Don's Tips for Party Photography.
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Geoff and his daughters.
I was shooting a Surprise 60th Birthday Party.
As you get known for your photography, people will want to use your skills. That's what happened to me recently with a very good and old (not age wise) friend. She had organised a secret, surprise birthday party for her husband almost a year in advance and asked me on FaceBook to take some photos of the event. It's always a real buzz when folks like you work enough to ask or was it they just wanted to keep the costs down by asking a friend? Whatever, it's a privilege to be asked to be 'the' photographer for an extra-special event.
If you are ever asked to do a favour for a friend, then I'd google; event photography tips, party photography tips, flash photography and indoor portrait photography. I did all of that to prepare myself; and there are some very good tips on the internet. I'll post some links that I found helpful later.
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|A lovely young couple at the party.|
Final image cropped.
That was great, but there were a number of problems;It was good to be asked, but some problems did arise for me.
- It was far away from where I lived. Which meant I couldn't just nip down and view beforehand. If you can do this, then I'd recommend you do.
- The location changed because the numbers of people coming increased. So even if I had gone down and scouted it would have been a waste of time.
- I didn't get a chance to view / scout the location beforehand, being unaware of what the layout would be like; the space I'd have available to pose people or what the lighting would be like.
- Though I didn't let on at the time, it turned out to be quite a problem. Getting groups of people into tight spaces which were much darker than expected or desired for group shots. You live and learn eh?
Other than these though, I arrived without a hitch and we stayed in a lovely little hotel just a couple of miles away. BTW it was a wonderful place and the breakfast in the morning was a delight. Great owners too. It was Called Castle Lodge in Highcliffe on Sea on the South Coast, not far from Southampton.
The Location: The Barns in New Milton. Some things were obvious though; I knew it was an indoor party at night in winter here in the UK, so I knew it would be quite dark and would obviously be taking most of my shots with flash.
Camera and Equipment:Flash: Nikon SB800. I don't have a lot of flash gear, as I've mainly shot during the day in the open air. Though, luckily, I've had a bit of studio experience, which came in very useful. I brought along a bounce reflector, an flash extension cord and a flash diffuser cap for lovely soft light.
Most of the shots you'll see were taken with the extension cord. Oh and I had a lovely assistant (my wife) to look after my camera bag and hold flash and reflector most of the time. She was also there to enjoy the party because our friend was her best friend at school. (No pressure).
Camera: Nikon D700. With Nikon D40x for back-up. It's getting quite old now and I may have to upgrade soon, but it's more than up to the task of a party or even wedding photography, because of the FULL FRAME and low light ability of the camera. You'll notice there's very little noise in some of the shots that were captured with just ambient, dark, indoor lighting; for the Cake Cutting.
Lenses: Nikon 16-35mm & Nikon 28-300mm. I was thinking of bringing my portrait lenses too, but didn't in the end. I've used my 28-300mm extensively and know it's capabilities and the images were and have always been perfectly tack-sharp. I could have taken my 70-200mm f2.8 Nikon monster too, but knew I just didn't want to lug it around all evening.
Spare / Back-up Gear: Batteries for camera charged. (I've NEVER needed to change a fully charged battery on any shoot I've done with my Nikon D700, but you just never know, one day it may just run out. Even though I used it all night long, it still had more than half a charge left. Amazing eh?
Flash Batteries: It was my flash batteries that needed just one change though and I made sure I had a whole stack of spares in my kit bag.
Memory Cards: I tend to stick with just a few cards; 16GB, and four 4GB Flash Cards. More than enough for the evening.
The Shots Required: On arriving I asked our friend what shots she'd like me to definitely capture: Shots of family (posed), shots of friends chatting, the speeches, cake cutting, dancing and relaxing.
As the evening progressed I got to know quite a few people and because I just love chatting made a few new friends. I'm certain this will pay dividends.
If you'd like to view them larger just click and you can brows through that way.
Feelings and Thoughts:
Being the photographer at an event is such a wonderful privilege, but also an awesome responsibility. I'm just so glad that my friend got a few good shots and I've learned a lot in the process, next time I'll get a bit better and be ready for whatever comes. Looking forward the next opportunity.
It would be great to get some feedback from those who've been doing this for a long time and those who may be about to embark upon this adventure. The most important thing is people and having fun along the journey.