This is a fairly newer shot from a job I did for Runway Passport at Oslo Fashion Week 2012. After a week of shooting documentary and catwalk in Oslo this winter I covered the backstage and catwalk at the final show, Moods of Norway. It was fairly cold that day, I meet my two journalists from OurStyle down town Oslo before taking a taxi with a fellow colleague to Mathallen – Vulcan five hours before the show started to get the best behind the scenes / documentary shots. The backstage area was dim lit with a lot of different models from different agencies getting their hair and make-up done. I had spoken with the model manager of Trend Models, Gry Sæther, asking her if she had some models in this show. After walking around the backstage for a while I spotted Julie H in a chair surrounded by a bunch of stylists.
I shot this image with a Nikon D700 and a 35mm f/2.0 lens. Documentary photo is capturing a moment in time telling the viewer a story of what this moment is all about, not only showing what is exactly what is in the image but also giving the viewer a sense of what the subjects in the photo is feeling. These shots can only be composed with your camera. Concentrating on what details are in the frame and also what is not. Reading out of this picture I see the crew-cards with a logo on two of the hair stylists telling me this is has something to do with Moods of Norway, seeing all the other people in this photo is telling me that this might be something more than this is not just an ordinary photo shoot, but something more. A stressful mime on all three stylists might indicate that they are on a tight schedule. What is the model thinking?
To capture these details you have to know your tools. This is shot with a 35mm wide angle lens at a shutter speed of 1/13 of a second at f/5.0 and ISO2500. Tearing down this specifications into pieces you might get an idea of what I am thinking while capturing this frame. First of all, I start out with my camera. It is a full frame Nikon D700 able to capture shots on the calibrated ISO range from ISO200 to ISO6400. This means that I can work in very low light situations and get quite decent exposures. The 35mm gives me a fairly wide, but also narrow angle on a setting to show as much of the situation and also restraining it to be what is important not having to move in to close, but not to far away at the same time. I didn’t want the face of the male models up on the left side to show, nor the model sitting next to Julie. Setting up my camera to shoot in aperture priority at f/5.0 gave me the the depth in the frame that I wanted not showing all the background in full focus, but blurring it a bit out. I had also set my ISO to automatically adjust in the range from ISO800 to ISO2500 if the shutter speed fell below 1/10th of a second. I know the D700 can produce fairly detailed shots at ISO6400 so I didn’t bother having to much grain in this shot.
Since this is a wide angle motion in the camera wouldn’t show up as much as if I had shot this with a normal / zoom lens. I know I can hold tight to the camera at 1/10th of a second. I mainly recommend to use the shooting no slower shutter than the denominator of matching the focal length. The thumb rule: having a focal length of 20mm, you should never have a slower shutter than 1/20 of a second, at 35mm, 1/30th, 50mm 1/50th, 200mm 1/200th of a second. Having good or fast glass meaning having a lens that is able to have a wide aperture. The standard aperture scale (F-stops); f/0.7, f/1.0, f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0 f/5.6, f/8.0, f/11.0, f/16.0, f/22.0, f/32, f/45, f/64, f/90, f/128, f/180, f/256. Lenses are divided into primes and zoom. The prime lenses has a fixed focal length while the zoom lenses can vary from ie. 18mm to 55mm, 24mm to 70mm, 70mm to 200. The numbers you should concentrate about is what the widest aperture these lenses has, a smaller f-number, the larger the aperture, the more light the lens is able to send through to the camera sensor or the film roll you are shooting. Lenses with a larger aperture at the widest focal length is more expensive. The old 35mm f/2.0 I bought used for 2000NOK (around ), but the newer 35mm f/1.4 a F-stop larger costs around 14500NOK () because there is more glass inside.
A quick summary of my thoughts shooting this kind of documentary style shots, I don’t want the shots to be un-sharp because of camera movement, having some movement in the subjects gave me the feel of intensity in the situation, I didn’t want to much hassle doing light metering knowing my camera could handle the conditions quite well at different exposure compensation-settings I set my camera to aperture priority (A on Nikon and Av on Canon), knowing that f/5.0 was the sharpness all over that I wanted.
Having much time to look for situations is one of the key ingredients to get great shots, be nice to the people back stage, if they are not to busy ask them what they are doing, show them photos of what you have shot and you’ll get great shots back.