I’ve done a few graduation ceremonies in my career as a professional photographer here in Durban. This week was the second time I have been asked to do work for the TDM Powered program for a new generation of tool and die makers who have recently met the requirements of this trade in South Africa.

Qualification of new artisans in this trade has been in steady decline in South Africa over the past couple of decades. However, being the vitally important link in industry that it is, the National Tooling Initiative Program (NTIP) has been established to create a new generation of tool and die makes in South Africa. Listening to the speeches given by the various stakeholders and directors of this program in South Africa is quite fascinating and if it proves successful in the long run, South Africa will be well placed to becoming a big player on the world stage of manufacturing, following the same initiatives made by the Chinese government some 30 years ago. What I found most interesting is that there is a fair number of female graduates of this program. The times they are a-changin’ for sure!

Photographically it is always very challenging to achieve great results in these situations, but having a good knowledge of camera settings, plus being able to react quickly when things change, has kept me in good stead over the years. For these two ceremonies help in Durban and Pietermaritzburg I used completely different setups. In Durban I was able to use a fixed a/c powered remote strobe firing through an umbrella into a low, white ceiling which gave me constant, soft light as the students came up to receive their awards in front of the banners that the organisers wanted in the frame. In Pietermaritzburg it was a completely different situation as the awards were held in a school hall where I had to be on stage with everybody (and try not to fall off while making enough room to frame the shot). There was also not a great background there so I had to use an on camera flash with a bounce card to get even illumination on the subjects. I didn’t want too much of the ambient light to bleed into the shot so I went with a higher shutter speed than normal to prevent the really grubby curtains in the background from detracting.

Post processing was pretty minimal and that’s always a good sign that I did it right in camera. Phew! There’s nothing worse than having to spend hours fixing things in post production that you could have avoided in shooting.

If your school is looking to get photos of a graduation ceremony please get in touch – I’d be delighted to give you a quote.