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Picture Perfect; Developing Sadie Hawkins photos
Topic Started: Mar 30 2016, 06:48 PM (580 Views)
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((Sandy Bricks pregame start))

Sandy held the final print up in the red light of the school’s dark room, squinting in the dimness to see how it had turned out. It was okay, he guessed.

He clipped it to the drying line, where an array of photos from the Sadie Hawkins were arranged, featuring smiling couples, rowdy stag goers, and plenty of high school memories. To him though, he couldn’t help but look and see them as somewhat hollow.

Maybe he was being overly perfectionist; maybe he didn’t really get into the spirit because he only went to the dance to take photos for the yearbook; or maybe the pictures were just bad. Standing there, staring at them with his knuckle pressed to his lip, was doing very little to make them look any better.

He let out a sigh. If nothing else, they would probably be alright for the yearbook, and he was mostly just experimenting with the black and white shots in the first place. He’d brought two cameras to the dance: one from home and one borrowed from the school. The digital shots on the latter would, with any luck, turn out better. Even then, the glow from all the decoration at the space themed dance was somewhat lost on the monochrome prints, and it added an air of seriousness to something that was supposed to be casual and fun.

Yeah, now that he could see what he’d created, it was feeling like a flop. If they were for himself rather than the school, he’d throw these out and call it quits.

He turned away from the prints, chewing on his knuckle again as he thought what to do. He still had the second set of photos to go through, but at this point a creeping doubt was souring his opinion of them. The poor decision was digging into him, but he couldn’t tell if he was just overreacting to an honest mistake.

After struggling to make up his mind for long enough, he took down the string of photos and left the darkroom for the photo lab. He needed a second opinion at this point, and fortunately he wasn't the only one working on Sadie Hawkins shots that morning.

“Hey, can I get your opinion on these?”
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((Nadia Riva continued from I could live in the world just like a stranger))

Nadia sat at a computer in the photo lab and stared at the photo before her. It was a trio of students she couldn't exactly recognize sitting around a table at the Sadie Hawkins dance. She clicked around the photo to crop out some blurs on the side of the photo. There had probably been someone moving around near them, and she needed it cropped out. The students on their own looked good, and so they didn't need some amorphous shape to the side.

Nadia had hoped to have a decent night at Sadie Hawkins. She could get dressed up and maybe dance along to some current music. Everything was planned, but then a curve ball came in. The Yearbook adviser asked her to take pictures at the dance. They were short staffed for the event, so they wanted to know if she could help out. Nadia knew Photography Club often got outsourced for jobs like this, and while it annoyed her, she agreed to it. It's more photo credits for the Yearbook, and she could use the extra publication history.

So she sat at the computer, going through the photos she had taken that night, trying to find the best ones to turn in for the Yearbook. She found a few so far, but Nadia knew she'd need a lot more than that. She took a few dozen pictures, so she had plenty to work with.

Hey, can I get your opinion on these?

Nadia turned in her seat and saw Sandy standing there with some pictures. Sandy was a decent guy, one of the few other photographers at Cochise and someone who generally stayed on her good side. He was good at what he did, and so she was glad to help him with his photos.

"Definitely," she told him. "I could use some critique myself if that's cool with you."
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“Sure, thanks.” he said, heading over to Nadia’s computer and taking a quick look at what she was working on. Nothing that wowed him especially, but it had a lot more character than his shots. Again, the colour was probably bringing out a lot more that the people couldn’t by themselves.

“Mm, yeah, looks good.” He muttered in a tone that perhaps sounded just a little bit like a platitude. It did look fine, fine enough for yearbook, but it wasn’t jumping off the screen at him. Wasn’t a comment on Nadia’s work, just on this shot in particular.

“So these are what I’ve got.” He laid his set of prints out on the table, pushing the keyboard back and out the way. He looked over them again, hoping that with a little more time they might’ve improved, but ending up being left disappointed.

“I dunno, I wanted to see how it turned out in black and white but it just looks really flat and dull to me. I mean, they’re supposed to be having fun but I can’t really feel like there’s a lot of motion going on with these shots, you know?”

“Like, look at this one.” he pointed at a somewhat mismatched couple, the girl at least a foot shorter than the guy, holding hands with an awkward expression plastered on the latter’s face. However, from Sandy’s perspective, what should’ve been a playful tease was just a frozen facet of empty stillness. “Do they look like they’re awkward but happy? I saw that when I took the picture but there’s none of that in here.”

“Or this one.” This time he was pointing at a pair of wallflowers, one of them trying to coax the other to hit the dance floor. Again, the promise of some social excitement that followed a period of shy hesitation hadn’t been captured at all. “Do they look like they’re about to come out of their shells to you? I do not see two people coming out of their shells here.”

He looked back at Nadia, giving her a face that urged her to agree with him. He needed validation that what they were looking at was total crap; at least that way he'd know for sure what he'd done here was total crap.
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Nadia watched as Sandy laid his prints out on the table before her. Although she primarily worked with digital photography, she still found developing film photographs to be pretty cool. The pictures Sandy took looked good as well. She realized that it would be hard for any of the photos to look entirely decent when everything was dimly lit or sickeningly bright due to the camera flash. However, she needed to look at the photos and judge them based on how Sandy described them.

Sandy's description of the photos was a lot more serious than she expected. He had ideas for what he thought the pictures represented and wanted them to be what he hoped they were instead of what he feared. Nadia nodded along as he spoke, and waited until it was her turn to speak.

"Well, I do think the couple looks awkward," Nadia said of the one with the boy and girl holding hands. "I don't know if it looks like they're happy. I sort of got the idea that people could only be so happy at Sadie Hawkins, mostly because they'd then have to save their real excitement for Prom. Other than that, I'm sure most people could see them as happy looking."

Nadia then looked at the one of the wallflowers.

"I think this one is a bit better," Nadia said, "although it's sort of awkward because of how they're placed in the frame. There's a lot of negative space to their right, but that can be cropped out, so it's not that big a deal. I do think it has a little more charm."

"What else you got?"
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Sandy sharpened his glare at the pictures again as Nadia gave her summary. So what if people could see them as happy? He needed to be 100% sure that that was what people would see, and empty maybes were not his style. Similarly, all the negative space to the right of the wallflowers was just a slap in the face that he couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed before. In his hurry not to miss the shot he must’ve gotten the angle wrong, but that did not make him feel at all better.

“Ugh, you’re right.” He groaned, pulling the picture up off the table and giving it a disgusted look. Sure they could edit it with Photoshop, but he hated having to use computers for this sort of thing: it just felt wrong to him, like it was cheating and taking away the authenticity of the art. “Way too much empty space on the right; this is no good.”

It wasn’t unusual for Sandy to gloss over positive feedback and focus on the negatives. There were plenty of reasons for him to do so (his brain chemistry, his artistic sensibilities, just his general attitude), but that didn’t change the fact that it made it all the harder for him to actually feel satisfied with his work most of the time. When it came to him and feedback, Sandy was something of a grumpy minefield: one misplaced comment away from sulking in your face.

He carelessly tossed the photo back onto the desk, looking away from Nadia for a moment to take another bite of his knuckle. Then he pulled up another photo.

“Ok, so here’s these two at the buffet table, right?” he pointed between the girl in what would've been a pinky red dress if the photo had colour, and the guy she was with. “Casual and enjoying themselves.” which was what you’d want, people came to the dance for a casual fun time. He had to look at the photo for a few more moments before he could find its fatal flaw. “But it looks boring to me, cause that’s all they’re doing.”
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Nadia looked at the next photo Sandy showed her. This time, a couple was at the buffet table, a place Nadia found herself gravitating towards during the evening. It wasn't good for her to eat so much junk, but she found the whole evening slightly exhausting, so if she could get some extra energy, she'd take it.

Sandy's worry was that the photo was too casual and boring. Nadia pondered the photo for a moment before she spoke.

"I mean, you could say it's too boring," Nadia began. "I don't know, I feel like it's hard to get much spice from dance photos like this. Maybe if the guy was feeding the girl a chocolate strawberry it would be cool. At the same time, I guess we're not expected to have anything Pulitzer worthy here."

Nadia looked at the photo again.

"I guess if you need a buffet table photo it's good, but if not, I think you can skip it."
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Sandy cocked an eyebrow at Nadia. Why she thought a chocolate strawberry was the solution to this problem, he had to ponder.

He tried to picture the scene: the gal tracing her date’s mouth with the fruity goody, sensually pushing it past his lips as the cocoa flavour preluded the sinfully sweet juice of the strawberry rushing into every ridge and crevice, the warmth of her fingertips not an inch from his lips.

It was a little bit risqué for a yearbook photo, but he supposed it would probably do better. Maybe.

He didn’t like the sentiment that making the photos actually interesting was doomed from the outset, though: this was his failure, not a flaw in the task itself. A better photographer could’ve absolutely captured the precious moments going on at the dance, and Nadia suggesting otherwise was frustratingly condescending. She meant well, he was sure, but he didn’t care to hear it all the same.

“I’m going to skip all of these, at this rate…” he grumbled again, turning his back to Nadia. He didn’t even bother to bring out another shot, having lost any enthusiasm for the collection by now. He really wished that he could just put these through the shredder, rather than forking them over to the yearbook and immortalising this trash. He knew he shouldn’t have volunteered, it never worked out well for him.

“Show me some of yours.”
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I’m going to skip all of these, at this rate…

Nadia shrugged.

"Eh, at least get a second opinion first," she said. "Maybe the advisor thinks they're Getty Museum quality."

Sandy then asked to see some of Nadia's photos. Nadia turned back to her computer and pulled up the window where she was looking at her pictures.

"I'll admit I don't think mine are that much better," Nadia told Sandy. "I don't know, maybe it was the lighting or the slightly disorienting nature of a public dance, but I feel slightly underwhelmed by my output."

She pulled up two pictures, modifying the windows so they could be side by side.

"So, I figured these two pictures were similar," she continued, "and maybe it'd be better to have one over the other."

The first picture depicted a group of five students all dancing together. They looked like they were standing single file, but were all jamming along to whatever song was playing at the moment. One girl had noticed Nadia taking the photo and gave a huge smile, opening her mouth wide like a bass.

The second picture was of another group of students dancing together. This time, it was paired couples who were slightly standing apart, with the girl in each couple dancing in front of the guy, pressing her back against his chest.

"I feel like the first one is a little more safe, although I worry that smiling girl's face is a no-no since she's looking at the camera. The second one feels more sexually charged, but I think if you cut it down, it might not be as bad, like if I removed the couple on the side or cropped it to be from the chest up."

"Thoughts?"
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Nadia had hit the nail on the head. Nothing screwed up a photo more than the subject knowing that they were on camera: it wasn’t capturing anything authentic or natural, it was just posturing for the picture. That sort of thing wasn’t that much of an issue when he was taking wildlife or scenery shots, which was another reason why he preferred that over taking pictures of people.

“Lose the first one.” He stated simply, before even really considering number two. The former was, after all, worthless from his perspective.

Number two did indeed look raunchier, which turned his mind back to chocolate covered strawberries. The coincidence of his classmates and sexy imagery was not what he’d been expecting when he’d volunteered for this job, nor when he’d developed the photos, but here he was, thinking those exact things. At least there was something coming out of these photos, he supposed.

“It looks alright to me, honestly, but I guess the school might want to tone it down. From the chest up would probably work, I say.”

He took a step back from Nadia, giving the collection of photos in his hand a second chance. They still looked wrong to him, but elements were starting to form in his head. The emotional connections between his classmates, combined with the youthful energy and passion, was on display here. Mix that in with some students grinding on each other, and it all sounded so simple when it came together, and maybe that's what he needed to try and see.

It still probably would’ve looked better in colour, though.

“I think I’m starting to get it now. We need to be looking at these and trying to see how they’re thinking about each other. Relationships, that sort of thing; that’s what I’m seeing here.”
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Nadia nodded along as Sandy gave his opinions. He was right that the first one needed to go since that one girl decided to give a big open smile to the camera. It wasn't the girl's fault for not knowing professional photo etiquette, but it did mean that no one was likely to see the picture. In a way, it's almost as if that moment never happened.

Sandy was in agreement about cropping the second photo. Nadia tried to mentally picture what the photo would look like if it was cropped to the waist up. Sure, you could no longer see that the guy's hands were on the girl's waist, but she could trim it enough so it didn't look like his hands were chopped off in a farming accident. She could probably zoom in as well to make it look better.

Sandy then said they needed to think of the relationship between the photos. Nadia nodded.

"Yeah. I guess it's all about the kind of moments and images that work best together. Couples dancing and being romantic is a must. I think more casual, relaxed photos as well, like any pictures of kids sitting and talking as well. And, I dunno, faculty? Maybe it'd be fun to see one of the teachers or chaperones attempting to fit in with the kids by dancing or mingling."

"Is that what you had in mind?"
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"Yeah, that sounds about right."

Nadia's list might've summed up just about everything you'd typically expect to see from a dance, but he supposed the task at hand was delivering photos of exactly that. Really, hearing her spell it out like that had killed some more of his interest in this whole collection: his understanding of what needed to go together was, after all, just another vanilla yearbook spread. Apart from faces, more or less indistinguishable from last year's yearbook, and just as indistinguishable from next year's.

It was tough to make this work into anything special.

Hey let out a long sigh, scratching under the front of his hat at his forehead, gently caressing his temples in the same motion. He'd been at these photos for a while, and whilst he could do this for hours if he was interested, this exercise in futility was draining him. It was time for a break.

"I'm going to head off and mull these over." he said to Nadia without making eye contact and instead glancing down at the photos that he'd already seen plenty another time. "We can pick this up again tomorrow or whatever, if you feel like it."

He grabbed up his bag, offering his fellow photographer a small "Seeya." as he headed out the door, not really stopping to consider how few of her photos he'd looked over. Maybe if he was in a better mood he'd have the energy to return the favour, and maybe with a little more time he'd come to realise how inconsiderate he was being, but for now he really just needed some time to get out of there and brood.

((Sandy Brooks continued elsewhere))
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Sandy agreed with Nadia's assessment. Nadia looked back at some of the other pictures she had taken from the dance. Based on her idea for how to fill a yearbook spread for the dance, she was sure she could find better photos among her SD card. She already had one photo she could crop, so there were probably some that would require less editing.

Sandy then announced he was heading out and would pick this up tomorrow.

"That's cool," Nadia said."I've got some stuff to do now, so I'll probably come in tomorrow with more options."

Nadia watched as Sandy left the room. She could edit the one Sandy approved photo and then head home. She yawned, and began to edit. She couldn't wait to be done looking over these photos. They weren't the worst photos she had taken, but Nadia had found them less exciting compared to her regular photography.

Either way, a job is a job, so Nadia kept at work until it was time to leave.

((Nadia Riva continued in Flashing Lights))
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