The Christmas season is here and that means photographers, digital cameras in hand, will happily begin filling memory cards with all the photographic opportunities as they join family, friends, and co-workers at all this month’s festive events.
I have the feeling that for many, it is more about the process of picture taking than it is about making memorable photographs, or even documenting the party.
The act of picture taking has become easy and so much fun as a process as photographers rush over to take a picture, look at the LCD, and quickly slide back to show others those tiny images. And seem more interested in that quickly snapped candid than what is actually happening at the moment.
Most images made in this fashion never become more than files stored on computers and tucked away on hard-drives with good intentions, but after that initial viewing, most photos loose their value because there are too many, and very few are good enough to give to others anyway.
What is my advice for photography at the next Christmas party? Yes, continue to make candid photographs of people having fun, but, perhaps, think about making pictures that tell a story, capture an exciting moment, and importantly, flatter the subjects. Most people don’t mind seeing a picture of themselves being silly or having fun, but they don’t like pictures that make them look stupid or unattractive.
My approach is to take a moment to look at the room in which I intend to make photographs, make a couple of test shots using longer shutter speeds (my favourite is 1/60th of a second), to include the room’s ambient light when making exposures using an on-camera flash (I always use a flash) so as not to end up with brightly lit faces surrounded by a black environment.
I suggest taking group shots with two or three people. Get them to position themselves so they are squeezed together with a tight composition, and include only a little background or foreground. Don’t shoot fast, steady the camera, and select a shutter speed that includes the ambient light, and use a flash. Fortunately most modern DSLRs easily allow ISO sensitivity that can be set to 1600, and some can go a lot higher.
Shutter speeds of 1/60th of a second, or less, doesn’t always work for children playing in the snow during the day because moving subjects will be blurry, but, with limited indoor lighting, moving subjects will only be properly illuminated when the flash goes off.
Lighting everything with complicated studio equipment would be great, but that would ruin the party for everyone. The occasion would become more about the photography than about the fun and festivities. I use a hotshoe mounted flash and make adjustments as I go. I want to join in on the fun, blend in, and not act like a photojournalist.
Family and friends don’t mind having their pictures taken as long as it’s enjoyable and I want pictures that show them having a good time. So, along with those quick candids I make posed portraits with smiling faces, and if I select some pictures to give away later I want people to like, not be embarrassed by, the pictures taken of them.
I always look forward to your comments. Thanks, John
My website is at www.enmanscamera.com