The Freeware Photographer's Blog

Here I muse about assignments and plans and my experiences being a free photographer in and around Antwerp. Unlike the rest of this site the Blog is only available in english, since it will be of interest to a wider audience anyway and would be too much bother to keep up in two languages.

Photoshoot #6

Created Wed 16 Jun 10 7:08 by Mathias

Photoshoot #6 last sunday was originally meant to be a fashion-centric shoot with one model, but turned into an all-round one with two. Sadly I don't have permission to show any pictures so you'll have to make do with my description.

I messed up a bit this time around, and after I'd cut the white paper background I found out that I didn't have enough left for another shoot. I "solved" this by taping the back of an older cut onto what was left and fixing the seem in post-processing. In the future I'll have to keep better track of how much paper I cut off so I know exactly how much I have left.

For most of the shoot we then used the black background, which was good practice. The black seems more reflective than the white, which means that the bend in the paper between wall and floor is more visible. I'll have to see if I can solve this in the future, maybe by putting more light onto the ground. I'll also have to add a little more light on the models in the future, especially if they are wearing dark clothes.

I also tried a couple of new shots with the models leaning against one of the walls. This is possible now because earlier I removed the big white radiator. The results were decent, but I'll need to experiment with this angle some more.

Having some fashion/glamour magazines around helped a lot, with the models paging through those to find poses to copy. A lot easier than me having to come up with anything :)

Finally I ran into a rather big problem with focussing that I only noticed later: a rather disturbingly large number of the pictures were out of focus and I don't know why. Looking at the camera data, the camera seemed to think the models were as far as 10-40m away at times, which in a room that's less than 4m is an impressive achievement. Either I have done something dramatically wrong (and done it wrong quite often) or there's something wrong with the camera. Obviously I hope the former, but either way: there's some blurry pictures in there.

Photoshoot #5: Luka

Created Thu 10 Jun 10 15:07 by Mathias

Yesterday I had two coworkers come over for a photo session for their son, Luka. Luka is 7 and turning 8 soon and his mother wanted some pictures to treasure for the future, as well as some shots to put on the invitation for his birthday.

The photoshoot itself went quite well with Luka proving very cooperative. I brought out some of my hoard of weapons again, and I used my new black paper for the first time (unfortunately I selected that just when he changed into very dark clothes, just my luck :P)

This time around I do have some samples to show you:

Photoshoot #4

Created Thu 10 Jun 10 14:54 by Mathias

I've done two more shoots recently that I haven't talked about yet: last sunday was photoshoot #4 and yesterday I did shoot #5. I'll discuss the former one here.

As all shoots so far, both were in my little home studio. The sunday one was a set of three children kidnapped by their aunt and brought to me to take some pictures as a surprise for their parents. This is why I haven't discussed it before: I didn't want to risk ruining the surprise in the unlikely event their parents happen to read this blog (which is not as unlikely as you might think since I'd done a photoshoot for that aunt just a few weeks before). The brief here was pretty vague: they just wanted some pictures the parents would like.

The kids were numbered three and aged 15 (male), 8 (female) and 6 (male). The younger boy was a bit of a handful, but the other two were very cooperative, which made the whole thing a lot easier. I successfully persuaded the boy to stand in the spotlights by bringing out some axes and swords from my armoury. Suddenly taking pictures was a lot more fun in his mind :) Of course, as I'd noticed in shoot #3 giving a child something to play with for a picture is a lot easier than taking it away again.

The three children required quite different kind of shots and techniques. The oldest had pretty good ideas for some poses, and I'll copy those for future shoots. The girl was a fashion diva in the making and with the help of her aunt she struck poses straight from the glam mags. The youngest required shooting a bit more akin to what was needed with the younger children: letting him do his thing and taking the pictures when they came up.

All in all I learned quite a bit here, not least of which that my studio gets much to warm and that the fan I have is powerful enough to stir hairs a little bit if you place it close enough.

Sadly I have not gotten permission to post any pictures (the aunt could not give that for obvious legal reasons).

Using up paper

Created Tue 8 Jun 10 11:25 by Mathias

Now that the first few shoots are over, I got a better idea of the expenses involved in this project. They're not huge, but a bit higher than I originally estimated. The main problem is the paper roll. Where I thought I'd only have to cut off paper something like every five to ten shoots, it turns out the paper needs replacing after almost every shoot as the white paper gets dirty very fast (and the dirt shows on pictures). This is unfortunate because the paper isn't that cheap, costing some 70 EUR per 11m of white paper. Considering that per cut I lose about 2-3 meters, that means that at the current rate of usage it gets rather pricey fast.

Of course, I'm not planning to charge anything. I'm the free photographer, and free I'll remain. What I will do is find a way to clean the shoes of people before they go on the paper, to hopefully keep it clean longer.

Coming up

Created Tue 8 Jun 10 8:54 by Mathias

I got two shoots lined up for this week (and then no shoots at all anymore ... scary). The first, on wednesday, is for a coworker of mine who wants some pictures of her son to use on invitations for his birthday party. I don't have anything special planned for this shoot, we'll just go with the flow. If needed I'll get the axes and swords out as props again, as I did on another shoot last sunday.

Sunday will be more challenging as I have a fashion student coming over who needs some pictures for, I believe, a school project. This is obviously a rather important event for her, so there's some pressure on me to deliver good pictures (well, more than normal). Before the shoot she'll be getting her hair and make-up done by a third party, so this will also be the most elaborate shoot so far. The focus will be both on the clothes as on the model.

To prepare for this shoot I've been watching some fashion programs on TV and I'll be perusing some fashion magazines. With the previous shoots the biggest problem was not being able to tell the models what pose to use, so I want some reference material for that. Somebody on a photography forum suggested printing out a contact sheet of possible poses, which is exactly what I'll do.

I think this shoot will primarily use the white paper roll as I've been rather unimpressed with the cloth backgrounds. I might experiment ahead of time to see whether I can find a way to put tension on the cloth to avoid the wrinkles, but if not I'll just have to make do with white. I'd get another paper roll, but unfortuantely I can't afford that right now (I'm already using up the paper much faster than I'd like).

Expanding the scope

Created Thu 3 Jun 10 6:48 by Mathias

This weekend there's a big renaissance fair in the rivierenhof domain here in antwerp.This always gives some nice photo opportunities. This year I'm approaching it in the freeware photographer mindset and will make myself a T-shirt bearing a text like "Want your picture? Just ask." If people approach me for a picture I'll then hand them a little paper that contains a code they can use to download the picture from this site.

Coming up ...

Created Thu 27 May 10 15:14 by Mathias

Whew, it's already the end of another week. I've got a couple of shoots coming up in the next few weeks. First there's a family shoot on saturday, for which I'm planning to get an umbrella (a photography umbrella, not one against the rain - though with the weather taking a turn recently that wouldn't be a bad idea either).
Then two weeks later I'll have a fashion shoot in the studio, which should be very interesting.

I got a number of other contacts, but no firm dates have been set for these. Also the model I was supposed to shoot this monday cancelled, and we'll have to reschedule that session some time.

Busy, busy ...

Alternate versions

Created Thu 27 May 10 5:39 by Mathias

After some feedback from fellow photographers I decided to make two alternate versions of the second shot in the last post:

(oh and for those who want to know what they had to say about it, here's the forum thread about it).

Fotoshoot #3: Sarah and Hayley

Created Mon 24 May 10 15:30 by Mathias

On Saturday I had my "first photoshoot" that I announced some weeks ago, and which turned out to be the third. To the studio came Sarah (aged 2.5), Hayley (14 months) and their parents. I'd been warned they were vivid and they were, but they weren't as hard to handle as I feared. Still, shooting was tricky and it was good to have both parents there. The kids were refusing to sit in the right spot, so I had to constantly jockey for position, something I have to do a better job off in the future, as I ended up with quite a few shots showing the wrong part of the background.

In a studio setup there's very clearly defined places for the subject and the photographer, but kids don't work that way. They'll run all over the place and if you want the shot, you have to be in the right spot too.

A side effect of this was that the lighting was dodgy, as they moved out of the spots where I focussed the lights. Many times I forgot to compensate for that and ended up with overly dark pictures.

Other than that, there weren't any real surprises ... as expected the bubbles and bird were popular (though the latter stopped working rather quickly), and equally expected taking away things from children that you don't want in the picture is very very hard.

Here's some sample pictures from this session:

Tomorrow's shoot

Created Thu 20 May 10 12:19 by Mathias

Tomorrow I have my second shoot of the project, and it will be the first "on location" shoot. The location in this case being in Limburg, another province. Mind you, here in Belgium that equates to less than an hour driving.

The shoot's subject is a young aspiring model who wants to expand her portfolio.

Several aspects make this shoot rather tricky. I'm not in direct mail contact with the model, so it's a bit harder for me to make sure everything is sorted. This wouldn't be so much of a problem if it was to be in my studio, but it's way over in Limburg and it's not clear whether we'll even have a location (I obviously don't know any places there).

Still, in dutch we say you have to "row with the oars you have," and so I will. I've already packed up most of my studio. I'll be taking the two main lights with their softboxes and the conical snoot. I'm not taking the third light because I'll be using its tripod to hold up the background. I've jury-rigged up a background holder for this express purpose. Of course, it doesn't work with paper rolls (I'd need two tripods for that), but it'll hold a cloth easy. Speaking of cloth, I got a good deal on cloth yesterday, finding blue cloth measuring 2.8m by 8m for 12 EUR. I'll be adjusting that later today and then bring that tomorrow together with the bordeaux curtains I used for the first shoot. Finally, I'm taking my collapsible reflector, in case we have to make it an outdoors shoot (the sun will be too bright to use the strobes then).