Events…When You’re Shooting Where Someone Else Is Working


This is a topic that has irked me for some time, so I’m going to vent and express my opinions…

Several years ago, we were invited to a wedding where I was asked to take some candids.  I mentioned this to one of my mentors who asked if a wedding photographer had been hired.  When I said yes, he cautioned me to be careful as there are any number of wedding photographers who have been known to walk out if they see others coming with “serious” gear.  I initially had mixed feelings about such a reaction.  As it turned out, the couple hadn’t engaged anyone to video the actual ceremony, so I volunteered.

When we got to the venue, I introduced myself to the “official” photographers.  I also explained that I would be shooting video during the ceremony and told them if I was in their way for a shot to tell me and I’d move.  They seemed to appreciate it.  We are very old friends with one side of the wedding, so on a couple of occasions, when I saw what was a must get shot, I would point it out to one of the working photographers.  I always got a thank you, and made a conscious effort not to be a know it all or a pest.

A year or two later, we were at another wedding where we knew one side for a long time.  One of the groom’s relatives is an amateur photographer who believes in the big numbers theory of photography.  If you’re not familiar with this theory, it goes like this…don’t worry about the rules of composition, exposure, etc.  Take enough pictures and you’ll get a few good ones.  So this person proceeded to shove their way into every possible scenario, including getting in the way when the pros were setting up the standard wedding party shots.  I have to give the pros a lot of credit for dealing with it very diplomatically.

More recently, I was asked to shoot a bridal shower.  The bride and one of my daughters have been best friends since they were little girls.  Of course I said yes, and it was done gratis.  I got hit with the same silliness.  One or two of the guests had their cameras and were just about throwing elbows to get me out of the way for their shots.  Fortunately, I have strong ribs.

I’ve even heard of weddings, in particular, where they actually had to stop the ceremony and “ask” people to sit down and get their phones out of the way so that the video and still pros could do their jobs.  Wouldn’t you just love to have the pictures of you walking down the aisle with your family and friends blocked by people’s phones?

I didn’t make up any of the above!  When I go to any event where someone is being paid to shoot the event, I make it a point to stay away from their shots.  Further, as an invited guest, I probably have more insight into relationships among the other guests and what might make a good memories type shot of people outside the very immediate family, wedding party, etc.  When I can, I get the folks who are working get the shot, but that isn’t always possible.  I don’t come away from these events with hundreds of shots.  Rather I get those shots that I think will be well received.  These shots are often outside of the typical event shots.

At one wedding, part of the ceremony was for the bride and groom to put a lock on a heavy chain.  The lock had two keys so they each took one and the tossed them into the pond around the venue.  It was a very sweet little part of the ceremony.  When everyone had moved away from there, I went back and got some shots of that lock.  A few weeks later, the bride and groom got an extra gift…we had that shot put on note cards.  We heard that they loved them.

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As I recall, this phenomenon of everyone taking pictures at weddings, etc. started in the pre digital days.  We would go to an event and there would be disposable cameras on the tables.  The guests were encouraged to take pictures with them and turn the cameras in when they left.  Remember, in those days we used film and getting the images out of the camera typically cost money.

We have reached a point where we need to set out the etiquette for guests taking pictures.  I’d like to propose the following which could be given to guests as they arrive:

We are looking forward to sharing with you.  We do ask that you observe these simple requests when taking pictures, video, audio, etc.  Please stay in your seat during the ceremony.  Please keep any cameras, phones or other recording devices within the confines of your seat during the ceremony.  We have hired the services of professional photographers and videographers to record the event for us.  Please do not interfere with their work.  Let them do their jobs the same way that you would appreciate others letting you do your work.  Please respect others’ privacy, if they do not want to be in a picture or video don’t include them.  If you decide to post pictures, videos, etc. online, please make sure that those in them agree.  As a guest you have no rights to sell any images, videos, etc. for profit without first getting permission of everyone in them!

So what’s your opinion?  What are your experiences with shooting at events as either the paid photographer or a guest?  I’d love to see a small discussion starting.

(Editorial note:  This post is light on images as the shots from events all involve family and friends who are not always big on having more pictures of them posted online)

Being on the Other Side of the Camera


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If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time behind the camera, taking pictures of others.  Being the photographer does have some advantages.  One disadvantage is that while I have lots of shots of other people, there aren’t many shots of me.

I recently realized that I needed a head shot for use on some social sites where such things matter.  As far as I know there are two ways to get these shots, do them yourself or ask someone.  As anyone who knows me will attest, I’m no fan of the classic “selfie”.  I put my camera on the tripod, set everything for taking the shot and with remote in hand got to work.  After a number of efforts and a fair amount of suppressed giggling by my wife, I gave up on “shooting myself” because based on the results that’s what I wanted to do!.

Plan B…I called one of the pros who mentor our photo club and asked if he would do me a favor and snap a few shots of me against one of the white studio walls, using my camera.  I was clear that I wasn’t looking for a portrait shoot with the requisite lighting and all that goes with it.  He said sure, come on over.

When I got there, he and his partner (both named Jim) were there.  They both stopped what they were doing and the next thing I knew the lights were coming out, there was a neutral background behind me and I was sitting on a stool with one foot on a footrest being posed.  One of the Jims is one of the best portrait photographers out there.  Of course, he was giving directions, taking the shots, etc.  I knew it was pointless to protest that this was way more than I was looking for.  Being serious professionals, anything they shoot will be done right or not at all.

When we were done, I thanked them most profusely and came home to take care of post processing.  Yes even when the best photographer in the world is taking the shots, images captured in RAW need some work.  Of course, there were a number of very nice shots (considering the subject).

I’ve worked on a lot of shots of others portrait, groups, candids, etc.  But somehow, seeing myself looking out at me from the screen was very different.  Yes I did do a little retouching, the same as I would for anyone.  No, I didn’t totally alter my appearance, it really looks like me.  The other challenge was putting a background behind me.  I know the technicals for doing that.  However, figuring out what background, colors, theme, etc. is something that I’ve never been very good at.  I finally got all the pieces in place and am pleased with the result.

I’ve gotten some very nice, positive feedback on the shots, so it was clearly worth the effort.  No, I’m not going to post the results here.  The image at the top is just a caricature of my reaction when people ask for it!  (It was taken at this year’s NJ Festival of Ballooning)

What about you?  What are your experiences with pictures of yourself?

There’s Taking Pictures and There’s Photography


We live in a society where everyone seems to think that can do anything or is it everything?  Yes it’s a good idea to be able to do some repairs around the house.  To see some of the shows on TV or online, you’d think that the average person can also add a dormer, lift their home and replace the foundation, etc.  You are welcome to try those things if you want, I’ll leave it to the pros. A similar phenomenon existing in the culinary world.  Most people can toast bread, boil an egg, etc.  If you watch some of the cooking shows there are many dishes that can be made by the average home cook.  Does being able to make eggs benedict for a family brunch qualify you to be a the next White House chef? Not at all. The same mechanism applies to photography.  The digital age has simplified taking and sharing pictures.  However, being able to capture  a shot of your friends making fools of themselves on your phone is not the same as serious photography. If you want to see what I’m taking about, take a look at the pictures that are being shared in the online mass media (e.g Facebook et al).  Yes there are some very nice images being shared, most of them from serious photographers.  The majority are things like “look what I’m having for dinner” and a collection of other quick shots that have been conveniently uploaded for all to see.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with taking and sharing those pictures.  They are not serious photography. All the serious photographers I know, including me, take great pride in our craft.  We spend the time to capture the best image possible and then process those images via a variety of digital tools to get the very best out of the image.  I’m not talking about Photoshopping to create a false reality.  Rather we use the tools carefully so that the image we present is something we can be proud of and that the viewer will recognize as something that has a little piece of us trying to share something special. True photography is an art form.  For that matter there is a branch of photography known as fine art photography.  What constitutes a fine art photograph is up to the individual viewer, but typical fine art photography is some of the finest examples you can find.  After you’ve seen the shots from the phones, take a look at what some photographers I respect have available online:

 

One other thing about serious photographers, we are honored to have our work featured.  We do expect to be given proper credit for any display of our work.  Remember, professional photographers earn their living from that work, so if you want to use it, do the right thing and contact the photographer to get permission and if required, pay for the privilege.