Photography Feats, Frustrations and Failures

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by OzRay, Feb 20, 2014.

  1. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Everyone has at least one horror story or the like when they've been taking photographs where everything seems to go wrong and you have to pull all stops to make things work. These situations often provide valuable lessons that you never forget, and I've had a few, but the following was my most recent and probably the most frustrating that incorporated both feats and failures.

    A couple of years ago, I agreed to do a family portrait for a friend, a kind of anniversary group shot to go with one taken ten years ago (at a botanical garden not that far away). No big deal, except it was to be done at their home, which didn’t offer a lot scope, but there was a garden spot that was nice enough, though with limited space.

    I got there early, to explain what I wanted to do and set up a few things and to loosen up the group. However, several of the family members were late, the weather had turned and was becoming windy, and I was then told that they had to be at a restaurant in around 30 min for a family luncheon. WTF? I managed to get some shots of mum and dad, and then sons and daughters with their respective partners before the weather went really bad and we had to move indoors.

    The problem was that we now had to move a stack of furniture around to provide a clear area to set up my Elinchroms (which I’m glad I brought along) and a spot that would be clean enough and large enough to accommodate the entire family. Time was ticking and I think I had about 10 mins left before they had to leave, but I hadn’t yet got anything that I was really happy with, as the family just wasn’t settled in.

    At that very moment, one of my Elinchroms stopped working. Great! A quick check of the fuse and that was fine and nothing else showed up, so I was stuck with a dead strobe unit. I had some FL-50s with me, so I set one up and furiously took a couple of shots to get an even light balance, while the group was getting visibly fidgety and possibly annoyed. I was finally all set, as best as I could, and I got the group to vary expressions etc and, with some relief (especially for me), told them that was it and enjoy the luncheon.

    The shots turned out pretty good in the end, but could have been far better had I been given more time and a better location. However, it just highlighted to me the issues that you get when doing work for friends, even though it was on the basis that they pay for all material costs involved (labour was gratis), as so much is taken for granted. When you get a photographer who you have to pay the full cost, you tend to not take the photographer for granted. Your own family is usually the worst.

    The other thing is to always have backup, be it camera, lighting, batteries everything, as you can be certain that Murphy will be lurking around the corner ready to pounce, if you give him a chance. As for the Elinchrom, it turned out to be a melted wire inside the unit, which I managed to fix fairly easily, but how that particular wire melted and the fuse stayed intact is beyond me.
  2. Jeff1:1

    Jeff1:1 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 2, 2013
    Thing with my family is I take the picture of kids in a group at Christmas, but all the adults behind and next to me try to get their attention. So most shots each kid is looking in different direction. Yeah, take control, tell adults to calm down, be quiet, stop, ... doesn't happen. This year I let my OCD sister use the E-M5 while I left the room. Result, not any better than other years. And gawd that brick wall and fireplace background is distracting.
  3. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    That actually reminded me of a school formal I shot for a friend. There were only supposed to be a couple of parents in attendance, but it turned out more parents etc than those I was shooting. Every time I set up one of the girls in a pose, the P&S and camera flashes went off and fired my flashes, which obviously would have burnt out all their shots, but also prevented me from shooting. I threatened to pack all my gear and leave if I couldn't work unimpeded. It worked for a short while.

    Friends and family, a photographer's nightmare.
  4. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    Valuable lesson learned! Thanks for sharing.
    Backup saves the reputation of the pro photographer. The shoot must go on! (Paraphrased from the old stage play adage that "the show must go on!")

    " that particular wire melted and the fuse stayed intact is beyond me." There likely was resistance buildup (corrosion perhaps) at the fuse so the wire became the fuse and melted from the excess current.
  5. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I have to say that my frustration with the family shoot was building up because of the lack of time I was given without any warning, the environment that I ended up having to work in, the lack of interest from some of the family and then the equipment issues. You just have to bite your tongue and smile all the way.
  6. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    Worst feustration I have had was shot an engagement party for a relative with a week experience on my camera, and didnt realize at the time that the af found the mirror instead of them sometimes. Thankfully, there were enough good ones to work out.

    Sent from my LG-P769 using Mu-43 mobile app
  7. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    That's where digital thankfully shines, how many shots you take is no longer a major issue, or expense, and the fact that under difficult situations you can have a look at what you're getting.
  8. c0ldc0ne

    c0ldc0ne Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 9, 2012
    Since you mentioned Murphy:

    Apparently the same applies to Elinchrom's internal wiring.
  9. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Thirty years ago I agreed to shoot portraits at a fund raiser for a non-profit private school. (This was not the type of "private school" that one might connect with upper class students attired in blue blazers and Nobel Prize winners on the faculty; this was a bunch of folks who had few resources but were nevertheless trying to give their kids a better education than they could receive in the surrounding public school system.)

    The deal was that I would supply gear and expertise and they would supply film, processing costs, and a rubber chicken dinner. This was not a paying gig, I was doing a favor for a friend.

    The "art department" had painted a backdrop which was really too dark for the venue but which I was politically bound to use. I arrived early, set up tripod and light stands and electrical cords and taped everything down after making a few test shots. I took the roll to a "1 hour" finishing joint and determined which test photos were acceptable, made note of the settings used to make the shots and figured I was turtle feathers.

    After going home to dress for the part I returned to the venue to find that everything had been moved to a different location in the hall. The ambient lighting was totally different and, worst of all, the subject-to-camera distance was significantly reduced*. I was basically relegated to a small semi-open area where the stacked extra chairs and tables were stored and my lights were nearly in the frame with the subjects.

    My previous test shots were now useless; all of the gear had to be reset, the cords run even further and taped down again, this time in dress clothes rather than jeans.

    I managed to get through the night and my "guestimate" of settings was close enough for government work (although I did double the number of bracketed shots since I had little confidence in my basic settings). Everyone was polite enough to say that they liked the photos (they still owe me a chicken dinner; the schedule was farkled and I never had time to eat).

    However I never, ever repeated the "shoot for free" experience without first making it well understood that there was a minimum amount of control over the environment that I required and if that control was not forthcoming (or removed after being granted) I was perfectly capable of finding the way to my car unaided.

    Four years ago I shot a wedding for a family friend; supposedly the venue was going to be outdoors and all of the preparatory work was done in that location. Of course Mother Nature had other plans; there were severe storms and the wedding took place in a much smaller indoor location. However I had spoken with the venue folks who had an inclement weather plan all set and they allowed me access to the "emergency" room beforehand so that I could be ready if the need arose. The need did arise and having that preview access to the indoor location made all of the difference. (Also I was by then shooting all digital and that made things easier as well).

    The folks at the private school didn't have a clue as to what they were doing when they arbitrarily changed the location; the folks at the wedding venue were used to dealing with professional photographers** and bent over backwards to make certain I had access to what I needed.

    I no longer shoot weddings (even for family or friends), special events (no matter how good the cause), nor kid's sporting events (except to snag photos for myself of my grandchildren). It's amazing how the phrase "Sorry, I don't do that anymore" can lower one's blood pressure.

    (I will concede that once or twice I have used the excuse "I sold all of my Nikon gear when I retired". I don't like to denigrate my Olympus kit but sometimes it's faster just to plead "lack of gear" than it is to argue with some desperate, well meaning friend or relative).



    *Edit: At the school I wasn't using flash; I had purchased what were called "photo floods" from my local camera shop (Woodward Camera, Birmingham Michigan) and they were "always on" lights. The upside was that they were always on so the light was always there; the downside was that they were HOT and burned out rather quickly so one had to have spares at hand and be prepared to change a hot bulb at a moment's notice. It was like moving the sun indoors.

    ** I wasn't then, nor am I now a "professional" photographer; however the folks at the wedding venue didn't know that or, if they did know that, treated me as a professional anyway.
  10. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I don't think family and friends have any idea as to how much work is actually involved in some of the stuff they ask you to do, especially after the event. They also have no appreciation as to why you want things done in a certain way so that you get good results. All too often it becomes a case of herding cats.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.