This and That

Random bits of my life

Photos from a Bar Mitzvah

Posted by Avital Pinnick on November 21, 2011

Parents of the bar mitzvah boy

Photo above: Parents of the bar mitzvah boy. I liked this photo because it was the only candid that I managed to shoot with both parents in the frame. The shadow on the mother’s face is a bit darker than I would have liked but it was something I could live with. Besides, I didn’t have a flash gun.

I was invited to a bar mitzvah last week. I wasn’t hired as a photographer, but I always take a camera with me. It turned out that the family hadn’t hired a photographer and they hinted that they would really appreciate some photos, so I took a few. I had to use a high ISO because it’s a badly lit hall and the event was at night. (I don’t normally carry my flashgun around because it’s heavy, requires 4 AA batteries, and is overkill unless it’s a paid job.) I’ve photographed in this hall before and it’s a real challenge because the light is all fluorescent and the ceiling tiles are off-white and brown. The walls are also white and pink and really need a paint job. Whenever I do family shots in this hall I always have to touch up the background or position them at least 20 feet from the wall. In this case, there was no choice because the family requested a couple group shots and we had to squeeze into a corner behind the tables. I ended up with far fewer good shots than I would have had if I’d brought a flash, but I will be able to give them a DVD with about 100 reasonable photos.

Dance photos without a flash are tricky. This was shot at ISO 800, with a 1/25 sec exposure, 75mm focal length, f5.6. 1/25 isn’t fast enough for really energetic dancing but this shot of the boy on the chair was slow enough that I managed to capture it.

Goldstein Bar Mitzvah

The frame below was shot at 1/50 — fast enough to get a sharp image of the boy spinning Shmuel, but not sharp enough to capture Shmuel flying through the air (that would have required a flash). On the other hand, it does create a nice motion effect. I chose a slightly exaggerated angle and shot from the floor. My dress got filthy but it was a good length for moving around on chairs and crouching on the floor.

Goldstein Bar Mitzvah

The group shots were really tough because there’s an overhang (probably an a/c duct) casting a shadow against the wall, so I had to create a layer in Photoshop, raise the levels, and brush in the details with a mask because the people in the back row were in shadow.

Goldstein Bar Mitzvah

The photo of the bar mitzvah boy with his friends also had to be lightened a lot, so the details of his shirt are a bit blown out (but who cares about a kid’s wrinkled shirt anyway? It’s not like it’s an expensive wedding dress). As they say, photography is always about making compromises, and if you have to choose between the clothing and the faces, usually the faces are more important.

Goldstein Bar Mitzvah

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2 Responses to “Photos from a Bar Mitzvah”

  1. pam said

    I am always amazed that so many people think photographing a wedding or bar mitzvah or any other celebration is a piece of cake! Look at all the challenges of lighting (the one thing “they” overlook) you had to deal with. These types of events are the most uncontrollable “people” assignments photographers must deal with because the photographer has no control and all the responsibility to meet the expectations of the people who are paying the bill.

    So i think, under the circumstances, you have done a great job here. Especially dealing with the overhang problem. We have had our share of those – AND no photoshop. ARGH

    Now, about that first image. First – expression almost always trumps everything else. And look at the expression you captured in Mom’s face. Beautiful, tender, heartfelt moment. This image is a treasure. And – if you divorce yourself from comparing the lighting on Dad, and just focus on the light falling on Mom’s face – in my opinion, that is perfect portrait lighting. Artists use it all the time! She has a magnificent face, this woman. if i were you, i would see if she is up for a sitting in unusual light.

  2. […] of Shoshi with Zahava. By the way, this is the same Zahava whose son’s bar mitzvah I blogged a few weeks […]

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