Classroom Management

            When looking at my images, many think I just show up the magic happens.  However, often, the logistics of a shoot can account for more than half the work.  Such was the case with a recent project of the new School of Business at LaSalle University.  My client, Kimmel Bogrette Architects, not only wanted great images of their project, but wanted most to have students and staff, including in an image of a classroom.  This took some planning and coordination on my part. 

            To start, after getting through the usual stuff (contacting the VP of facilities, sending over my certificate of insurance, reaching out to security, etc.), I also contacted the dean of the School of Business, Dr. Gary Giamartino.  I discussed with him our need to photograph the building while in use, which he was apprehensive about at first.  I explained for all the images, but one, everyone would be unrecognizable.  However, with the classroom, I would only capture this image if I got permission from him and a professor, and would bring model releases to be signed by all.  This put him at ease and he referred me to his secretary, Joanne, to get the ball rolling. 

            After obtaining permission from the dean, my client and I decided on two possible classrooms and that morning light would be best for each.  I then sent this information to Joanne, she looked at class schedules for both Mondays & Tuesdays and reached out to professors.  After a week, a few professors gave us permission, so long as we would only be there for the first 5 to 10 minutes of class.  I worked this into the overall shot list and scheduled the shoot. 

            A couple days prior to the shoot, when the weather forecast was more certain, I contacted the dean’s office again to give them the exact day.  Joanne confirmed with the professors and found out if any were giving exams.  Of the four classes we had access to, two were giving exams and one overlapped with the timing of another image, which meant our best option was Professor Meghan Pierce’s 11 AM. 

            We arrived at the classroom at 10:45 AM, when the prior class ended.  I quickly composed and setup the camera, while my 1st assistant straightened the desks, chairs and whiteboard.  My 2nd assistant explained to the students what was happening, had them sign releases or sit on the other side of the room if they were uncomfortable. 

            Since we wanted as natural of a look as possible, I choose to use no additional lighting.  People tend to anticipate flashes and look awkward, and continuous lighting for photography is bright and uncomfortable.  Plus, I had little time for setup.  To make up for this, I captured an HDR bracket, at base ISO, prior to the room being filled.  Then, my exposure for the class in session was ISO 100, f/8 at 1/15 second, fast enough to freeze the seated students and to ensure at least a handful of captures would (mostly) freeze the professor. 

            All this ensured we could create a balanced image in post with sharp subjects.  Also, a week prior, Capture One (my raw processor of choice) version 9 was released with a new color editor that helped me seamlessly correct any color shifts and casts from our mixed light environment, which are more noticeable when no professional lighting is used. 

            At the end of it, my client was happy with the image, along with all the others, and all of the work paid off.