Questions on Portrait photography with NEX-6 + SEL50f18

Started Dec 7, 2013 | Discussions thread
OP justincarlson Forum Member • Posts: 89
Re: Questions on Portrait photography with NEX-6 + SEL50f18

Thanks Mel, you make some very good points. I can imagine there are a lot of people who overestimate their abilities and equipment, I've in fact seen it several times among people on Facebook who created pages for their "photography business." It's just a hobby for me now and I figured this would be a good chance to practice taking photos of people. I probably should have clarified that I'm basically the only person at the party who will have a decent camera so that's why I was the designated photography person. It's either that or we'll be stuck with using smartphone cameras, so I figured I'd buy the 50mm lens and see if I can get some o.k. shots.

Mel Snyder wrote:

Justin, all this from Ron is good info. You have neither the equipment nor experience to take an assignment like this. Christmas parties are almost always very dark. And there's a lot of drinking. As Ron noted, a little alcohol can lubricate the attendees. But all it takes is one over-sauced partygoer being photographed making an unwelcome pass at a coworker and you could have your inexperienced hands very full. Alcohol and mistletoe and "the Christmas spirit" would make me decline the request - and like Ron, I have decades of wedding and function shooting experience for pay (I put myself through college shooting weddings).

Even if done "for free" is no assurance you won't disappoint your client - and if s/he is a friend, they will never forget a blown job. You'd be surprised how many social occasions are the last time a family member is photographed. My partner's father dropped dead of a heart attack on the dance floor at her brother's wedding, moments after being posed for formal portraits after the ceremony. The pro had gotten his last portrait that's on her mantle, and on those of her two brothers. Imagine how they - and you - would feel if that was a dark, blurry image of yours , instead of the off-camera 2-flash professionally posed portrait they have to remember him.

From time to time, we see postings here by people with no experience and limited equipment asking questions about assignments they clearly are unprepared to accept. One last spring has never returned to the forum after a grandstanding pushback against advice from Ron and others.


RonFrank wrote

I was a paid Wedding and portrait photographer for a couple decades. My thought is you are not ready to take on this assignment unless your client has zero expectations and is paying zero dollars.

Not trying to be rude but your missing the lighting, the proper lenses, a camera that can shoot in low light and focus properly, and the skills and confidence to pull this off. Backup equipment is a requirement in case something breaks, bring a bunch of batteries, and a portable backdrop is a good idea. I used to carry a couple mono lights with umbrellas as well.

If there is no money involved, and no expectations than have fun and do your best. If your equipment situation is lacking one way to compensate is to move the subjects to you, and pick an area that is well lit where you can use whatever light you have to max advantage. You could get away with one flash if you could bounce it off a ceiling or wall.

I do not think a Nex or A series has the ability to handle this job unless you can put the subject in a spot where they do not move with decant light. If I had to use a Nex camera, I would setup a photo area near a wall where I could bounce a light and use the wall as background.

If they are not interested in a photo spot another option is to crank up the ISO, and hope for the best. Not a great approach, but an option. Unfortunately most find Nex cameras lacking in low light situations with subjects that move.

When covering receptions in variable lighting conditions I used an onmi bounce ($29-40) with a full sized flash, a flip flash bracket (stroboframe) and a DSLR with a 24-70 f2,8, and my backup DSLR with a 70-200mm ( for singles/couples). My percentage of keepers was maybe 90% with the other 10% throw away due to blinking mostly.

I generally shot 2-8 shots of each group depending on size. That gave them and me a selection. Most people will select a photo that they like of themselves regardless of how others in the photo appear. People are selfish like that.

Shooting candid takes skill and practice which is one reason I prefer to get the subject attention, and do a quick grouping. If you subjects are parallel to the camera they will be in focus. If they are more perpendicular some may be OOF. I generally shoot at f5.6 as using narrow DOF like f1.8 will result in the majority being OOF. If you can not get more than one eye in focus you have zero chance of having a group of 2 or more in focus.

You need to be positive, and take charge when necessary. Another approach is the fly on the wall approach, but I find that is more difficult to pull off. As most people are very aware of a photographer its hard for them to act as if you are not there. I prefer the interactive approach giving people direction when needed. Being comfortable around strangers is a requirement and putting people at ease is a must. Alcohol can help (for them, not you!)

Have fun, and learn!

 justincarlson's gear list:justincarlson's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS HDRsoft Photomatix Pro +1 more
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