Photobooth At An Eating Contest
Last weekend we attended an eating contest. My husband was invited to this even through the question-and-answer social networking site Quora. I love shooting parties and an eating contest party was sure to have a lot of drama.
One thing I like to do at parties is to set up a photobooth off in the corner where I can have proper lighting and have a consistent setup. This way I can grab a decent number of perfect exposures that are tack sharp and need very little editing… well in principle.
The contest was held outside on a bright sunny day. I found a narrow corner that was out of the way and wouldn’t be disturbed. I still sandbagged the lights and the tripod with 25lbs weights. This was a great thing because there were some strong breezes that could have knocked over the camera and blown the lights away. Even indoors, it’s a good idea to sandbag the setup because kids or tipsy adults can bump into the equipment.
The narrow corner was only amenable to a 2 light setup, and in order to have people squeeze by the lighting and tripod, the key light, a softbox monolite, had to be essential on top of the camera. The fill light had be very close to the subject and set wide right and I used a monolite with a shoot-through-umbrella. The umbrella was set far enough off-center so that only one catchlight appeared.
The eating contest was going to have roughly 12 contests with a Win-Place-Show for each contest. They had victor crown and I decided that the victors for each event would be photographed with the crowns, with the King’s crown for the winner, the Queen’s crown for the second place and the Pharaoh’s hat to the third place. This went over pretty well and documented the winners for posterity.
I used my APS-C crop sensor camera for this shoot and used my full frame camera for the candids. Tend to be moving faster and hence more light. In order to the ISO down, a full frame works better (roughly one stop better). It’s also good, because the photobooth camera was going to be largely unattended throughout the night and I’d hate to lose or damage the full-frame (roughly four times more expensive).
On the camera, I used the 16-50mm f/2.8 kit lens. It’s a crop-sensor only lens, but it’s very nice and produces pretty good shots. It’s effectively a 24-75mm lens after taking into account the 1.5 times crop factor. You need pretty wide angles for photobooths when a group of people are cramming in, but when you have one or two people, it’s good to be able to get to 55-80mm (or longer if you have enough space).
As I described above, the lighting setup had some constraints to work around. We got stuck in a bit of traffic getting there, so we were down to about 15 minutes to set up — enough to get it set up comfortably, but not enough to experiment a lot. What ended up happening is that the exposures came off a bit cool. I didn’t get a chance to set a custom white balance and because the lights were in pretty close (only 8 feet/3 meters from the subject) the lighting was harsher than I would have liked.
Nevertheless, it still provided tack sharp images. The only issue was that they required some editing. The good news was that the same editing worked on every shot — which is one of the wonders of controlled lighting. I had to drop the highlights and bring out the shadows and dropped the blacks to not lose contrast. I bumped up the vibrance and saturation to brighten the skin tones. I manually changed the white balance, bringing up orange and green. These weren’t huge changes, but you can see the difference. I think the photo quality is good and could stand up to printing.
The catchlight was a bit too dead-center on, but there was not much to be done. I would have liked to used a hair light shooting down in a strip box to help even out the light in the background. I don’t think it would have worked, but I didn’t get a chance to try it.
I’ll give myself a pass on this one. But I could have nailed it better.