Yesterday was the Cambridge Portuguese Society’s Carnival Party. Joana Flores had contacted me regarding running a photo booth together at the party. I’ve never done that before, but I have played a bit with studio lights, and it sounded like a fun idea. We started planning it, the ideas just kept coming, and I got more and more excited about it. There was so much potential! We borrowed the studio equipment from the Cambridge University Photo Society: flashes, flash stands, shoot-through umbrellas and remote triggers. Joana organised all the props, brought her computer and a photo printer so we could hang some of the photos up for display. All I needed to do was to show up with my camera, and make sure the batteries were charged for the flashes that I brought. The party started at seven but, in what I learned is typical Portuguese fashion, it did not start until later, which gave us time to do a few test shots of the early arrivals.
We had set up two flashes on stands, shooting through white umbrellas, one to either side. As a backdrop we had an old green wall with some imperfections and a small hole into the room behind. In retrospect maybe we should have moved the setup a bit to the left, because a few times when I stepped back to get a big group all in the frame, our little friend the hole appeared as well. This meant that I had to do a bit of photoshopping to get rid of it. Usually it was just a matter of using the lasso tool to mark the region and then apply content aware fill. Done! I ended up spending some time removing a few of the blemishes on the wall surface in different shoots, but I did surprisingly little photoshopping of people. Might have something to do with the sheer volume of photos. The final facebook album was just shy of 100 photos, out of a total of about 500. I did however put vingeting (darkening the edges) on almost all the photos in the album, it adds a bit of emphasis on the people.
We had a steady stream of people coming by our photo booth for the entire night. Some people need a little bit of encouragement to get going, but others were really creative, and some (my favourites) also a little bit crazy! The party was open to all nationalities, and many people had spent a lot of effort on their costumes. There were pirates, the minions from “Despicable Me”, steampunk, a cat, John Travolta, Uma Turman and the Joker, just to name a few.
Around midnight the Portuguese people started gathering for “Comboio”, or the train, which is a long dance at the end of the party. I don’t normally dance, but that got me going. From what I have been told it is really high quality music that gets played at that point. Cheesy high quality music, ok more cheesy than quality. Good times!
Woke up very early this morning. I usually want to get the photos edited as soon as possible, while people still have the event fresh in their memories, and also to avoid a big backlog. It took me a bit over four hours to post process these. What did I learn from this photo shoot? Make sure the backdrop is clean, to avoid extra post processing. Here it was not so bad, but it could have been a bit less work. The borrowed flashes started becoming a bit temperamental after a while, not always firing. Sometimes the best expressions were in photos where only one of the flashes fired. It is possible to rescue the photos to a certain extent in photoshop by applying selective brightening of the image (see my previous post about post processing), but ideally that should not be necessary. We started out with both flashes set to the same power, but for some shots (in particular single person portraits) I chose to either move one of the flashes back, or decrease the power, to get more interesting light. This caused one side to be better lit, and the background slowly fade into shadow towards the other end. The best photos are the one that have a small story behind them.
A photo shoot like this is all about the people and having fun. The props Joana had brought helped give people a creative outlet. If you have a chance to do a photo booth at a party then give it a go, you will have a really fun evening!