Being prepared makes all the difference

Being prepared makes all the difference

I love the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared.” As a photographer, that often means carrying extra batteries, a spare camera and an extra memory card. But also, that includes knowing the location, and what conditions you’ll be working under.

Practice ahead of time so you are prepared

When we moved into a house with a pool, I was eager to photograph in it. I was asked if we could hold a baptism celebration in our pool. It was winter in San Diego, and the pool temperature has been hovering around 55° F — too cold for daily practice.

Underwater photography has a few nuances that are different from above water shooting. So, no matter how prepared I’d be for above water shooting, I knew I needed to practice shooting in our pool if I was going to be able to successfully shoot this event. There are no second chances with event photography.

Match the environment you’ll be photographing in

We heated the pool up so it would be warm and ready 24 hours in advance of the event. I needed to practice with the closest approximation of environmental factors as I could hope for.

Adjust settings

My children love to assist me as models on my test shoots. I had my girls wear clothes for the shoot, as people would be wearing clothing for the baptism. I dialed in the settings as well as I could approximate as I didn’t want my ISO to be too high, nor my depth of field to be more than necessary. When shooting underwater in the pool, in the shade, light is a precious thing. I wanted to keep my shutter speed as low as possible without causing motion blur while still keeping my subjects in focus.

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Shot at 1/90s, there is motion blur in their feet.

Review your work helps you be prepared for the next session

What works above water doesn’t necessarily work well below. While my initial shutter speed, that I had selected would have been high enough for an above water portrait, my daughters moved much faster underwater than I had anticipated.

In the images, they look still and relaxed, but were moving at quite a rapid clip. Working out these details the day before, knowing that the baptisms would also be quick, and not repeatable, provided for a very easy, stress-free experience for everyone the next day. I didn’t have to spend any time adjusting my settings or changing anything up while we were in the pool. The day went smoothly.

The biggest bonus beyond being relaxed and prepared? I now have a wonderful gallery of images that my children take pride and ownership in. They were a big part of the success of the day.

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NOTE: When working in a different, challenging or new environment, get the kinks worked out the day before, so you have time to critically look at your work and fine tune your settings and angles. It is the preparation and practice that can set you apart and make your images that much stronger.