You can refrain from the placards and protest chants – this isn’t a post about firearms and we have proven that gun control works (*cheekily winks*). Rather, a friend of mine got engaged recently, and I’ve been given the beautiful task of photographing the big day next year.
On that theme, I wanted to talk about how to prep for a photo shoot if you’re just starting out. Photographing an event, whether it’s for a professional dinner, wedding, birthday, portrait session, casually for a friend, is always nerve wracking at first, and I still get quite anxious the night before.
However, I’ve put together a little list of things to remember, or bear in mind, if you find yourself being asked to take photos for the first time for a friend, or for family.
Know your camera
This seems like an obvious thing, and I can see this guy telling me like it is. But seriously, the number of people who have showed me their latest toy whether it be car, phone, camera, computer etc, and who don’t know who to use it to its full potential (let alone the basics), makes me weep internally.
Anyone can point and shoot, apply filter, and hashtag until the cows come home, but you will have to do so much less thinking if you know exactly how your equipment works, how to troubleshoot if something fails, and what settings get you the best results.
Read the users manual. All the cool kids are doing it, promise.
Don’t forget to charge your batteries the night before, and preferably take at least two if you’re going to be recording the entire day (especially if you’re doing video). While battery life is getting better and better with each model of camera coming out, it’s never fun to suddenly run out of juice half way through.
Another embarrassing thing is to run out of space because you don’t have enough memory. If you’re shooting on a DSLR in raw, make sure your SD cards are nice and fast too, preferably class 10 at a minimum (but between you and me, I do have class 4 and 6 rattling about too!)
The faster class means the card allows the camera to save data at a much higher rate, and if you’re taking heaps of photos at a go, a quicker save time is a good thing. You can tell the class by the number enclosed in an incomplete circle on the front of the card.
Food and drink
Depending on what you’re shooting and for how long, you might not have access to any substantive food or drink at the venue. I’ve been very lucky in that all the weddings I’ve taken so far I’ve either been an invited guest or I’ve been factored into the meal plan.
Still, even if canapés or finger food is being provided, that is still no guarantee that you’ll be free enough to even partake in any food, save for a stolen mouthful here and there as the waiter drifts by. Bring your own snacks and a drink bottle of something to keep you fuelled if in doubt.
I’ve experimented over the years and I can pinpoint the exact lenses I used on a shoot that gave me the least satisfaction in the resulting photos. Know your lenses and what they will do for you, know what effect you want and how you can obtain that effect, and then practice with that lens/those lenses until you can achieve exactly what you want. As a beginners note, large zoom lenses, while brilliantly convenient to use, may give you quite flat photos (and a sore wrist), particularly when you’re taking portraits.
I left my huge zoom at home for Nick + Jayd’s day back in March this year (28-300mm) and relied on two primes instead (35mm and 105mm). I still have much to refine in terms of technique, but those primes gave me better artistic range, forced me to compose shots more efficiently, and pushed me creatively due to the fact that I could not merely zoom in or out with a twist of the zoom ring.
I’m currently experimenting with a minimal kit, which means minimal bags. If you’re on a long day shoot where you have to be efficient with time (like on a wedding) as opposed to doing a more editorial or style based shoot (like a portrait session) then you probably don’t want to be hauling multiple bags everywhere and keeping track of your equipment. Once you’ve nailed your photographing style, invest in the best bag you can possibly afford that will grant you easy access to gear, but is also very comfortable to wear. I got my bag from ONA, which is a company based in the US, but is also available in Australia (mine was from here, but they don’t seem to stock my model anymore).
This is Tasmania after all – the day after our first snowfall of the year it was a balmy over 20 degrees and you would never have thought snow was a reality a mere 12 hours before! The sun really burns down here, so if you’re outside and it’s sunny, make sure to SPF up and even have a soft brimmed hat to keep the rays off your face if there isn’t sufficient shade. Sunglasses tan is never a sexy thing.
Conversely, have an umbrella waiting in the car, or at least ensure that your bags and/or your clothes are water resistant to some degree on the off chance that it suddenly starts to rain, a pair of gloves for numb fingers, or a scarf to keep out the roaring 40s.
Make friends with the venue staff
Here’s a personal tip – if you’re shooting at a catered event, make friends with the manager or some of the wait staff. These people are your people – they’re providing a service to paying clients, so professionally you’re all in the same boat. Introduce yourself when you arrive, make chit chat, get to know where the facilities are (toilets, scenic spots etc), and chances are those same staff will make sure you’re fed and watered, and provide you a place to sit or rest between takes.
Do you have any tips I missed out? Comment below and share them, because expanding your knowledge base is always a good thing.