This and That

Random bits of my life

Bat Mitzvah Shoot

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 28, 2010

I haven’t written for close to a week because I’ve been hit by really bad allergies, thanks to the dust and pollen. The desert is beautiful but it’s not a very friendly climate. My last posting was about Independence Day in Israel. This one is about a bat mitzvah that I photographed in the evening after Yom Atzmaut.

This was my first time as the “official” photographer at an event. It was a challenge, working with a borrowed camera body and cards, during a dust storm. I had a couple possible locations in mind for outdoor shots, but the strong winds, dust clouds, and sickly grey light put an end to that idea. The synagogue hall didn’t have any area that was suitable for portraits. The lighting was a mixture of cool and warm fluorescent ceiling lights, so I ended up shooting the portrait shots in the stairwell.

I liked this portrait shot better than the others because Shira Rina happened to be looking down. The angle wasn’t great (I was looking up) and the area was too small for me to move back, so this was what I had to work with. Shira Rina herself is very photogenic and comfortable in front of a camera. That was a big help.


I took a few shots of the family setting up. This photo below was taken in the kitchen. The youngest sister was watching the girls chopping fruit for platters and she happened to look over her shoulder at me.

Sister in the kitchen

I discovered that shooting an event like this requires skills in many areas, more than I had ever imagined! It combines formal and informal portraits, candids, food, and dancing.  The food and setting-up shots set the atmosphere and lead into the main story.

Heart Cake

My portrait-shooting experience is probably the weakest link, so I was really winging it. The family shots were after the setup shots, with the family choosing their own groupings and combinations. I had to retouch the wall in almost every shot. I feel like I’ve painted that wall twenty times over!



The dance shots were the most athletic part of the evening. I spent most of the time running around in circles or jumping on chairs and my jacket was soaked by the time I finished. I barely managed to grab this quick photo of Shira Rina drawing her grandmother into the dance circle. It happened so quickly that I couldn’t frame it as wide as I would have liked. I just managed to get Shira Rina on the left side of the frame and her grandmother on the right.

Inviting Bubbi to dance

This one was a lucky shot. Somehow I managed to get a sharp enough focus on Shira Rina’s face, without illuminating the backs of the two girls. My guess is that I was standing close enough that the flash went over their shoulders (it was tilted at a 75 degree angle with a bounce card pulled out), instead of bouncing off their backs. You can see a bit of flare on the wrist and bracelet of the girl on the left.



Photographing the speeches was a challenge because I got stuck in a far corner of the hall. I didn’t want to use a flash in someone’s face while they were speaking, so I switched to ISO 800 and a 250mm lens, no flash. It was a tough corner to photograph, between an over-sized plastic ivy and a cupboard.



I shot close to 1000 frames and ended up with 434 final photos. The early shots were done in RAW. I realised, when I got to the middle of my second card, that I wouldn’t have enough room. At that point, I switched to JPG. I initially converted the RAW files with Canon Digital Professional, the free software bundled with the Rebel. Because I wasn’t satisfied with the results, I downloaded the free beta version of Adobe Lightroom 3 and redid the conversion. It’s a brilliant program. I only wish it weren’t so expensive!

5 Responses to “Bat Mitzvah Shoot”

  1. You’ve done amazing considering the difficulties, and that top portrait shot is wonderful… Such a natural looking shot, and wonderful lighting too…

  2. Ann said

    Avital, you did a wonderful job. I can only imagine the pressure you felt to get everything right; there’s no second chance at events like this! I especially love the first shot of Shira Rina, and of course the one of her dancing with her grandmother. The smiles are so genuine – best candid shot I think I’ve ever seen. The collection is well worth the million clicks it took you to take and then edit all the pics.

  3. aswirly said

    You really did a great job! Nicely done on all of these 🙂

  4. pam said

    I have to agree with four first commenter! Beautiful shot of Shira Rina. I too like that she is looking down slightly. And, her eyes look so happy!

    I think most folks would find it surprising how much energy and effort is expended at an event such as this. The photographer must be constantly alert and focused (in more ways than one!) and meeting each challenge and moving on to the next! You have done a great job and I know you learned a great deal along the way.

    She really is a very pretty young lady and your images of her will be treasured and enjoyed for a long, long time.

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