When some photographer asks me my thoughts about photographing an event that comes with lots of people I tell them that, for me, the most important three things that make successful photos come with the letters: P.P & F.
The capital letters PPF stand for, have ‘Patience”, always “Pay Attention” and absolutely use a “Flash”.
These days everyone has a camera in his or her pocket.
When anything happens they quickly grab their phone and awkwardly start recording. That’s great and I am so pleased that kind of technology is readily available for everyone. However, for those that want photographs large enough to make the rare print, or sharp enough to withstand the inexpensive material that a newspaper is printed on, or even the quality of most in-house magazines, the tiny sensors of phone will be inadequate.
That’s when the call comes from knowledgeable organizers for those photographers I will call “event photographers” who are willing to spend long hours photographing that special occasion.
My PPF begins with “Patience”. Many untested photographers whose experience is family gatherings or short weddings may be willing, but are unaware that it’s their job to photograph anything their client deems important. Most of the time that means one or two photos of a speaker or award recipients or the recognition of that person of organizational importance.
The event photographer’s job is to patiently stand there at-the-ready, without blocking the audience’s view and get that picture.
“Paying attention” doesn’t need much description, because it’s simple. The photographer is always “Patiently Paying Attention” to everything that happens. Even if that means standing back out of the way poised to rush up for that important moment. So I’ll just leave it there.
Lastly, I have to get to the equipment part.
Most of today’s modern cameras are capable of high ISO. Basically, ISO means that the camera’s sensor sensitivity can be set to make exposures in very low light and for many cameras that low light capability is part of the manufacturers selling point.
What the manufactures don’t discuss is the quality of light. Sure the image can be made bright enough to make out someone way up on a stage, but the light always comes from overhead. And that light never balanced to what most of us consider as pleasant skin tones. The usually dim yellow or purplish overhead meeting hall or gymnasium light makes unflattering shadows everywhere.
Having a flash, no not the tiny little thing that pops up when the light is low. But a flash that one connects on DSLR camera’s hotshoe.
With a modern dedicated flash it doesn’t matter what camera mode is selected the flash will always release a properly programed amount of light. Light that comes from the cameras and is in front of the subject, illuminating the face of everyone in that location. Light that dissolves the shadows. (Except for those directly behind someone or something) And finally light that is much more flattering than the off-coloured lights attached to the ceiling.
My mother used to tell me that “anything worth doing is worth doing right”.
Being more interested in some guest than the list of speakers, or missing that crucial shot because it’s uncomfortable (or embarrassing) to run across the hall to catch that important moment, or being to lazy to first learn how the flash works, or worse not even bothering to use one, is not doing something that should be “worth doing right”.