Gear Rundown for School Photography
Let's talk about the gear, the stuff that we bring to our sessions. Every single photo station that we have gets a Canon 6D, an 85 one four lens, a laptop, a camera stand, four pocket wizards, a popup background, light stands, Paul C. Buff lights and soft boxes and cases. The cases I'm talking are either the golf big cases and those collapsible crates that we were using. If you don't have the money to buy it all, rent it. We rent gear. But when we go in to do these jobs it's really, really critical that everything be consistent. So I do not recommend shooting it on different kinds of cameras, with different lenses, with different lights, with different soft boxes. All of those things can give you slight variations in your images. I want it to be as streamline and systematic as possible. I only owned one 6D when we went out and did this shoot the first year. We needed four. And I had an employee owned one so we rented two. We rented the lenses. I've had situations one time I had a situa...
tion where I rented lenses and some other products and they didn't all get there in time so the best advice I would give you is pay the extra money, give yourself a couple extra days on the rental. Just make sure it's there so you have time to go through it, you have time to test it, don't put the success of your job in another companies hands. So you check your own gear, you pack your own bag. So you don't have to buy, but you have to have it. You have to do the notes, the note cards and stickers. This was like a job that I didn't really think was that big of a deal, you just get these little our software produces these bar codes and it prints them out on little sticker sheets. So the first year that we ever did I was like oh it's not a big deal like how long is that gonna take? A long time. I ran out of episodes of Judge Judy, which is not good. Hours puttin' stickers on cards. I got so mad. Turns out now I figured out a way through the software where we actually don't even need to do this, you can print it straight on the card. Which made me feel worse about spending hours putting stickers on it, but the photo day cards, you have to produce these. We produce them, we sort them by grade so our software prints 'em in a way that it makes it really easy for us so it gets sorted out by grade and classroom, okay? Figure out how many stations you need to bring. We photograph one kid every 30 seconds. It's about what my guys average. So a good shooter should be able to do three to 400 kids in a day. Like a full school day. That should be doable. Busy, but you can do it. Each classroom is about 25 kids so that's 12 to 15 minutes. That's the math, break it down. How many camera stations do you need? If you can do 25 kids in 12 to 15 minutes and you have to be done in four hours, how many kids do you need to photograph? Do the math, figure it out. Have more than what you think you need. Have the ability to stay ahead of schedule, never risk falling behind because administrators and teachers are already annoyed that they have to pull kids out of class for pictures. They're gonna be super annoyed if they pull 'em out of class and then wait in the hallway an extra half hour. That messes up the teacher's timelines, okay? If you can do, if you can finish the pictures by lunch time, they will love you. If you cannot finish the pictures by lunch time, make sure you get all the little kids done by lunch time 'cause otherwise they come back with junk all over their faces.
Uh you talk about bringing an assistant along for each station, do you do that with schools as well?
Yup so at a school where we were running four stations I would bring in four shooters, I'd bring in four assistants, I would bring in a registration table kind of overseer, I would have a flex position, so somebody just there and then we would actually a lot of the schools get us parent volunteers. So we'll end up with like three to four parents that wanna come in and volunteer. One of the schools we work with they have like a guy with a real deep voice. So he comes in and the kids listen up and he'll tell 'em where to go and it's great and he stands in the hallway. So we have delegated roles to certain parents. The mostly what the parents do for us is we have them we have them guide the kids through the flow. So we say get 'em in line here, kick 'em out there. Get em' in line here, kick 'em out there. We still maintain a no touch policy. We never touch kids. If your hair's on your shoulder and I don't want it there I ask you to move it. Now with younger kids, specifically like kindergartners, this is like an overwhelming experience for kindergartners. This is huge. So you have a little kindergartner that's taking this all in. If their shirt's messy, if it's, we have parents fix it. The parents are brought in. Mom, I need you to fix his collar for me. We don't touch, ever.
What do you do with regard to having like backup cameras, lenses, lights, what have you in case something goes wonky on you halfway through the day?
Get a backup of everything. Get one backup of everything. And I actually had a situation one year where we bought all brand new lights, had all these lighting setups and we turn 'em on, we meter 'em, we make sure they're all producing good light, we get to the shoot and one of 'em won't turn on. A brand new light. We tested it, we checked it, wouldn't turn on. Wasn't a big deal for the company, they fixed it, repaired it, sent me a new one (finger snapping), Johnny on the spot. But that day I was in a real bad spot. I had a whole nother lighting setup. Grab another one, toss it on. Pocket wizard goes down? Grab another one. Other things like don't get cheap on like replace all the batteries in your pocket wizards before you start. We shoot tethered. Look at your images. If you have a hair light that's not going off, you are a professional photographer you should be able to see that. If you are working for me I expect you to look at your images. I expect you to know if you're over exposed by four stops. Like that would not be acceptable for you to just keep shooting. And so we push, I bring in good guys. We pay pretty well, we have a good time, it's a fun situation, so most of those guys come back. So we don't have too many issues with training people in for it. I get on calendars with my contract guys way in advance, I need you this day and I'm blessed to have the crew that I have 'cause most of those guys like they could make more money doin' something else. Like it's not, I don't have any doubt that the 400 bucks they make working for me is the highlight of their week, it's not. So I'm really lucky that we have some good guys that come in and work. But that's what it is, yeah. So backup everything, and backup your crew. Backup your crew 'cause if someone's not gonna show up, gotta be able to go through it. How do the kids come down to picture day? We're gonna walk you guys the software that we use. But it doesn't really matter the order that they come in. Every kid has a barcode that gets scanned. They can go this teacher can go to this camera, this camera, this camera, this camera, doesn't matter. That order doesn't matter. But how they come down is something the school needs to figure out. A lot of the schools that we work with we tell them this is how long it's going to take us to photograph a class, they will set it up to bring 'em down. They set it up, but if they want you to make a schedule like we've done for sports, we'll make a schedule. Lot of times they wanna, they just do it, so. Each of our photo stations has a laptop and a flash drive. We got the big jumbo flash drives, jump drives like gigabyte jump drives like 100 bucks right now. Buy one so that you can backup your stuff right there. With software you can actually shoot it onto the hard drive of the computer and the jump drive at the same time. Backup your files. The computers we use we shoot tethered to Lenovo laptops. The laptops work awesome, I hate the keyboard. It's like weird positions on stuff so I always typo, but make sure that you like the keyboard. If you go on the software that you're looking at using when you start doing schools, they will tell you the minimum requirements of what a computer needs to have. We need this processor, we need this much memory, we need this, this, this. Computers are like 1000 bucks. So when you got four stations and you have a backup, that's five grand. Barcode scanners are like 20 bucks. Buy it from Amazon. Every station has a barcode scanner. Okay so this is the Cheetah light stand. There's an American made one by Manfrotto, it's the Titan one. The Cheetah one I like way better because it actually comes apart, comes with a carrying bag, toss it in your case. That thing costs us 190 bucks, you can buy a second pistol grip for 30 bucks. So what we do is we turn one pistol grip into a tripod, it's a camera stand and I'll tell you which head we use for that and why. And then the other one we buy a laptop projector tray. It's what you're gonna search for on Amazon. It's like 20 bucks. Toss that sucker on the other pistol grip, I have the laptop and the camera on a stand. No table needed, no cords for anyone to trip over. We use this instead of the tripod because we wanna adjust our camera height to head height which will vary, and this is an easier and faster way to do it. We use this cheapest tripod head in the world, I think it's a UTEBIT bit head, it's 10 bucks. It has no plate, you screw the camera on to the tripod head. It's a ball mount that I turn and I break the frickin' knobs off of it. It never moves. It is at this angle all the time. That is what that tripod head does. We're eliminating variables. I don't want tilts, I don't want leans, I want it the same. Okay? There's the camera. There's the lens. Renting 'em, it was cheap. I think it was like, you can get the lenses for 30, 40 bucks for the rental period. I think the camera was 60, 70 bucks. I mean it's not a huge investment. And for us to make sure that we were shooting on newer cameras and are givin' us big files It was different than our sports stuff. We talked about this camera already too. This is the 7D Mark II Studio Version. That camera allows you to barcode the data into the file. That would be really, really cool if I were to keep growing my company and I'm getting to bigger, and bigger, and bigger jobs, and when we get there I don't have a Courtney for everyday for every school, I would use this system because it eliminates a variable that is the laptop. Okay? That stuff's really cool too, you can lock down the exposure settings on it and then you can actually require it. So like you have to scan a barcode, take two pictures and then the camera will lock up until they scan another barcode. You can't forget to shoot a barcode and shoot 10 kids. Can't do that, you have to scan a barcode every two. So we take two pictures and they aren't good, you scan the same barcode again, take two more. Right? We are changing our lighting. We've always used Einstein and the Digibee's. Those are awesome, awesome, awesome lighting. We have typically done a two light setup, we are adding a third. So we use the Einstein as the main, and the DB800's as the fills. We uh, the Einstein's 500 bucks, and the DB800 is 350. These are the soft boxes from Paul C. Buff. I use the middle, I use this one. This is like the six foot one, that's like the four foot one. Use the four foot one, okay? I'll use that and an umbrella. Now we're gonna be using a strip light as a rim light, kind of a hair separator light. So those are the boxes that we would use. And we have a collapsible crate. Goes at the base of every one of those camera stands. So when they take an order form (tongue clicking), toss it in the crate. Scan the card, take the order form, toss it in the crate. Cool? And we do have stools and a foot stool. This was something I spent a lot of money on trying to find what I wanted because the problem I found with most posing stools is that they pivot. So every kid would sit down and go wee, and spin around in circles. Drives me nuts, they'll knock over my stuff. They don't pay attention. So I use this Mighty Lite Flex One folding stool, 24 inches. You get two of 'em for 35 bucks. It folds out and it's a seat. It doesn't move. We put it down, we tape where it is on the floor so we know exactly where it goes. That stool is too big for kindergartners. So we have another small folding stool that we put down so short kids, I guess it could be short adults, you'd have to be really short, but shorter people have a foot stool. Now if we put those foot stools down because they are younger kids, we do put the little footie cutouts that we use for sports, we put 'em on there so they know where to put their feet. Okay? Carson foot print cutouts, six bucks, Amazon. Go buy some.