Always say yes...

Saturday afternoon... been working hard all week. Thought I would sit down with a cup of tea and watch some videos from SLR lounge.Up comes a message on Facebook. Can I drop everything and pop down to East London and take photos for a birthday party for his 70 year old mother?

(queue sound of head hitting desk)

I remembered a video post from Jared Polin here, titled "Its much easier to say yes than no". Now the client is an old friend of mine so I was going to say yes anyway, a gig is a gig and I wanted the experience.

So I dragged my head off the desk... then off the floor...

I was given a few more details before I left. It was to be held in a small pub and I needed to be there about an hour before his mother turned up for the surprise party.

I packed my Slingshot bag as I knew this was going to be a small affair back room of the pub so I also packed the 50m f1.8 and the 18-55mm. I thought I would need the wide angle for group shots after the beer had been flowing a little.

I paused thinking should I bring my flash unit? A while back I bought Jared Polins "Beginners Guide on how to get out of auto" and thought to myself that if the room has constant lighting then maybe I can use this evening to shoot in manual mode for the first time and use the flash to isolate the subjects in the dim light without having to push the ISO up to much.

While on the train hurtling towards East London, this time I was south of the river, nearly opposite where I was for the Von Wong Conference the previous evening, I made a few mental notes about the evening.

How do I approach single people and groups of people I have never met before and ask them to pose for me?

This was easy to answer myself. They are at the party for a reason and would understand why I would be present, so as long as I asked first there shouldn't be any problem.

It was a family and friends party so there may be children present.

As soon as I got to the pub and would mention this to my friend and would ask if there were children turning up then could he please let the parents know about the photographer in the room who will be taking photos, if they had a problem with that then please let me know a.s.a.p.

What time should I finish and have a drink?

Wow really? Easy to answer, when I had finished! Well... during the evening I amended this to 'When I have the shots that tell the story.

  • Start of the party, guests arriving.
  • The surprise part when his mother walked through door.
  • The hugs as she meets her friends.
  • The cutting of the cake.
  • Shots of friends and family, any cute babies.
  • People who look like celebrities..

OK that last one wasn't real but it did happen!

Once I got there I set up the Canon and took a quick reading to see what the ISO would do. As expected it jumped up to 3200. The Canon can do 6400 but I have set the maximum at 3200, really didn't want the shots to be too grainy.

Using my Canon 50mm f1.8, I put the camera on shutter priority and dialed in 1/80, more than enough to capture and freeze any movement, I then set ISO 200 and set f4.0. I didn't want f1.8 as I felt that was too short depth of field for some of the shots I wanted to take as I had in mind to try some candid shots and was concerned I would miss the sharpness I know this lens can give me at f4.0.

I introduced myself to people the first time I took a shot of them, took two shots then thanked them for their time. The second or third time I took shots of those people later in the evening they were more relaxed and the smiles were bigger and better.

I am sure the alcohol had something to do with it.

I picked my shots when trying candid shots, I worked out an optimal distance to shoot from a lot of them turned out great! Although sometimes, even a f4.0 I still missed the focus a little.

During the evening I shot 600 frames. Maybe too much for a party but it was a learning experience and I was enjoying the event. I got all the shots listed above, including the 'Guest who looks like a celebrity'.

The next day all the culling, editing and converting to jpeg was done within three hours and a .zip package sent to Dropbox for pick up.

Along with the methodology I set for my workflow in Lightroom, I had recently bought the SLR lounge Lightroom Preset System which really helped after culling the shots to speed up the processing.

I am getting more aggressive with my culling of my shots, I didn't want to deliver all 600 shots to the client so I choose the shots that were good, i.e not blurry, good composition, no distractions in the back ground etc.. I then went through them again and choose the best ones, sharp shots, excellent composition, family, friends, babies etc...

I whittled 600 shots down to 119. I could have gone further for the best of the best shots, however my client had told me he had bought a digital photo frame for the shots to be displayed on so I thought the number was enough so they wouldn't seem repetitive on a slideshow.

I have had feed back already. I have been told that friends and family have seen and like the photos. I had feedback during the night from my friend who, after being told I was on shot 400, replied 'Dude you've done enough have a drink!'