CommunicationAfter you’ve been hired to photograph a prom, get in touch with the decorating committee and school administrators to gain information the theme, colors and location of the event. Doing so will help to inform your setup, backdrop choices and prop selection. This will also help you know what types of equipment to bring. As always, be friendly, professional and considerate in all of your dealings with school officials, students and parents.
Themed BackgroundsAs mentioned above, it’s incredibly important to ask the decorating committee for their input before making your backdrop choices. Consider multiple backdrops, especially for larger schools, this will allow you to have quick access a variety of looks. Printed Backdrops bring a classy, consistent and highly realistic dimension to prom photo shoots. Popular school dance themes include An Evening in Paris, Starry Night, Oceanside, Tropical Sunset, New York, Red Carpet and Disco. Themed prom backgrounds allow photographers to provide a unique, customized experience for each school! If the decorating committee is having trouble deciding on a backdrop, there are always endless possibilities with custom backdrop options. They can provide a high-resolution photograph of a scene and have it printed backdrop-sized for the event, or they can have a red carpet style step and repeat made. This option allows you to tell your clients that “anything is possible” when it comes to backdrops for their special event! You can also add the look of a “floor” to your prom set with a number of different floor drops. Simulate a classic tile, fine marble or vintage wood grain — whatever look fits the prom theme best.
PropsFaux balustrades and pillars with capitals can add a classic look to your prom; consider wrapping or draping them in tulle to soften the look. Fresh flowers, balloons and streamers can also enhance your prom set; just take care not to overuse them. Consult with the decorating committee and administrators to make prop selection a collaborative effort and to ensure you are bringing the appropriate props to the venue.
SetupArrive for setup at the venue with plenty of time to get things perfect, we suggest arriving mid- to late morning, if possible. The student decorating committee will likely be there, too; strive to be personable and helpful in your interactions. Make sure to secure any long backdrops and cords from lighting equipment firmly to the floor using gaffer tape or painters tape. To save time during dance, have a list of preselected poses. Doing this will come in handy for couples and groups and will help you maximize the backdrop space available. Consider arranging for couple’s portraits to take place before group shots to ensure you’ve gotten through all couples (as these shots have priority over groups.) Since posed prom photos are usually taken outside of dance area, have a second photographer set up inside the dance to capture the fun of the big night as it happens. This setup will help your team’s efficiency, you will need a second a couple of assistants to help prepare the teens. As always plan ahead and coordinate you and your teams arrival with the school to make setting up as easy as possible.
LightingLighting can be the trickiest part. Many prom photographers find that a powerful A/C studio flash directed into a 62-in. umbrella directly above the camera yields excellent results. Use ISO 100 and consider another A/C powered flash in a softbox as your main light. Meter it one stop more than the fill. (Five to one lighting ratios are not conducive to photographing black tuxedos.) Consider shooting in raw, and snap a gray card to start to facilitate making any necessary color corrections later. After positioning lighting for the first couple, avoid moving your lights; this will make it easier to quickly pose and photograph couples . Changing things could result in a lot of extra work, impatient teens and a ruined experience. We recommend setting up your lights before anyone arrives and taking a few test shots so that major adjustments are not needed later.
WorkflowIdeally, you’ll have at least two assistants on hand for the shoot; one to take register the students, and one to assist the photographer directly. For multiple photographers, each should have their own assistant. If the prom committee allows it, ask that students be allowed/encouraged to come early to have their photos taken. Have an assistant sitting at the front of the line at a table, ready to take payment from each couple and confirm their photo package choices. Next, move them to a designated “on deck” area. Have them look at four to six prom pose ideas and choose the one they want for the their photo. Have your assistant help them get into the pose, straighten his tie, smooth her dress, make sure hair looks good, etc. Write the teens’ names on a log sheet and keep their forms in order. Once they’re posed, primped and ready, take the photo. Check the LCD screen after each shot to make sure it looks good — eyes open, both smiling, etc. If not, re-shoot on the spot. Prom and event photography can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. The formula for successful event photography boils down to organization, efficiency, creativity and professionalism. If you hone your skills, plan your approach, use stunning themed backdrops and are pleasant to work with, you’ll be all set up for prom photography success.
What tips would you give to a photographer shooting their first prom this year?
-Backdrop Express Photography TeamInterested in reading more about photographing for prom? Check out How to Take Amazing Prom Photos
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