Permutations

This was a publicity shot for a "reader's theater" performance. Some of the actors did not know I would be at their rehearsal, a reporter was conducting an interview at the same time, and at least one of the actors hates my guts because I took an unflattering picture of her at an awards show several years ago. If you want flattering pictures, hire a professional photographer. Local organizations don't choose me because I'm good. They choose me because I'm good enough and cheap.

As much as I enjoy shooting theater and dance, I’d really like to learn how to do portraiture. But if there’s one type of photography I really hate to do, it’s the group portrait. There are so many points of failure! Think of the permutations.  If there are four people in the image, the chances of someone blinking or scowling or swallowing at the instant of exposure are at least 4 x 3 x 2 x 1, or 24 to 1. I usually have time for about ten exposures. Of course, the odds against a good image have to be multiplied by every possible image-diminishing factor – that is, the permutations apply separately for eye blinks, scowls, etc.  So the odds are long, and get longer with each additional person in the picture. Portraiture is hard, but when you choose to shoot group portraits, you’re entering a world of pain.

Big groups hate the portrait session for good reason. Based on the permutations for image-ruining issues, I'd have to take 39,916,800 pictures to ensure I got one where everybody looked good. But even twenty shots under lights tries everybody's patience. Especially the dog.

Even with one subject and control over the background and lighting, I have to take quite a few pictures to get one I like. I’ve given up on getting pictures the subject likes. That said, I really enjoy working with people one-on-one, or even couples. But larger groups are the reason I keep a package of TUMS in my camera bag.

Even with one person, I think one should calculate permutations based on the number of hairs on the head, because any one of them can interfere with the image.

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Filed under Portraiture, Professional vs. Amateur

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