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Picture of Reg Lancaster.PRESENTATION PICTURES

by Reg Lancaster, FACI

IAC's President, Reg Lancaster, had a career with the Daily Express as a press photographer at home and abroad. His notes on photographing presentations and awards offer tips for memorable pictures which will be at home in magazines and websites.

In the early 80's a photograph was pinned in a prominent place on the Daily Express picture desk wall. It showed a professional photographer - you could tell he was a pro for a Nikon F4 hung from each shoulder. Around his neck, a beloved special Leica M2 gleamed.

He was a Brit, for in each hand was a Union Jack on a stick. The cameraman is staring, in total bafflement, at a £5 box camera. It was taken in the Mall on the eve of the Charles and Diana wedding and the subject is me, Your Honour. The flags were props in case I spotted a pair of beautiful girls in the waiting crowds.

Instead, a pair of plain, obese Yanks grabbed me with the words, "Hi, you look like a pro, couldya do a coupla pictures for our folks back in Wisconsin?" thrusting the idiot box into my hands and I swear, I could NOT work out how to click the darned thing!

Lesson One

If you are called on to take presentation pictures at your club, either use your own camera, or refuse. If someone still insists on foisting a camera on you, don't touch it until the owner shows you clearly what to look through, what button to press and where it is.

Beware

Though presentation pictures are the most common pictures associated with our hobby, they contain the meanest little trap for the unthinking photographer, i.e.the space between the giver and the recipient.

Today's cameras with auto this and that, include auto focus and therein lies your problem. The typical set-up is the giver at one side of the frame, receiver at the other side. Most auto focus systems are designed to focus on what is in the centre of the frame. This results in soft pictures of givers and receivers, against very sharp and clear brick walls, floral displays, safety signs and edges of film screens. They look awful.

You are in charge of the camera, so in your preparation practice session read the instruction book on how to "pre-focus" usually by a light pressure on the shutter release while aiming at one of the people in the picture, holding it till you have framed the composition you want. Then apply the extra finger pressure to obtain a picture that is nicely framed, and sharp on the interesting bits - the people.

Lesson Two

Before going forward to take presentation pictures, have you done your homework? Home work? Yes, award presentation ceremonies don't happen at the last minute. In the days leading up to the event, check batteries, clean the lens. Take a few practice shots to make sure you remember that everything works. Don't forget to erase the test shots!

On the Night

Make sure you've switched the camera on. Don't be shy. Be the one to step forward and organise the picture. Have your wits about you, because things can go wrong.

Be Aware

Presentation with distracting background elements.

Look at the back ground. Make sure it's clear of things like "EXIT" over a door. You're taking a presentation picture, not reminding the winners of their mortality.

Fill the frame with the trophy and the face. Get out of the habit of only holding your camera horizontal. Many of the Terry Tkachuk with the Daily Mail Trophy.best pictures are uprights. You'll be amazed at how popular you become with the editor of your publication. Those standard pictures have such a waste of space in the middle, and here you are with a punchy, interesting picture full of a happy prize winner and their prize. The editor will love you.

Do the standard picture by all means, but after they've gone back to their seat, get the recipient and their trophy prominent in the picture. Relax, and relax them, as you walk them to the quiet place you've found, shake their hand, congratulate them on their achievement, and then in the right spot, with a clear background, get in really close.

What's the Subject?

Reg Lancaster presenting a medal to Dave Watterson.Finally, remember what presentation pictures are about. You are recording a highlight of the recipient's life. They want to remember the moment It may well be that the giver is someone Very Important, from HMQ, Nelson Mandela down, but often the giver is not so vital to the memorable picture. It's about the prize-winner and the prize.

In my professional life I have been to more presentations than I care to remember. Yes, I would shoot the hand shake with the Big Name, but after the prize winner returned to their seat, we would invite them and their loved one to come aside to a quiet place so that we could do the "real" picture.

Think of the The Ashes. The trophy itself is three inches high and in a classic presentation set-up can hardly be seen at all! The pictures you see in the papers after the victory/defeat are rarely of the "handover" but variations of the winning Captain's or the Player of the Series's best expression, with the tiny urn very close to his face. They capture the essence of the moment, not the actual moment.

- Reg Lancaster


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Page updated on 16 January 2011
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