Sometimes, you just have to work for free….

There has been a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about doing work for free. For good causes and self promotion, that kind of thing. I just had a commission that was demanded of me, for no payment of any kind except the honour of being the chosen photographer. I just couldn’t turn it down, the intangible cost would have been too high…so I caved, and took the commission stoically, delivering finished prints at no cost, praying the client found my work acceptable. Who was this client who could command my meagre talents for the price of an imperious command? It’s my five year old daughter, Kate.

Kate has been selected as a star student at her kindergarden class. As a result, she has to bring in a poster with pictures of her, her favourite things and family. Also, pictures of her doing her favourite things, and this is where the commission comes in. Once she’d thought about what she wanted pictures of, she asked me to take pictures of her doing two of her favourites. One of her reading in her favourite chair and the second of her playing guitar. This took some thought. I can’t wheel out a multiflash setup with reflectors and soft boxes, the client is over all that stuff and doesn’t have the patience for it. What ever I did would have to be simple, quick and effective.

The first shot was her in her comfy chair, next to the window. Sunlight coming in over her shoulder providing a hairlight. Meter this and drop the exposure 2 stops. Then place a SB-800 flash on the mantlepiece, with 1/2 cto gel on TTL. Set the D700 flash to remote only and start shooting. 5 frames later, it;s a wrap and I got this:


So the first shot is nailed and before we can move onto the next one, the talent has to finish the Dick and Jane story she is now reading. This gives me time to set up the next one. Here, I get time to break out a light stand, throw the same SB-800 up about 6′ angled down. This room only has natural ambient, which is going to get nuked. There will be loads of spill and reflections, so I figure I can make it work. The talent arrives, starts her thing and I go to work. SB-800 with the same 1/2 cut CTO to camera right angled down at 45 degrees on TTL. D700 with a 800 iso on manual, 250th sync speed and f5.6 if you care. I got 7 frames out of the shoot before the talent decided I’d had enough time, so this was the best frame from the second setup:

It isn’t a “great time magazine cover” shot. It’s the best I could do with a very difficult client in a tiny space of time, with little freedom to get the lighting right…but both shots print at 4×6 and got mounted on the poster. The client is satisfied and gave me a hug of thanks – which is the best payment possible.

More to come………


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