Thinking of someone elses shot

May 07, 2011

Ok. I shot a Cup Final today. Not the first and probably not the last I will shoot. All went well until the local paper 'tog' turned up just in time for the awards. Each player (winner or loser) gets an award and a little plaque to show that they played in the final. These are not 'grip and grin' type shots as there is no posing for the camera. So, when taking these shots the trick is to position yourself such that you get a 3/4 to full head on shot of the recipient and accept that you are going to get a mainly back or at best side profile of the award giver. Shoot as the handshake is made and the award is handed over. Not posed and not ideal as you are only guaranteed to get one of the faces showing but it is the key face as far as the recipient is concerned.

You need to check the background and frame the shot to minimise any distractions in the background.

Righto, sounds easy? The problem is that you will only get one shot (very rarely two) of each person so every one has to be usable. Even in relatively bright sunlight I will use a bit of fill flash for these shots. It ensures that eyes are not deep in shadow and aids in the perception of separation of the subject from the background. As one recipient is walking off the next is coming into frame. You will have 2 to 4 seconds between shots. No, I'm not making that up. I checked my EXIF data and it was consistently 2 to 4 seconds between shots. This reinforces the need to get it right first time, the flash will not have recycled if you try to take another shot of the same subject and if you do manage to get a second shot there is a good chance the flash may not be ready for the next subject. At this pace you do not have time to recheck the background again. You checked it when you started and as a new subject is in front of you every 2 seconds even if there is something wrong with the background you cannot do anything about it now except perhaps move slightly to minimise it.

The other 'tog' had walked into the background after the first few shots. My flash is going off and he can see where the camera is pointing so standing in the background he is aware that he is now a feature of my shots. It was like a scene from 'Withnail and I', a photographer growing out of the presenters back. I have over the years seen some dirty tricks and spoilers so this one was not new on me but usually there will be a group of editorial photographers and some have far less tolerance for this kind of thing than I do. One day, he will do it with the wrong photographer and accidentally get a monopod between his legs when he is stepping backward.

We get to the group shot and he mumbles something to me. The gist of it seemed to be 'I'll set up the group and don't get in the way for my shot'. Yeahhh, you set em up bud and lets see how many images you can take that have my elbow in the corner :-) Difficult though it was, I was nice and did not let his ignorance throw me and I did not spoil his pictures. Once he had got a few I stepped in to get mine and then moved the group and the trophy to get some individual shots.

There is not a another photographer in the background of any of these shots but I did manage to take a key one with a lad with a leg in plaster in the background. No-one but me to blame for that one :-)

If you are shooting with other photographers you need to think not only of your own shots but be aware that they are shooting too. The best place to be is behind the active photographer and whatever you do don't shoot over his/her shoulder. There is nothing worse (other than a numpty in the background of every shot) than half the eyes looking one way and the other half looking another in a group shot.

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