I met a v-ball player, Jean, at a tournament last weekend who was looking for a photographer. She needed some shots of her to accompany her profile in an upcoming issue of Volleyball magazine. I told her I was just an amateur shooter but she was in a time crunch (i.e. desperate) and knew enough about photography to be impressed with my equipment (strangely that sentence isn't quite as satisfying as you might think).
So we set up a quick shoot and I crossed my fingers hoping I wouldn't completely screw it up and do terrible, amateur work.
It turns out, I actually kind of know what I'm doing.
I used my 70-200/4L, knowing that longer focal lengths were always more flattering to the subject. But I stuck to the 70mm end of the zoom so that I'd only have to be about ten to twelve feet away while shooting.
I also mounted the circular polarizer to cut down on the bright glare. It probably wasn't necessary, but I'm not sure.
The 420EX external flash head was a must - it added fill flash and worked absolutely flawlessly. I set up my manual exposure settings (the volleyball, conveniently, is bright white and served as a reference for how "hot" to expose the whites) and I let the flash and Canon's E-TTL system automatically meter the fill. Every shot was perfectly balanced out by the flash. No over-exposures. The 420EX never blasted too brightly and never blew out highlight detail. Spectacular.
With the technical aspects under control I was doubly lucky to have such a good subject. Jean has modeled before and was very comfortable posing and flashing perfect smiles on cue.
We arrived much later than planned (her car's negative empty level of gas forced a detour to a gas station) and only had 10-15 minutes for the shoot. So we hurried through a bunch of shots, she did a quick outfit change, then we shot some more. We only took about 28 frames total but got more than enough good shots.
Back at my apartment we had about ten minutes left to sort through them and pick the ones we'd send off to the photo editor. We picked the two posted here and I rushed them through C1 RAW conversion and Photoshop (even managed to adjust the exposure on her face in the first shot in about 45 seconds) and got them emailed off a mere five minutes past our noon deadline.
Anyway we were both really pleased with the results. I for one was somewhat shocked by how professional they look - both in terms of technical aspects (my doing) and in aesthetics (her wardrobe, her smile). The first shot was taken with me kneeling, slightly shooting up at her. It's subtle, but enough to give her a larger-than-life quality without looking too contrived. Her smile and classic pose add to the effect. I think it's a portfolio-quality shot.
The second shot was taken at eye-level (notice the change in the horizon line) and is a bit less dynamic. But she looks very natural and relaxed and makes it seem much less staged than the first shot.
There are a few more keepers that I still need to go through - even though they won't make it into the magazine article, she and I would both like to have the whole set. We were talking about doing another shoot and perhaps getting me in touch with some of her other friends. I'd like to get more practice at this so hopefully this will lead to more work.