions are high, time is short, and our Bar/Bat Mitzvah, (remember they are 13 years old) needs time to get composed for this coming of age ceremony.

That said, we always meet the clients at the synagogue on the day of the last scheduled rehearsal. This is usually Thursday or Friday prior to the Saturday celebration. This gives us ample time to get several photographs of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, their parents, immediate family members, and grandparents.  The session usually takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to capture all the images.

We arrived at the temple at 11:30 a.m. Friday morning allowing us plenty of time to set up for the scheduled noon shoot.  The Rabbi’s schedule is always tight so when he breezes in at noon we better be ready to go, never miss a step or delay the rehearsal in anyway, and be sure we have all the important photographs in the camera.

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After the session with the Rabbi, we move on to all the important family group images that need to be taken in the temple’s sanctuary. Once those are completed, we move to our portable studio set up for the beautiful formal close up portraits of all the family members.  This session alone might provide good content for an upcoming Technique Tuesday.  I used only one large main light and one small shoe mount slaved flash for background accents.  All told, we took over 450 images during this two hour session.

Friday Evening Shabbos Dinner – The Out Of Towner's Party

We arrived back home, grabbed a quick lunch, changed clothes, and headed out the country club where the Out Of Towner’s party and Shabbos dinner was taking place.  The idea is to get there a bit early and shoot the room details before anyone arrived.

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This particular Friday was different – there were much greater plans afoot for this Friday evening.  Miss Hannah, the cause for celebration this past weekend was the 22 grandchild of this generation to celebrate her Bat Mitzvah.  It was the end of an era, the coming of full circle for all the families present for this weekend celebration.  I’ve had the honor of photographing, since 1999, the last 18 Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations (plus 2 weddings) for all five  families. 

This Friday was also the day we scheduled to photograph all those grandkids, family members, and great grandkids of my favorite grandfather, Murray G.  Surprisingly, everyone arrived on time and ready to go – all 41 people!

I was challenged to find a decent background in the shade.  Next was getting the light right on them with my off=camera flash, and finally, I had to get great expressions on the entire crowd – all of this in a matter of only a very few minutes since everyone was anxious to begin the weekend celebration.  15 minutes later we had the photographs we needed.

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The rest of the evening was filled with visiting family, toasting, candle lighting services, and general celebration.  The evening ended around 10 p.m. and everyone returned back to their homes.

At 9 a.m. the next morning Hannah was “Rabbi for a Day” and became a Bat Mitzvah eligible for all rights an privileges as an adult in the her Jewish faith community. Mazel Tov to Hannah. This particular synagogue is “conservative” so there are no photographs allowed during the service.  We “posed most of those on the Friday afternoon before anyway.  Our job was to photograph the evening festivities.

Saturday Evening – You’ve got to get the shot!

We arrived on site at 5:30 p.m. to begin shooting the “scene setters” and details of the event.  This is also a great time to capture many images we’ll eventually use in the final album design for the client.  The clients were scheduled to arrive at 6 p.m. but were a bit late because of slow traffic. 

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Hannah’s family arrived first with the remaining 4 families – aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins arriving shortly after that.  Our job is to get photographs every possible combination of all those 6 families.  It can be a daunting job if you are not prepared for the challenge.  It means moving about 50 people through about 230 in under 45 minutes! You can do the math – 5 images/minute - and, the images must look fabulous – no exceptions! Oh, and did I mention that you have catering staff running around in the background setting the tables, lighting candles, filling water glasses…you have to keep your wits, time your photographs so the waiter staff are hidden behind the groups.

You’ve  got to get the details covered too.

I’ll tell you, the room looked amazing and my banners I think were the whip cream on top.  The banners provided beautiful added décor and filled the space above/between the windows and really gave a great finishing touch to the room.

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I’m mentioned it before but you’ve got to get the details covered.  You’ve got to show the planning that went into the event.  These images are also great background images for album design, too.

Party Time - What A Blast!

Once we finish our groups we can breath a sigh of relief – the hard part of the evening is behind us. Now it’s party time and it’s our job to capture all the fun, excitement, and celebration of the evening.

0010 - Hannah post-11Nickolas, my ace # 1 assistant covers the cocktail hour for me as I finish detail photographs of the room and pick up on any other action, like the kids games going on in another part of the venue.  About an hour later all the kids join the adults in the main ballroom for dinner. 

Saturday evening dinner was buffet style with several gourmet islands available which makes it impossible to photograph all the tables complete with all the guests – there are always a few people who have wondered off to visit another food station or a guest across the room.  We do our best to get photographs of the main family tables.  We’ll photograph the rest of the guests on the dance floor. In any event, we certainly have everyone covered by the end of the evening.

After dinner, the party kicks into high gear and is non-stop well past midnight!  For me this is the most fun of the evening’s shoot. 

Our DJ’s were from Chicago and have played for the family on two previous occasions.  They really keep the crowd rocking, especially the kids giving Nicholas and I plenty of opportunity for capture great party images.

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One thing additional I want to say about the party images is that they are all captured with my “triangle lighting” setup.  I have a room light placed approximately 20 feet off the ground on a light stand near the DJ. My second assistant, Damien, carries the second strobe, my Quantum with no Zumbrella, and it is his responsibility to be in the right position to create the triangle. The third light is my on-camera strobe.  This is one kick a__ _ lighting set up that really brings out the dimension and details of the event.  It still blows my mind all the single light shooters out there.  I like what a client said to me years ago. He said, “David, We hire you for your lighting.  It makes our parties look amazing.”  I agree.  Just check out Technique Tuesday to learn how we lit the room for Saturday’s party.

My Experience with the new Sigma 85mm F1.4 lens

0012 - Hannah post-11Nicholas just picked up the Sigma lens for himself and brought it along for me to try Saturday night.Seeing his images of the details and my experience with shooting during the very low light conditions I took of the guests watching the slide show makes me want to immediately go out and purchase that lens today.  Focus was fast, the lens is tack sharp, and it let me shoot at f1.4 1/80 second at ISO 3200 – amazing! What a joy to shoot with.

You’ve got to get the Group Shot

This is always a fun photograph to capture.  We begin with the entire group of kids and take the standard group shot.  

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We mix it up with several versions after that including the group hug. I then zoom in on our guest of honor and get some great expressions – it’s easily becomes a double page spread in the album.

The party ended on a fairly interesting (innovative) note.  The DJ's cleared the floor and covered it in bubble wrap – yes,huge rolls of bubble wrap!  Then they invited all the guests to get back on the bubble wrapped dance floor, cranked up the music and dance away.  Things got carried away of course but it was good fun.

0017 - Hannah post-11The party was supposed to be over at midnight, but with shouts of “one more song” it went on until 12:30 a.m.  My motto – never leave till the music stops.  There’s always some great moments still to capture.

We said our goodbyes to Hannah, her mom and dad, and so many others guests we knew at the party.  We landed back home around 1:00 a.m., unloaded the car. Thanks to my assistants Nickolas and Damien for all their professionalism during the event, their support and artistic expertise. Time for a very cold adult beverage.  What a beautiful, exciting, sometimes stressful….really a great day!


Hey gang, that’s it for me today.  I hoped you enjoyed today’s slightly different post and got some insights into how I like to cover an event.  I’ll tell you – it’s non-stop, high energy, physically demanding job but I still love shooting Mitzvah’s.

So today I’m relaxing the rest of the day;~)  David

1 comment:

  1. Very informative post. Great images also. Thanks for sharing this with us David. Question: do you need model releases from everyone on those pictures to display them here? Thanks!