Being an event Gollum – Streetcast #7 – 14th May 2019
I still believe that street photography is a near perfect training ground for event photography, with one significant exception. For street we tend to choose a single focal length; but for paid work, based on last years experience, one needs a zoom.
Event Gollum Time…
Well it was that time of year again. The annual two day marathon event photography job for a user conference in Munich was on. Tied up as I was, I hope you can understand why I skipped a few Streetcasts as the preparation was important.
Corporate event photography is a rather creative affair. Like street photography we are hunters; searching for moments that reflect the event, sentiment and mood.
The experiences and interactions are crucial to the enjoyment and engagement of the participants and the photography needs to reflect that.
Sneaking around, invisible in the shadows, to capture these gems of interaction is an interesting version of candid photography. Street photography is similar, in that we search for moments that reflect experiences and interactions that represent what is happening. And just like street hopefully without being noticed and influencing the outcome. And when we are noticed we don’t have to cower , scurry away or get shouted at…
Fixed or Zoom
However another difference is that in street if we miss opportunities we kick ourselves; in paid event photography if we miss opportunities the client kicks us.
I have always been taken by fixed lenses. And previous years doing this event I have worked more with the fixed manual AIS lenses, hot swapping. Actually it was more like hot juggling with near mishaps.
With street photography each picture mostly stands alone. Event work, however needs to stand together as a representative body of work. Covering the components of the event so they flow to a complete narrative.
More importantly the marketing department contracting you has an aim. They expect diverse perspectives, not only in content but also in style and lens choice.
Getting an affordable solution for event photography
Faced the limitations in last years lens choice, I decided that I needed a f 2.8 zoom equivalent to the 17-50 Sigma that my wife, Karen, uses. Hers being effectively 25-75mm image coverage when the crop is taken into account.
Being full frame incurs costs above and beyond the similar version for crop but if you’re going to do it, you may as well do it right.
The Nikon 24-70mm f 2.8 AF-S ED N (non-VR version) is a beast. Together with the D610 nearly two kilograms of engineered beauty with a nice gold ring. “One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them”. And with f 2.8, in the darkness it does a great job of binding light to the sensor…!
At around €750 second-hand this lens is not cheap, but because of it I was able to react more quickly and had less stuff to carry.
I knew testing the lens in the shop that this was just nice. I had a similar feel when I first picked up the 135mm Nikkor Q lens.
Its mine, all mine…
So naturally whilst paying for the lens in the shop, when the lady at the till asked where is the lens? Already fondling it, I replied “You can’t have it back, it is my precious”.
Previous years had me lugging my camera bag with virtually my entire lens collection. Secreting this bag somewhere allowed me to move more freely, but had me permanently tense, concerned with theft or damage. However, the precious is still similar in weight to the 3 or 4 prime lenses I would need to carry to achieve a similar focal range, albeit in one piece.
So this year I was not only more fluid and ready, but I was also far more relaxed and concentrated on the job. Things like this are never mentioned in the typical “how to’s”.
As paid photographers our concentration is our fundamental benefit over those that just take snaps. Anything that side-tracks our focus or limits our readiness must be remedied.
This year I was also thrown a “side challenge” into the mix which initially had me rather concerned. A senior executive was presenting a paper for publication and they needed an accompanying photograph.
Now portraits and staged shots are not really a problem for me, but I often take them ad hoc, without the pressure to meet certain criteria. In addition if it were specific I could always get the appropriate lighting and could “stage” the shot as needed.
In this case I neither had the benefit of hit and miss, nor could I carry the “studio” choices that would deliver with certainty a working result.
Suffice to say I did it and the pictures are better than I expected. Through no small measure this was down to resorting back to the trusty 50mm f 1.8 ais lens, with experience and preparation thrown in. The point being the zoom alone is not always enough. But I could handle the little 50 in my bag or pocket without too much problem.
It strikes me that people looking at photography as a profession consider the job as stress free and easy. The truth is that logistics and planning are crucial to delivering a good result. Just as, well thought through equipment and artistic practice too.
With all this talk on kit, preparation and approach there is one thing that makes a difference greater than all that. The client. In my case I am so amazingly lucky that this particular company is cram packed with staff, exhibitors and end-users that are just really nice people. It can’t be stressed enough how much vibrance in the images comes from the peoples’ character.
However, without the total prior preparation, concentration during, and diligence in post, a job is going to be less successful. Street photography still proves to be an excellent experience on which to fall back on for those wanting to turn their passion into a precious.