Saturday, March 22, 2014

Pageant Photography

Sunday, 16 March, I had the opportunity to photograph the 2014 Maine Sweetheart Pageant at Thornton Academy in Saco, Maine. Shooting Pageants can be fun, and a lot of work, at the same time. The day starts out around 10:00 in the morning, and you don't finish shooting until about 9:00 in the evening.

Lighting can be very tricky during the show. The pageant took place in a darkened auditorium, with limited stage lighting. I used my Canon 60D with a Tamron 28-300mm VC lens and a Canon 580EX Speedlite, and bumped up the ISO to a conservative 400. I was provided a chair next to the judging table that gave me a great view of the stage. It eliminated my popping up and down, and moving around to get a decent shot. The 580EX performed admirably and provided enough light to capture the plethora of colors the ladies were wearing. The only drawback to the speedlite was the amount of "Red Eye" it caused that had to be dealt with in post processing. As you can see in the photo above, the lighting was fairly even, when aided by the stage lights. Luckily, no colored gels were used so I did not have to contend with color cast during post processing.

The actual Pageant photography is done as a sponsor. The only way to cover your expenses, and time, is to sell photos of the stage shoot, and schedule mini-portrait sessions during the morning and afternoon. As this was my first pageant shooting as the lone photographer, my reputation as a Portrait Photographer was only known to a few of the ladies I had previously photographed. I had assisted at two pageants last year when a fellow photographer needed me. Only two of the contestants scheduled mini-portrait sessions that day. I hope to increase those sessions the next pageant I shoot.

During warmer, nicer weather, I would have preferred taking the women outside to make use of the grounds and the architecture surrounding Thornton Academy. However, Maine in still in the grip of a long, cold, snowy winter. So, I brought lighting and a backdrop with me. I used my Paul Buff White Lightning 600 with a shoot through umbrella, and a black background on a portable stand. In addition, I had a 42" reflector to bounce the light back on the subject. I also chose to use the natural brick of the interior for some of the shots.

I shot Sydney on the black background, as well as the brick wall. Both turned out rather well and the reflector helped control shadows. This is one of my favorite shots of this very photogenic young lady. For both of the mini-portrait session, I shot at 1/250 second to sync the flash, and f8 to ensure the entire face was in focus, always concentrating on the eyes primarily.

I chose to bring the black background, as you do not have to contend with the shadows as much in a limited working environment. In the studio, I would have used a variety of backgrounds to get different looks during the session. This is one of my favorite head shots of Crystal taken during her mini-session. She is a very beautiful young lady that is inexperienced in modeling. Her photos do not reflect that. Crystals personality and beauty shine before the camera. She chose a shot with the brick wall as a background for her portfolio.
I hope you enjoyed this brief look into Pageant Photography, and will join me again on my next adventure in photography. Thanks for reading, and you can view all of the pageant photos on my web site at: 2014 Maine Sweetheart Pageant

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