Tag Archives: Candid

What you can learn from candid photography

Groom • Candid photography :: getting the shot is a pressure.

• Groom •
Candid photography – getting the shot is a pressure. Weddings are times when you need to work particularly fast and accurately. •

Responding is a skill.

When starting on the path to disciplined photography we’re told to slow down. Take careful, measured and pre-visualised shots. We are told to stop trying to frantically pepper the scene with shots. Take time. Take stock. Think everything through. The aim is to get the shot under control.

A good photographer often needs to respond rapidly. The careful, measured approach still applies. They still have to get the picture. However, the pace of a situation demands swift shots. The practised photog can respond with speed and accuracy. Practice at candid photography is a great way to realise those skills for yourself.

Candid photography and practice

The aim is to make a clean, sharp, well composed image. The nature of a candid shot makes that difficult. While trying to make a success of your candid photography some conditions may apply. Some of those may contradict each other…

  • The subject may not know you are going to take a picture.
  • The subject could know you are going to take a picture.
  • The subject may be unpredictable.
  • You will need to be very quick.
  • You will need to be able to get a sharp image despite speedy working.
  • You may have to take several shots (eg. not dozens).
  • Your subject should be in an interesting position.
  • The subject needs to to be in an interesting context in the scene.
  • You should anticipate the shot (rather than getting lucky).
  • You will have your camera ready and settings correct for the shot.
  • You will have only a microsecond to compose the shot.

You just do not know what you are going to encounter until you have to deal with it.

Dealing with all that may seem a tall order. Especially if you are told not to machine-gun the scene with shots. Haste and frantic bursts rarely lead to good luck. Actually, it is not about doing all that at super speed. Like everything you do in photography, candid photography requires preparation, practice and control.

Equipment – knowing what you can do

NO! Do not go out and buy yourself a micro-weight, super-camera. Up-to-date bells and whistles are not the point. Instead, look for simplicity. Sometimes the best camera is an old and familiar one. What we want for this exercise is knowledge.

The best possible way to get fast with a camera is to know what it can do. The lens too. If you are familiar and well versed in using your equipment you will automatically respond to the scene. Here is an example.

In candid photography control of depth of field is essential

• Impish grin •
Keep the subject in focus but the background is frosted out.
In candid photography control of depth of field is essential
(Click to view large)

This shot was captured as this lovely man turned from a conversation. He was talking to someone on his right. I was ready for his turn toward me. His impish grin as he saw me really made the shot.

I wanted a depth of field that had his head and face sharp. I also wanted the background indistinct. Notice the sharpness is lost just on the far shoulder. My lens was set up to have a depth of field of about 400mm (about 15in to 16in). But there was no measurement involved. This was an estimate. It involved knowing the depth of field at my distance from the man, and using the right aperture. This capture is the result of knowing the lens and camera combo really well. It was a practised shot using very familiar equipment. The successful candid photography came out of the practice and familiarity.

Equally, it is easy to get the shot wrong. Depth of field, especially at close range, is fickle. It is easy to get the tip of the nose out of focus, the eyes and face in focus, and the hair out of focus. It is important to look at the variables involved. The aperture size and distance-from-subject control the depth of field. So, try the exercise below using manual settings.

Take a bright coloured builders tape measure. Place a small object beside a mid-point on the measure. Take a photo of the object down the measures’ length. Use a wide aperture. Check out the depth of field by looking at the measurements that are sharp. Now by varying your distance from the object see how much you change the depth of field. Do this for a wide range of apertures. With experience you will get a feel for controlling the depth of field. With twenty or thirty variations you should get a feel for the depth of field.

Settings

Aperture is one setting. ISO and shutter speed are important too. Getting a feel for your equipment means getting familiar with how these settings work.

Candid photography often involves working in darker lighting. Parties and indoor sessions, weddings in churches and in evening light all require wide apertures. You might use flash. But in a lot of situations that may not be practical or desirable. So using a high ISO setting (more sensitive sensor) will allow you to work effectively in lower light. So, lower the light where you are working with the tape measure. Raise the ISO and repeat the exercises. Get a feel for how you can vary the exposure by changing the ISO.

Needless to say you can vary the shutter speed in similar ways. Try the exercise again. This time keep the aperture and ISO fixed and change the shutter speed up and down through a range of shots. [More on varying shutter speed].

Learning to use your settings manually takes more than one session. That is important. You can gain a lot by training yourself to be sensitive to the settings. Working toward good quality candid photography can really help you gain that sensitivity. Poor photographs of faces and people are immediately obvious! You get great feedback from the experience of poor shots.

Composition – seizing the moment

Candid photography is about seizing the moment. You need to use good settings. You also need some understanding of composition. This means working to get your subject in the right environment. They will have an appropriate pose and possibly the right context or behaviour too. Without all these coming together the moment is lost. Setting it all up takes some thought.

Normally people do candid photography with some idea of what they want to achieve. Random wanderings are normally unproductive. Luck follows more often from preparation and forethought than stumbling upon a notable event.

So, have a good think about your scene composition….

  • Set yourself up in a viable position ahead of the shot.
  • Think about how the light is placed in the scene overall.
  • Place yourself for the right background on the far side of the shot.
  • Fix the camera settings for the composition ahead of the shot.

In other words be prepared. Then, when the right moment comes along, you will have the minimum to do. A little composition, framing the shot, is essential. A tweak of the focus possibly… But essentially – you should be ready.

Now you stand the best possible chance of getting the shot.

Candid photography is successful when it all comes together

All this preparation and practice is about getting you to the moment when you take the shot. Making a success of your candid photography is about three things…

  • Knowing your settings.
  • Practice with and knowing your equipment.
  • Forethought about the scene.

Having everything ready is the key. Then when all the elements of the scene come together all you do is frame it and capture. If you succeed in that, you will also make a swift shot. Because, in fact, you have little to do. Speed and accuracy is about being ready with everything and having the minimum to do when the right events pull the shot together.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Do you know what street photography is? A look behind the scenes

• Lady in black •

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• Lady in black • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
The street photographer looks to expose life as it is on our streets and much more…

What do we really mean by street photography?

The concept of street photography covers a lot of ground and means many different things to the people who do it. Simple descriptions of street photography might include things like:

  • Candid photographs taken in public places
  • Portraits and depictions of ordinary people out and about
  • Pictures telling the stories of people living their lives
  • The normal behaviour of individuals seen in public
  • Extraordinary scenes in ordinary places
  • The street environment with or without people
  • Things which catch the eye photographed in public places
  • Extraordinary sights amid people going about their daily lives
  • A micro-social documentary through a still photograph
  • The drama of an event in the every day lives of people on the street

Street photography is a broad spectrum subject. Mostly, street photography is about the sights and significant micro-events that attract the eye of the photographer in urban places or other popular places. The idea of “street” means where people can be seen. Or, where they “may” be seen. It is not absolutely necessary to have people in the scene. Although people usually provide the focus of interest.

In fact, beyond these simple descriptions of the craft there are other things. The need to have sympathetic framing, simple backgrounds, good composition and excellent timing go without saying – these are a part of photography in general. Beyond those there are other themes underlying the term “street photography”…

The environment

The ‘street” environment is as important as the people themselves in that it provides a context. The environment and the people together makes the scene interesting. Background provides the cultural context for the shot and so it is important to include it. Nevertheless, many street photographers will work to minimise the impact of the surrounding scene so they can focus the viewers eye on the behaviour of the people of interest. The choice to show the wider scene or to focus right in is both an aesthetic one and a contextual one. You have to consider what would make the picture as visually pleasing as possible and at the same time make sure you are able to show the subject in the best possible environmental context. Difficult choice – but an essential part of working the street scene.

Because the environment is important street photographers often prefer to work with lenses that give a wider angle than other DSLR users favour. A wider view captures the scene as well as the subject person. A common lens for street photogs would be a 35mm or 50mm fixed prime. These lenses tend to give you a more immediate correspondence with the scene you are in. They are close to the focal range and angle of view that the eye sees. They reduce distortion and give the impression of the scene through the photographers eyes. Street photography is a unique and real experience for the photographer. The best of them try to convey that experience in a very real way to the viewer too.

Black and white or colour

Most of the well known names in street photography worked with black and white film. Perhaps for this reason today’s street photographers tend to work in black and white too. It emulates an era of the past with a stark reality and a retro-cultural look about it.

Some street photographers dispute the (cynical) view that black and white is the medium of choice because it promotes a ‘retro’ atmosphere and see that as an insult, a cheapening view of their work. Instead they’d argue B&W street pictures have more impact.

It has often been argued that when you take colour out of a photograph it almost purifies the picture. Certainly much of the distraction is taken out. Colour does draw the eye. A Canadian photojournalist was once quoted saying…

“When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!”
Ted Grant

There is much to be said for removing colour to see the inner person. However, it is not obligatory to work in black and white for street photographers. Your choice is part of the way you present the scene you are photographing. There are merits in colour and in B&W media. Making the right choice for your picture is a part of the success of your final image.

• Green girls •

• Green girls •
Click image to view large
• Green girls • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
Sometimes pictures simply don’t work in black and white. You have to make the choice. There are no rules that say you must do street photography in monochrome.

Cultural context

Street photography is a worldwide phenomenon. However, there are undoubtedly cultural contexts that tend to make certain places more interesting. That is especially the case when the viewer is seeing something they consider exotic or out of the ordinary. Street photographers take pride in finding the ‘unusual’ in otherwise ‘everyday’ places. So where possible street photographers will search out the poorer environments, the degenerating places and the places that their viewers would not go themselves. On the other hand they may find interest in the very essence of modern culture and how that actually contrasts with local way of life there. In this way they can help their viewers see another culture, observe different behaviours, see another way of life or shock their viewers about how others live.

Seeing other cultures and other places in the world is part of the wider scope of the art. You may choose to travel to far away places. However, street photography is found everywhere. In your local town, urban area or event space you can find interesting and captivating scenes everyday. Watching your fellow citizens is great sport. It’s funny, serious, interesting, frightening and enlightening. Showing your culture in all its facets is interesting. It requires a strong sense of place, character and understanding of your subjects and where they are.

It is often the deep contrasts that make a street photograph successful. The ordinary and unremarkable are the things that are not celebrated because of our familiarity with them. After all they are in our daily view. Strange or culturally contrasting situations draw the eye. It is a part of the street photographers observational skill to isolate and therefore to highlight these inconsistencies in our view of the world. It is not about travel, getting around the world, but seeing into our own locality and monitoring the differences between each of us and the others who share our streets.

Taking this alternative look at our own cultural space is one of the really difficult things about street photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson, sometimes referred to as the father of street photography, once said…

To interest people on far away places… to shock them, to delight them… it’s not too difficult. It’s in your own country – you know too much when it’s on your own block. It’s such a routine… it’s quite difficult… in places I am in all the time, I know too much and not enough. To be lucid about it is most difficult… But your mind must be open. Open-aware. Aware.
Henri Cartier-Bresson

In his strong French accent, he was trying to express the difficulty of overcoming the ‘ordinary’ view and seeing the extraordinary things about our culture that are in plain sight.

Street photographers are the ultimate people watchers and observers. They look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. They are able to articulate culture through the medium of the very people they sit next to on the bus. They are in the scene and a part of the picture they are creating with others around them. At the same time they are documenting it and living it, but bringing out the things that other people miss.

Origins

Much of the body of street photography was generated in the 20th century. During the 19th century the film speeds were low and exposures too long for effective fast capture of people going about their everyday lives.

There is currently a huge resurgence of interest in street photography. It has come about partly as a response to a renewed interest in photography. It is also partly due to recent significant collections of work from street photography artists being published around the world. A whole genre has developed from the interest of key individuals from photographic history. Some of the great street photographers we recognise today worked in the years from around 1900 through to the 1980s. Some of the well known names are…

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Diane Arbus
  • Vivian Maier
  • Alfred Eisenstaedt

There are many more (See: Category: Street photographers  External link - opens new tab/page). These bodies of work are of key interest today to many people. Academics, street photographers themselves and ordinary people all have an active interest in the past and particularly of places they know. Their photographs offer a unique insight to both the time and place – but also of the photographer themselves.

Today’s street photographers are providing an insight for future generations into the way we live now. It is the ordinary and extraordinary things that happen in ordinary lives that street photographers want to search out. Diane Arbus, working in the middle of last century, is famously quoted as saying…

I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.
Diane Arbus

Her interest and focus was on people who were different. She called them freaks. Often they were on the fringes of society as well as hidden from the eyes of the ordinary person. Today we are slightly more tolerant of the type of people she photographed. Nevertheless, we still label people who live differently by describing them in a “politically correct” manner. In effect that is a euphemism that is more damning than a direct label. Street photographers can open up the difficult lives that some people live – help them to become a part of a wider scene, a more tolerant world.

• All Smiles •

• All Smiles •
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• All Smiles • By Netkonnexion on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page
Truly candid street photography is about bringing out the inner essence of the people you photograph.

Celebrating the rich diversity of people and the things they do is important. It makes human beings so different to the animals. We can and do respond so differently to each other and the situations we find ourselves in. It’s a cultural cliché that almost defines us.

Successfully seeking the essence of the person being photographed is an expression of the photographers vision and an exposure of a culture. It is another tiny revelation about ourselves as humans and as members of society at large.

Respect and communication, doing and being

One of the hallmarks of street photography is to be excited and invigorated. The situation may even make you nervous. This is right and proper. Representing people in a photograph makes you a conduit for who they are. You must respect them. Holding a camera is a responsibility and a communication. You are saying something to the people who see you working the scene. So don’t ‘do’ street photography as if there is a bad smell under your nose. Be a street person who happens to be engaging with people while holding a camera. Then you will be a part of the scene. With respect, and contact with the people you photograph, you become a part of the life you are depicting. Not only an observer, but a participant. Then you will see more clearly, the spirit of the people you want to document.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Three “laws” of street photography that will help you

• Green Girls •

• Green Girls •
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• Green Girls • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Street photography is not as chaotic as you imagine.

Most people behave in predictable ways in public. Understanding the general “laws” of street photography can really help you get the shots you want and capture the most interesting characters. Here are three ways that you can get ahead as a street photographer.

Outrageous people

When people are out and about enjoying themselves, especially in groups, they love to be photographed. The more outrageous they are presenting themselves, the more they love to be in the frame. They have made the effort to be “stand-outs” and so they are! More to the point they love to have photos taken because it shows they are the centre of attention. Groups like the green girls above just love to show off. And, don’t we love it too! So, for a bit of carnival fun, our first law is…

The photographers law of street stand-outs: The more outrageously dressed someone is, the easier it is to get a street photograph.

Hiding in plain sight

Be obvious, better still, be official looking. Nobody will question you taking photos. At lunchtimes I used to go out taking street shots. I wore a suit, had a tripod, and a Canon 5D. Sometimes I even wore a fluorescent jacket. I would put my tripod up in the middle of the pedestrian precinct and take photos of anything I wanted – nobody asked questions.

When hiding in plain sight, never look at someone directly. There are three little tricks to this:

  • When you are looking through the camera people cannot tell what you are looking at. If you use a wide angle lens you get a general view. Keep the camera pointing in the general direction of interest. You don’t even need to have the lens pointing directly at individuals. As people walk in and out of view you can snap them and they never know you are doing it.
  • Spend a long time looking through the lens – poised. People will walk in and out of the field of view and never guess you are watching them. All the while you are snapping away. Crop them into position later. With a wide angle shot you have plenty of scope to change the composition on-screen later.
  • If you are doing some spotting, not looking through the camera, make a big effort to “look past” people. Make it look like they are just in the way. People soon lose interest. Bingo – you have the shot and they are none the wiser.

So, for our every day photography in the high street our second law is:

The photographers law of sticking out like a sore thumb: If the photographer is obvious, the subject will be oblivious!

Candid or “can, but didn’t”?

The candid shot is a part of the business of being out on the street. However, not every shot has to be a candid. Interacting with people, getting in close and watching them pose, work or play is also a part of the scene. You probably think it’s difficult to stroll up to strangers and ask to invade their privacy with a camera. Its not as difficult as you imagine. Most people are pretty flexible. If you show an interest in them, generally they like to show cooperation. The problem is with the photographer. I have heard photographers say, “yeah, I could of spoken to them, but I couldn’t be bothered”. What they really mean is: “I would love to have chatted with them and got some shots, but I was worried about rejection”.

Here is some news. It is not as bad as you think. If you do get rejected just walk away. Try someone else. Actually, rejection does not happen very often. Most of the characters you want to photograph are quite pleased to be involved. Be polite, chatty, fun, complementary and respectful and most of the time you will get what you want. Pick your subjects for their character, presence and interest and you will probably find that they are pleased to share with you. Get in close and personal, be enthusiastic and involved. You will be a part of the behaviour, and a part of their lives. If they want copies, send them some. Then you have given them something in return for their posing. This is the third law:

The street photographers law of proactive interaction: If you don’t ask you won’t get!

If you want to be a street photog…

You have to develop and practice a number of strategies. Street photography is a fast and fun activity. Sometimes the direct action approach works best. Other times the candid approach works. However you choose to do it you will find it’s not that difficult. Actually the most difficult thing is starting… and only you can sort that out.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Portrait vs. Candid – overcome the fear

When is a portrait not a portrait?

Portraits and candids are two types of photography that showcase people. A planned photograph taken in a controlled location is known as a portrait. On the other hand, a spontaneous photograph in an uncontrolled location is known as a candid.

A portrait is…

A portrait is a good way for someone to present an idealized picture of themselves to the world. It is a composite result between the direction of the photographer and the wishes of the portrait sitter. From this co-operative effort comes a synthesis that represents how the sitter wants to be seen and how the photographer wants to bring out their character. It is in essence an artificial situation. The trick that the photographer seeks to pull off is a realistic representation of the sitter. That is where they need to be careful to pick the right moments to take the shot and the right props and background to emphasise the character of the sitter.

The candid is less controlled…

A candid is more of a snapshot of someone when they are behaving in a normal every-day situation. The element of control is limited. True the photographer can pick the time and place to stand and take a candid. They can also pick who they photograph. Exactly what they photograph is a matter or luck. They have to pick the people they see and hope that something special will be the result. The essence of candid photography is to capture the subject in a way that shows their character or a particular mannerism or their features in a realistic way. Again, the photographer has to pick the right moments to take the shots. However, they do not have the power of direction to ask for poses or expressions.

What’s the issue?

There is a very big point here, at least for some. You have to take the candid in a stranger-to-stranger situation! THAT, for most starters in street photography and photography in general is a big deal. Getting out there in the street and capturing people in their everyday lives is difficult. It makes you feel vulnerable. You are out of your element. You feel the lack of control and are sensitive to potential hostilities. Here are Five things to help you get into the candid…

  • Go out with a friend the first few times.
  • Be obvious. Snap away so people don’t fear you.
  • Snap lots of things, not just people. So you capture a few people at first.
  • Try lots of different angles and ideas. Doing the photography will take the edge off your fear.
  • Be you, enjoy yourself, meet people. Talk to some. They are ordinary folk. It’s OK.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

A brave expression of passion – photographic heroes (pt 2) – Diane Arbus

Photomontage of Diane Arbus and some of her work.

Photomontage of Diane Arbus and some of her work.
“My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.” • Diane Arbus
Click to view a range of her work and portraits of her in Google Images.

Swim against the tide!

Your personal mission in life is important and your photography should reflect that. Don’t only transmit passion through your work. Diane Arbus worked in photography but found a rarely paralleled depth of expression in her exploration of a personal passion. She persevered even when that passion took her into domains that the public would rather have left unseen at the time.

Diane Arbus (Mar 14, 1923 – Jul 26, 1971)

The creation of a picture lies within the ability of everyone who holds a camera. Conjuring a meaningful ‘image’ in the mind and creating an enduring memory for the viewer takes a photographer with passion and expression far beyond simple picture taking. Diane Arbus was a phenomenon and a case in point. Throughout her varied career she was able to express her interests in ways that shocked or left people cold.

Born to a wealthy, talented and artistic family Diane Nemerov escaped the worst of the American Depression. Her siblings excelled in art and photography as did her father who retired from the family business to paint. She married at eighteen to Allan Arbus. Both interested in photography, they began a business after WWII in commercial and advertising photography. They were published in a wide range of well known magazines of the time, despite professing their hate of the fashion world.

During the late 1940’s and 1950s the Arbus’ raised two daughters. The couple separated in 1958 and divorced 11 years later. It was the late 1950s and 1960s that saw her unique style coming out. Working with a wider range of client publications she extended her personal ideas and techniques through assignment work. In 1963 she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for a project called “American rites, manners, and customs”. This allowed her to extend her interests and to develop her personal style. While teaching, working on her projects and doing some assignment work the 1960s were a proving ground for her approach. Her commercial work declined as she became better known as an artist.

What made Diane Arbus unique was an exploration of her real interest. She pursued her photography working with “deviant and marginal people”. Her passionate portrayal of dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, circus performers and other “ugly or surreal” people was for the time pretty brave and definitely against the grain of public opinion. Her work in advertising is little known today. Her writing and photographs of people at the margins of society bought her condemnation and severe criticism. Some of her work is still considered to be controversial. Yet, despite open criticism and damaging condemnation of her and her work she stuck to her interests and passionately expressed herself.

Her images are stark and sometimes ugly. However, this was the way she portrayed the world and was consistent in that approach. The extent to which she was a tortured individual is not clear, but she suffered bouts of depression and committed suicide aged 48 in 1971. Her legacy lies in her extraordinary persistence working with people considered to be ‘freaks’ in her contemporary America. She was notable in her success in getting permission from her subjects to publish the photographs. She established close personal relationships with many of her subjects while also portraying their less than ideal circumstances. And, she often returned over many years to take more photographs. Some of her images are shocking and harsh. Yet she seemed intent on hard lines, hard light and portraying people who had hard lives.

She produced a range of iconic images of people in difficult circumstances, against the public wisdom of the time. Diane Arbus remains controversial. But she published both photographs and writings that showed how she understood the nature of her own work and the impact it was having. She is one of my heroes because she stood up for herself and did photography with a passion. She showed important issues for what they were and exposed the underbelly of American culture at that time. Her work is sought-after as collectors items. Auction sales of individual pictures in the last decade have exceeded several hundred thousand dollars. Yet this has not diminished her insight. Important and controversial she may have been, but a powerful photographer with a passionate message she remains today.

Two quotes by Arbus define for me her outlook on her photography…

“Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot . . . . Most people go through life dreading they’ll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They’ve already passed their test in life. They’re aristocrats.”
Arbus, Diane. “Diane Arbus”. Millerton, New York: Aperture, 1972. ISBN 0-912334-40-1.

In this quote you can see the passion spilling out of her words…

I do feel I have some slight corner on something about the quality of things. I mean it’s very subtle and a little embarrassing to me, but I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.
Feeney, Mark. “She Opened Our Eyes. Photographer Diane Arbus Presented a New Way of Seeing.” Boston Globe, November 2, 2003.

In my twitter stream (@photokonnexion) I push photographers to ‘do their own thing’ with a passion borne of insight from a personal mission in life. Many contemporary professional photographers fall onto the media bandwagon and get trapped in a cycle of commercial and media ‘art’. As a result they never see their personal development get past commercialism. I would encourage photographers of all types to look for ways to make their own mark in photography. As artists, photographers should be looking to expand their own horizons. I urge you to explore new challenges that define you as a photographer. Diane Arbus was not afraid to go down this route, neither should you.

The following video is the first of four. See all four parts of this video here: Masters of Photography Diane Arbus (Parts 1 to 4)


Masters of Photography Diane Arbus Part 1. By Rangefinder  External link - opens new tab/page

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Event photography – tips for getting it right

"The Guitarist". You need to make sure that all aspects of your event are covered.

“The Guitarist”.
Good event photography covers all aspects of the event.

Event photography is a responsibility.

It is an important commitment. There is pressure to get it right. However, it gives you an insight into understanding the needs of the viewer. You have to focus on showing the event in the best light.

At some point most photogs are asked to do some event photography. Family party, Church event, wedding, Christmas lunch, engagement… you name it. If you agree, make sure you know what you is expected of you and your camera. Previously, I looked at what you need to do before an event or special occasion. In this post I look at what to do to make your event photography effective.

Cover the story, include everyone

If you have prepared for the event, you should know what you are to shoot and how long you have to do it. Here are some things you can do while doing your event photography…

  1. Tell a story: A little forward thinking can help you to tell a story of the event. As you go through your shoot look for little activities, actions and happenings that will tell the story. You may pick out, say, ten pictures of the event that most people will recognise tell the story. Keep your eye open for the most important points of the event to capture for this purpose.
  2. Entertainment: Make sure you capture any performers. Preferably make images of them performing. If that is a challenge (lighting can be difficult), capture them in the break. If they are reluctant, get their email address and promise to send them some shots. Most performers love that. They always need photos for publicity.
  3. Food: Always capture pictures of the food. When people eat they usually have the best conversation and meet new people. That is one of the memorable parts of the event. Pictures of food are enduring if done well. Read up on food photography a bit to get some ideas. Find out what sort of food there is in advance. Then you’ll know what to expect. If the host(ess) or close family made the food then go into it in some detail. They will love the attention and you will get good feedback.
  4. Presents: It seems a simple thing but it will be important to the hosts. Make sure you get a few pictures of any present table or special gifts or awards. This is an important record for the hosts. It is also a reminder of the purpose of the event. It is worth asking the hosts if they want to arrange the presents. They often want to show some off some more than others. They may also want to arrange them so they can remember the gifts. Otherwise arrange them artistically yourself.
  5. “Formals”: Event photography often involves formal shots. A lot of amateur photographers hate them. But if you have done your sit-down planning with the organizers you will know what you have to do. You will find it is quickly over. In most family or small events they are usually quick anyway. Maybe just the speeches are needed or even just some formal shots of the birthday cake and the lucky recipient. Make sure you get a few shots that show the formality of the situation if necessary. More than anything make sure you get all the photographs the hosts require (close family, birthday girl/boy, dignitary etc.)
  6. Candids and poses: I love to do this. It’s great fun. Wander around the party/event having a little conversation with everyone. Make sure you introduce yourself. Say you are doing the photography for the event. Ask them if they want to pose or if you can just take candid shots of them. If you are allowed to take candids then remember to capture them later when they are chatting, smiling, enjoying. Taking candids at the table with the people sitting and enjoying conversation is great fun. You really capture people as they are in person – rather than who they want to be in a pose. Make sure you engage with everyone. For good event photography the hosts will want to get a good coverage of all the guests. If this is a public event (church event, sports event) its not so easy. So just do some general crowd shots so the flavour of the activities are encapsulated in your story.
  7. Posed sessions and groups: I usually seek out a place at events where I can use a nice background from the location. Sometimes for more certain results in my event photography I set up my own backdrop. Some people love to have group shots with their friends. Others like specially posed shots on their own. The hosts like these posed sessions too. They have something to send on to friends after the event.
  8. Crowd shots: If you are at an event with crowds they can be fun too. Actually crowds are not as chaotic as they look. Spend some time observing. You will see that crowds tend to have three conditions: observers, movers, and actors.
    • Observers watch the event in progress. You can capture them from the front to get faces. You can capture them from the back to use the event activity as a backdrop.
    • Movers are crowds in transit. They tend to move in streams. You can photograph them in ways that show the movement or direction of travel.
    • Actors This is when the group or crowd in question are a self sustaining and self entertaining group. These tend to be smaller groups in among the larger ones. Again, they provide interest for your event photography. They provide a focus in the crowd.
  9. Dance or action: If there is some sort of physical activity going on you have to capture it. Make sure you know what it is going to be in advance so you are prepared. Dance and other fast physical activity is difficult to capture in darkish conditions like party-type events. Remember – high ISO settings to freeze the action. Longer exposures to get motion blur. Both are great at events and both will show your range of skills at event photography. Artfully capturing dance shots takes time and practice. If you have a chance, try it before the event. You can capture sports or physical activity of other kinds more easily because they are often in brighter light. Any dance or action shots are not the reason you are there. Don’t worry if you don’t get the best shots of the evening from these. Work on capturing the atmosphere and the story of the event.
Make sure you shoot the presents. Event photography should include all the angles.

If you are covering all the angles make sure you shoot the presents. The hosts will thank you.

How many shots?

As a guideline, I would aim to take about three different pictures of everyone at a family event. Get maybe 30 to 50 shots of crowds and groups at a public event. It’s common to take several hundred shots over a two to three hour period when doing event photography. Depending on the activities you may take many more. You won’t use them all. The redundancy is there so you can at least provide a great representation of the event, its story, and one picture of all the participants.

Communicate, talk and chat when doing event photography

You will quickly overcome nervousness once you get talking to people. Event photography is about communication. Start introducing yourself straight away. As soon as people arrive get talking and clicking too. And, since you should be there before it starts, get shots of things like the food and other important items before the crowds get there. The most important aspect of doing event photography is to enjoy yourself and mix with others. Get stuck in as soon as you can.