My wife’s 40th Birthday party this weekend made me really think about the benefits of hiring a photographer. We rented a fabulous house on the ocean in Stinson Beach (about an hour north of San Francisco) and invited about 20 of her good friends for a weekend celebration. Sue prepared a wonderful spread of picnic food and everyone brought drinks and appetizers. There were kids everywhere and we had great time.
Naturally I brought my camera and had every intention of documenting the event. I did take a few shots but when I got home, I didn’t have a one that I wanted to save. I mean there were a couple – but definitely nothing that captured the grandeur of the moment. This was a once in a life time event after all.
So what happened? I’m a good photographer and I had good equipment. The results should have been better.
First off, I didn’t prepare properly. For any photo shoot, you want to think about what results you want and how you are going to get them. That means thinking about who the important people are and where and when you are are going to shoot them. I knew everyone I probably didn’t need a list but I needed to think about how I was going to get the shots. I should have spent time walking around the house looking for interesting back drops and seeing where the light was and potential reflective areas.
Light is crucial for photography. Too much or too little can destroy a picture. Not the right kind makes the picture look flat or washed out. The point is, when you are on a job, you are constantly looking for light and ways to manipulate it. I’ll move people around, wait for them to get in the right place, use reflected light from slides, walls, pools and other reflective sources. And some times, the light only last for a few minutes so the photographer has to anticipate where it will be and how to use it.
But this was my wife’s party. My priority was taking care of her and our guests, keeping Lucius (our 2 year old) out of danger, and having a good time of course. Chasing the light was a lower priority and the results showed. Event photographers don’t have these distractions and can focus of getting the best light and shots.
Maybe there are a few great photographers that can go from party mode to photographer mode but I’m not one of them. Getting in the mind set of seeing the pictures takes some time and when you are focused on a party you will naturally miss a lot of great pictures.
I should have hired someone to take pictures of the party. That would have been a couple hundred dollars very well spent.