A very nice testimonial from a recent client following a birthday party shoot:
“Steve prepares thoroughly for events. He always takes time to understand his customer’s needs and you can set your watch by his timekeeping. He has all the right equipment, but isn’t a slave to technology. He has the stuff that he knows will deliver at the big moment. And, he never over-complicates things. The special touches like prints on display during the evening and the website gallery enable easy sharing whilst the energy is still flowing. Photos? – he’s my ‘go to guy’!”
Some great feedback after an informal wedding shoot:
“Firstly just to say how delighted we are at the photos looking through the gallery. You have done an amazing job and I think V&S will be bowled over when they see them. They really are of the style V specifically wanted and show so many happy faces.
Thanks also for your support on the day, you really added to the sense of the occasion despite being almost undetectable but then popping up wherever the action seemed to be happening. People commented on the sense of fun you contributed.
We did appreciate your staying on as proceedings stretched out more than we thought.”
Photographing people in groups presents some interesting challenges, not all of them photographic.
The photographer can be faced with a variety of different groups – large groups, small groups, children, sports teams, compliant, unruly, and so-on. The type of group you’re working with influences your approach, but in all cases you’re dealing with people that you have to organise and exercise control over. This is the non-photographic challenge. Some people in a group are happy to be photographed whilst other may be reluctant. Whatever the group, they have to look like a group, rather than disassociated individuals sharing the same frame. This is where being a photographer becomes a “people job”. It’s about having an idea in your head about the best way to photograph the group and to organise your subjects into that group by communicating with them and directing them. And it doesn’t help if you don’t know all their names, which is often the case. If I’m addressing individuals in a group I usually refer to them as “young man” or “young lady”, regardless of their age. I usually try to pick people out by what they’re wearing, rather than personal attributes, although this can be a problem if you’re dealing with people dressed uniformly. You have to be assertive without being bullying. You have to be charming yet determined. And you have to do all of this within a time frame. If you take too long people will lose concentration and boredom will set in, making them harder to communicate with. They’ll also not look their best when you get to start shooting. Which brings be to the photographic challenges.
I frequently carry around a set of slimPAR38 LED spotlights. I use these as a contingency for events where the lighting falls short of what is necessary for good coverage.
One example is a Year 6 Prom I covered where lighting was not provided for a surfboard simulator. Without the PAR cans the only other lighting option would have been the venue’s main fluorescent lighting, which would have seriously compromised the atmosphere (and accompanying disco!)
Another example was a music event where the main lighting bar was obstructed by decorations, meaning that the performers faces were in relative darkness. I was able to use the PAR cans as uplighters at the side of the stage, which dramatically improved the lighting.
The lights are typically set to slowly fade through the colour spectrum but can also be configured to provide static lighting.
These lights have made otherwise un-photographable events possible, with very little overhead. They are easy to set up and adaptable for any event, either to provide direct lighting or simply to add atmosphere.
When I’m photographing events I always try and keep an eye out for peripheral details. Whilst the main event principally focuses on the people and places, I make a point of keeping an eye out for small details. This might be a wedding ring or a bridesmaid’s shoes, the features of a building, a buffet or party decorations. Whatever the event, it’s small things seen in passing that form an important part of the narrative.
I frequently work with Hertford Dramatic & Operatic Society, covering both production photos and promotional work.
Later this year The Society will be staging a production of When We Are Married by J.B.Priestley, for which I was asked to produce a period photograph of the main characters. This was to be a family photo similar in style to those used by other production companies to promote the play – a shot of the six main characters posing for the camera.
We did the shoot at The Society’s headquarters where we found a suitable backdrop to pose the actors in costume. We shot a number of poses but chose the final shot after experimenting with various expressions and positionings.
As this was a period photo we chose not to have the subjects smiling. This was the style of the day because exposures were long and holding a smile for that period of time was not feasible – which is why everyone in the 19 century looks unhappy!
As a final touch I then added a sepia effect to the image along with a vignette.
The photo appears on promotional materials such as posters, social media and in the printed programme for the production.
It’s not often that one’s work gets preserved in glass.
I took an enquiry earlier in the month from a client who wanted a photo of Hertford’s iconic war memorial n Parliament Square so that it could be used on a floor-to-ceiling window in an office. The image was to be 1.2m wide by 3m tall – an aspect ratio of 6:15.
Being familiar with the location I knew that the best angle was looking east, so an afternoon shot with the sun in the west was best. A few days later the weather presented an ideal opportunity for the shot, with plenty of sunny intervals. It as just a case of waiting for the ideal opportunity – for the odd grey cloud to pass and commercial vehicles unloading to pull away. Eventually I got the perfect shot and after editing for exposure and cropping to the required aspect ratio I submitted my work.