#489 Student Success: Photographing Commonwealth Games Staff Orientation

We got a call this spring looking for a photographer to cover the Commonwealth Games Staff Orientation Weekend in Ottawa.

One of our ProProgram students (Sandra Finner) was given the opportunity to shoot the event. And by the sounds of it from both sides it was a roaring success! Read an interview below with Sandra about her experience covering the events.

The ProProgram

We started the ProProgram two years ago for people looking to start a photo business. There are many, many part time photo businesses out there trying to succeed. A student recently told me I have her “dream job.”

It’s a tough challenge trying to break through an overload of aspiring photographers. I speak from experience – it took me years to break through!

The ProProgram was developed to help people navigate through the challenges all aspiring photographers face.

Sandra agreed to the photograph the Commonwealth event and did well! Read about her adventure below:

Sandra Finner

Photo by Sandra Finner

Harry Nowell: What is your photo background?

Sandra Finner: I remember my dad giving me his camera when I was barely able to hold it, reviewing settings, letting me snap away and teaching me processing techniques. When I was a teenager I got my own camera. Actually I got three of them for Christmas one year so I’ve been doing this along time. Recently, I took a class at a nearby college but switched to the Pro Program with Harry Nowell. It’s a more flexible and individualized program and I gained more confidence with my shooting.

HN: What were your thoughts when this opportunity presented itself?

SF: I immediately thought this was something I wanted to do. I have such a huge interest in events, whether locally or globally. This assignment was to document a planning weekend for the Commonwealth Games Mission Staff so naturally I was thrilled. It’s definitely a prestigious group and I was honoured to be able to photograph the event.

HN: How did you prepare for the Commonwealth event?

SF: When I spoke to my contact I realized there were going to be many different scenarios that had to be covered both indoors and out so I had to make sure I had all the right equipment and that I understood what the group expected in terms of photographs.

HN: What were the highlights?

SF: It was really very gratifying getting such great shots given the difficult shooting conditions. I had to switch lenses constantly so I was so pleased that I was able to manage that without too much trouble.  Also, getting to see how well the pictures were received. There were lots of laughs from some candid shots I managed to catch.

HN: What was the most challenging aspect?

SF: The biggest challenge was managing all the different lighting situations – Low light vs. strong florescent light in classrooms and then strong sunlight vs. overcast skies outdoors.  One team building event in Gatineau Park was zip lining. I needed my telephoto lens and an external flash. It was very sunny out but darker in amongst the trees. Also, it was challenging trying to get pictures of about 100 people in action while contending with a heavy camera bag and a forest full of bugs.

HN: How will it help you down the road?

SF: Every time you have an experience like that, the knowledge you come away with is invaluable. I will definitely be confident in my ability to be successful with an assignment of that calibre.

HN: Did you make some good connections?

SF: I think so!  I’m a talker as you know and so many people came up to me and wanted to chat about the my background, the shots I was getting and specific shots they wanted and photography in general. Everyone seemed really excited about the pictures and the feedback was very positive.

HN: How has the ProProgram experience helped you on this assignment?

SF: The techniques I learned in Creative Fundamentals and the Natural Light Portraits course were extremely beneficial because we worked with various types of motion and lighting situations. Also, the networking you do in the ProProgram aligns you with many photographers [who are trying to do photography as a business so there is a lot of sharing of tips and pointers.] Because of those things I was able to have a great experience with this assignment.

Photo by Sandra Finner

Photo by Sandra Finner


Her contact at the Commonwealth Games Staff Orientation Weekend had glowing words:

She did an excellent job documenting the seminar… She got along well with her primary contacts, quickly put everybody at ease and was absolutely unobtrusive despite documenting in detail all the activities.

Thank you again for recommending her.

Nice work Sandra!

This is our last post before the weekend – we will be celebrating Canada Day away from the office!

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