View Full Version : How to shoot a High school prom?

10-30-2007, 02:37 PM
I managed to get my first paying photo gig and it will be a high school prom at the end of November. I will be using a Nikon D70s with the SB-600 external flash gun.
The venue will be a large, conference-room cum event-room, with high ceilings and various backdrops (including, i presume, curtains and drapes etc.). The prom will be at night, and there will adequate lighting for most of the night (and i presume dimmed lights when the music begins).

I will be taking casual photos of all the students and teachers during the evening (to capture the relaxed feel of the moment), but will also have a half hour or so slot where I will take 'posing photos', class photos and portrait photos as well. I will not be able to have any reflector umbrellas, so will have to rely on the SB-600 flash, good composition and the good will of the all the students :P

Given the nature of the event, the location, the equipment and the photos i wish to take, i would appreciate any and all info i can get to help make this first-paying photo gig a very successful one, not only for me, as a photographer, but for the students as well, and that they will be happy and content with the photos they get in the end.

PS: earlier that day i will be taking photos of the actual graduation ceremony which will also be indoors. so any info, again, would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks. :)

10-31-2007, 04:56 AM
What kind of lens(es) do you have?
I think the most challenging moment will be at night when light is dimmed and you are out of range.
For other times, with SB600 and diffuser you will be quite 'safe'.

10-31-2007, 09:11 AM
I'm still finding my feet in the photography industry and therefor (for now) only have the kit 18-70mm lens that came with the D70s....

10-31-2007, 09:55 AM
I think for the prom, the lens you have is sufficient. If would recommend shooting with it in manual mode, choosing an apperture of f/4-5.6, a shutterspeed of 1/30 to 1/50s and ISO800 to 1600 . Then you can use the flash to get enough light on the subject and to stop the motion. The chosen aperture gives sufficient depth of field for most cases and the shutterspeed and ISO would let in enough ambient light to give the picture a bit more atmosphere.

As Tim said, its best to use a diffuser on the flash. You cannot bounce the flash on the ceiling as they are so high, and direct flash would cause too much shadows.

You may want to get a fast prime, like the 50 f/1.8 or the 35 f/2, to take some pictures using the ambient lighting only. I think the 35 would be best here. I have the 50 f/1.8 myself and find that if it is crowded, it is difficult to get enough empty space between you and the subject to take a good picture.
Shots taken primarily with ambient lighting can portray the atmosphere a bit better than pictures with flash. If necessary - if the light is really low - you can use a bit of fill flash, to brighten the scene.

Unless you need to release the pictures right after the event, I would definitly shoot in RAW. That way you can correct the whitebalance and exposure after the event.

As to the graduation scene; I think you may need a longer lens for that. With the 18-70 you will need to be close to the stage, and if you want to take portrait shots of the graduates, you will need to be almost on the stage.
A 70-200 f/2.8 lens would be great for this purpose. The Nikkor with VR would be perfect, but is very expensive. If possible, you might want to rent this lens for the ceremony.

For less money you can get the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 (800 dollar) or the Sigma 50-150 f/2.8 (500 dollar). You can also get an old manual focus lens for less than a 100 dollars. I use the 135 f/2.8 AI-s lens myself. In low light it is a bit difficult to get the focus spot on, though.

Another lens that might work is the 55-200 VR. The lens is a great bargain, offering good performance for a reasonable price. It is a bit slow, though, so you will probably need to use flash. Is that allowed during the ceremony?

I hope this helps. Good luck with the event.

11-01-2007, 05:00 AM
It should be fun shooting the prom.
I definitely get a constant F/2.8 lens. Like Prospero the F/1.8 50 mm prime is cheap but you will have to work with a fixed lens.
If budget is tight... oh well...

11-03-2007, 06:02 AM
Shooting a prom in an open setting...

Shoot at f 5.6. No sense in shooting lower, or one or both will be out of focus at too low of an f-stop.

Buy a $20.00 flash dome on www.ebay.com. Keep the flash at a 45 degree angle and add about +.03 to the flash output.

The dome is an incredible device! The pictures will look fantastic and the dome will fill flash without shadowing.

I've got the same equipment. Nikon D70s and SB600 flash. Been shooting weddings and events for years with it. Rather have it than any other camera. That dome was the best money I've ever spent.