Events dear boy

So last weekend I did my first proper bit of events photography work (in what I would call the British use of the term – ie parties, weddings etc – rather than American definition of concerts, performances etc). I thought I would write up a quick post about my initial thoughts about it, and perhaps more interestingly, how it differs (and perhaps doesn’t differ so much) from my usual day-to-day photography.

I’ve decided not to use any images from the night as part of this post – not because I’m not very proud of some of them – but because I’m not 100% sure of whether I can use them without permission of all the people involved… So I hope you don’t mind that this is rather visually uninspiring – the last thing a photography website should be really!

The event was a friend’s silver wedding anniversary party at a West London specialist venue. They wanted someone to capture the evening, and also, importantly they were after arrivals shots of themselves with every group of guests as they arrived. This latter requirement meant careful management of a quite rapid procession of people through the door, having to be quite demanding to the couple to ensure they were available for each image, and taking a rapid succession of shots whilst making sure they were well posed, and everyone was looking the right way with their eyes open! My main conclusion was that it would have been far easier if my external flash had a better recycle rate – there was some banter necessary to fill seemingly endless seconds while it recharged! I also learned the value of quick improvisation having had to rig up a backdrop with drawing pins as a screen I had hoped to use wasn’t available.

The main thing I realised as a result of the session was just how physically and mentally challenging shooting an event like this is. From an evening spent with two camera bodies around my neck, ducking down, standing tall, jumping on seats, and stretching round pillars, I felt like I’d had a proper workout and my neck is still stiff days later. Mentally, constantly trying to work new compositions, judge exposures, assess focal lengths, and continual pressure to get the shot when there was only one chance was exhausting. I can only imagine how professional wedding photographers handle that pressure – though I guess practice makes perfect!

I am more used to arriving at a location, spending around fifteen minutes working out a composition, waiting for the light and then shooting perhaps four shots while the light is right, before hurriedly attempting a few news angles and compositions before the light goes. A good evening’s photography for me, when I shoot in a city, might produce 20 images, of which I would hope 5 to 10 will be useable. On Saturday I shot over 1,100 images, of which I think around 250 are useable. Quite a change, though I think my low hit rate was probably down to both a lack of practice, and only having a single external flash unit and one 50mm f1.8 lens to shoot at low light – which really didn’t cut the mustard in the dark hall, even at ISO 800.

So, what was similar to my everyday photography? Well, I was using the same camera, and chasing the light (and street photography) have made it absolutely second nature to be able to swiftly change settings, lenses, batteries and memory cards, which helped enormously. Not least when I needed to change a lens, memory card and battery about ten seconds before the speeches began earlier than expected. From doing a lot of street photography lately, the candid shots came as almost second nature and used a lot of the same techniques as my street work does – though perhaps with less of a sense of the absurd that is normal for street photography! Finally, the elements of composition, balance, space, and shape seem to me to not change that much whatever you might be shooting, whether it’s a river at dawn, a city block at night, a crowd of revellers or a portrait of a couple.

I definitely want to do more of this type of work in future, and found I actually enjoyed the party more than I often do when I’m not there with a role… maybe one day I’ll even get to try wedding photography – something I’ve previously always said I’d rather drop my 17-40mm L series lens than have to do!

Posted in Blog by Nic Stevenson on August 1st, 2012 at 5:24 pm.

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