Lessons in What Not to Do: Studio Bingo




Senior pictures; it’s that time of year.  Sunday I was approached by this brunette beauty asking to take her senior pictures.  Apparently she like what I had done for Bill & Mary (LWND:  Getting Mary-ed) and was eager to have me behind the lens for this educational, lifelong milestone.


“Kelly has the utmost confidence in you.”  Her mom told me over the phone after I admitted my photography shortcomings and suggested that they take a last minute jaunt over to one of those “quickie” photo studios a strobe above the street side, pull-the-curtain and insert your dollar kind.  You see, the yearbook photo requires an indoor, solid background headshot.  They even specify how large the head should be (no more than an inch and a half from chin to the top of the hair) and a quarter of an inch short of the top of the picture.  Basically they want a studio shot, something I don’t have nor do I want to financially delve into at the moment.  Like most things, gear can become a greenback black hole where the return will never out pace or keep up with its ferocious appetite.  Lesson learned:  Fess up to your weakness and work the problem to your strengths.  It hit a little hard to know that this sweet girl had more faith in me than I did in myself; I wasn’t going to let her down.


Confidence, huh?  Well, it was time to do what I do best – fake it and improvise.  I stopped by Joann Fabrics before the shoot and picked a couple of Panne velvet panels 1 yard by 58”.  Enough for head and shoulders, but that’s about it.  Stealing the scouting flag pole idea, I cut 1/4” aluminum conduit into three lengths, slapped on two PVC elbows and set the whole thing on rebar spikes.  Indoor wasn’t going to happen, at least if I can help it.  Lesson learned:  Home Depot, not the spendy Idaho Camera, can save the day.


Kelly and I had a five o’clock appointment Tuesday at her parents countryside home.  Beautiful landscaping and plenty of grassy, open shade.  The sun was lower in the sky and sent a beam of golden light between an evergreen and chimney, casting a long column of shadows across the yard.  Using my awesome skills in astronomical mathematics and orienteering, I hammered in the rebar base (making sure not to hit any underground pipes) and calculated the best angle for the backdrop, the reflector and the celestial orb of a side and top light. 


This is where Bingo comes into play.  I have my game card in front of me, my lipstick pink ink dotter in one clenched fist and a lucky, thumb-stroked rabbits foot in the other just waiting on bated breath for those winning numbers to line up.  ISO, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, exposure and reflected, indirect, direct and flash all to be accounted for and let’s not for get the dreaded umbra and penumbra. Full manual, external flash, and opting against my usual lens of choice for the 55-200m VR zoom, I started marking off each square.


Gold was up first on the impromptu stand and Kelly and I rocked it - quite literally.  If you feel good about yourself – it’s a good hair day, your eyeliner isn’t smudged, and blemishes are a thing of the past, chances are you feel better in front of the camera.  Smiles come easier, giggles grow and before you know it you have a stack of relatively painless pictures of you being you and not the I’ve-sat-here-for-hours-and-my-face-is-going-to-fall-off-if-I-have-to-smile-one-more-time while the only thing keeping said smile up is the pleasant daydream of strangling the photographer you.  Add my not-so-secret, secret weapon and who knows what will happen. 


Music.  As in get your groove on music.  I asked Kelly to bring her iPod dock and queue up her favorite playlist.  Michael Buble kicked us off with a Sinatra standard oozing with class, golden oldies (of which I was quite impressed with her extensive tastes a generation before myself) and a couple of current pop-rock and rap ditties.  The Diva herself, Aretha’s Chain of Fools.  Pat Benetar’s Heartbreaker capped off the last shoot (black drop) with a timely, rocker hop off the white plastic lawn chair I happened to be standing on. The rabbit’s foot must have counter-acted Murphy’s Law because I didn’t land most embarrassingly on my backside or worse yet, break my camera. It all seems rather unorthodox, but this is me were talking about.  If I had any proper schooling, I’d know better and wouldn’t allow such childish frivolity to stand in the way of serious artistic expression.  Lesson learned:  Have fun, be silly when needed, get the job done and let the numbers fall where they may – there’s more than one way to win at bingo.


Minimal – and I mean minimal – editing went into these due to time constraints.  I delivered proofs Wednesday afternoon and set up our appointment to go and do the real senior pictures this Saturday.  Another adventure I look forward to.  Michael is invited. So is Pat, Stevie, Neil, Elvis, Aretha, Fergie, UB40, Avril, Miley, Taylor, Josh, the Brothers of course and ….   Can I yell bingo?


Meet Kelly, the cutest southern belle this side of the Mississippi.



Collage Gold


Collage Green


Collage Blue


Collage Black


And the yearbook photo is….


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  1. Stacey said...

    Oh My girl!!! You have serious talent. I like the idea of groovin while taking the pics. So hip. You are definately a hip chick.
    I love the pics.

  2. mandbrid said...

    Great work Stacey!!! I love the ones with the gold background the best.

  3. The Wright's said...

    Love the gold background!!

    Nice job as usual!!