Event Photography/Reflections on Portraiture

Last thursday I had my first experience as an event photographer. I found it quite enjoyable, specifically because my favourite kind of photography is spontaneous portraiture and this was an experience where nearly everyone was happy and excited to have their picture taken by a “professional” photographer.

When I first started photography (with a film camera!) I was a bit obsessed with taking photos of people. I would buy books on portraiture, agonize over which lenses would be best (I wanted the 85mm F1.8 so badly), read blogs and websites about lighting and how to work with your subject.

I learned early on that the camera was of much less importance than lighting, and even lighting is much less important than the way the subject feels. I took it to heart when Philip Greenspun wrote that the most important accessory a portrait photographer has is their stereo.

I think after shooting this event I could probably supplement that adage by saying the second most important accessory a portrait photographer can have is a beer fridge. Or in this case, an open bar.

But I think it was more than that – I’ve been to lots of parties, and usually even intoxicated people don’t like having their picture taken. People are in general very self-conscious about having their photo taken, and this has an unfortunate recursive effect – because they feel awkward, they look awkward, and the photos taken of them are bad. This reinforces their self-consciousness around having their photo taken. I wonder if the new generation, having grown up in a world of ever present digital cameras, is more at ease with having their picture taken.

A single event can’t speak for a generation, and there were certainly a few people at the event who were not receptive to having their photos taken. But on the whole I’d say 90-95% of those in attendance were elated to be photographed, even while kissing, groping and dancing with each other.

The experience, and most importantly the results, make me want to do more event photography. So, if you want to hire me for your event, please shoot me an email.


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