I recently completed an assignment with Habitat for Humanity, GTA, to photograph the handover of new homes to six families.
“A non-profit homebuilder, Habitat for Humanity GTA partners with low-income families, who cannot afford a conventional mortgage, to build and buy simple, decent quality, affordable homes through a no-interest, no-down payment mortgage. With monthly payments set at no more than 30% of total family income, the Habitat homeownership solution not only helps to provide affordable housing for families in need, it enables low-income families to build assets, reduce their dependence on other forms of social assistance and break the cycle of poverty.”
The usual procedures is: a few days prior to the event, I am given a shot list. I review the list and confirm the types of shots I’ll need to make and following that, the appropriate equipment. The list included: shots of the houses to be handed over; crowd shots; speakers; key hand-over shots; family shots. In this list there was an emphasis on candids with emotion.
On this assignment I took three camera bodies. Two were fixed with prime lenses; one with a zoom. I fixed one body with a wide-angle lens (either 18mm or 28mm) and the other with a longer lens (90 mm). The third body was fixed with a 90-400 mm lens, enabling a range of shots from various distances.
I arrived at the site about an hour before the event. This gave me a chance to walk the area and take some contextual shots — shots of the houses — before the crowds arrived. I like using my 18 mm for this type of shot as it captures a wide area as well as it produces an image with interesting distortions. After these shots I replaced the 18 mm with a 28 mm lens. That lens is good for crowd shots, family shots, key hand-over shots, and speaker shots in context of a crowd of listeners. The other benefit is that I can pre-focus the lens (e.g., set to a hyperfocal distance) so when it comes time to take the shot, it is literally point and shoot. For people shots, I used my 90 mm, as the lens minimizes [ugly] distortions, allows one to get in close, imparts a nice bokeh. It enables a shallow depth of field which makes people standout. I used the zoom as I walk through the crowd at the event enabling me to get shots that I would otherwise miss.
Of course, the event doesn’t really go as smoothly as I suggest. Batteries run out at critical moments; cards fill up; and then I’m standing in the wrong spot at the wrong time.