Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.

First Exposure to Event Photography

I had a fascinating experience today. I was the de-facto event photographer at Ruth's casual wedding party. For the longest time, I've been mainly taking pics of mostly still subjects (natural landscape, buildings, etc) in an outdoor setting where light is typically abundant. Today, I had to take pictures of people in a completely different setting (moving subjects, indoor, with varying degree of lights). I have to admit that I was inexperienced. But, I learnt a few things. It was a great opportunity to practice my photography.

Lesson 1: on mind game

I'm an introvert. I don't mind approaching individual strangers. But, approaching a group of strangers talking amongst themselves? That was uncomfortable for me. It was out of my comfort zone. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn't proactive enough to invite people to take group pics. Of course, it doesn't come naturally to me. But, I could've done better. In retrospect, I feel that if I had change my mindset, I would have been able to overcome that mental blocker. If only I keep in my mind: “today's an important event for Ruth, and I have one job — to capture and memorialize the space, time, and people at today's event.” If I can keep that in mind, it would've been easy to overcome my reluctance to approach groups of people. I would have been able to capture more attendees.

Lesson 2: on candid pics

Instead, I took pictures of people discreetly, thinking I was going to capture some candid pics. But, candid pics are tricky, aren't they? In this particular event, there were a few obstacles to taking good candid pics: 1. We had a buffett. People don't clear their empty plates after they eat. Empty plates don't look great on pictures. People eating also don't look great on pictures. Those are unglamorous. I would've been pissed if I saw a photographer took a picture of me eating. Yet, that's the exact mistake. 2. People sat in a circle, making it difficult to include everyone's faces in the pictures. It's not nice to take pictures of some faces and some backs. 3. I couldn't easily position myself discreetly in a good angle to take good candid pics. The space was quite packed, and if I move to a certain good angle, people will notice. Then, it's won't be candid anymore.

In hindsight, it would've been nicer to just invite people to take group pics so they can prepare themselves and appear glamorous.

Lesson 3: on lenses

I'm using Sony alpha a6000 mirrorless camera. I brought 2 lenses today. One is a 35mm f/1.8 prime lens. The other is a 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. The reason I brought prime lens is because I know it take crisp pictures. It has a shallow depth of field. I thought it might be great for an event. And, I would argue that: it is, for certain setting. The reason I brought the other lens was due to the fact that the fixed focal length of the prime lens could pose a challenge when taking group pics. The field of view is not large, so it might be difficult to fit everyone into a pic.

During the event itself, the 16-50mm lens prove to be a better choice. Prime lens are too static. To take good pics, one have to move around. And there isn't much luxury to move around. A photographer has to be quick. Moments are fleeting. A prime lens also has a shallow depth of field. That becomes a problem when people stand in front of one another. Some people will get the focus, while others will be blurred. Good composition is difficult to achieve because it highly depends on the photographer's positioning, since zooming in and out is not an option. Lastly, as mentioned, the fixed focal length makes it hard to fit many people in a picture.

Telephoto lens is probably the best because its long-ranging zoom helps with sub-ideal positioning, rather than having to move here and there.

Lesson 4: on camera settings

Shutter speed has to be fast. People moves. Slow shutter speed creates blurry pictures when there's motion. Fast shutter speed freezes actions.

One strange thing I noticed was the different aperture on the pictures I took. That's weird because I set my camera on aperture priority mode. I intentionally set my aperture low so that I can get higher shutter speed. Should I have used shutter speed priority mode though? To answer that, I need to do some experiments.

Definitely, 1/80 shutter speed isn't enough. A quick googling tells me that 1/100 to 1/200 should be fine.

I was quite disappointed with the pics I took. Nonetheless, it was a good learning experience. I've tried to learn photography again and again in the past. But, the concepts just don't stick as much as when I practise it. As always, hands-on experience beats theory classes. Event photography is a totally different ballgame than landscape photography. I now have a higher appreciation for event photographers. They have to be super attuned to the environment they operate in. They have to think about their positions, their subjects' positions, the lighting, the turn of events, etc. They have to constantly adjust to capture the best moments so that the event owners can cherish those important and memorable events forever.