How to Photograph Events Pt II

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 Cover Image: School Girls capture the arrival of the old (Tall Ship - James Criag) with the new. © Mary Lincoln | Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Cover Image: School Girls capture the arrival of the old (Tall Ship - James Criag) with the new. © Mary Lincoln | Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival

This is Part II of IV in a series of tutorials, looking at event photography and in particular the Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2015. The tutorials are primarily for the benefit of the volunteer photographers at the festival, however if others gain some inspiration or knowledge from these articles, please feel free to share your comments at the end of the tutorial.

Many images used are by previous volunteer photographers and are courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. My thanks to all for their permission to use their images.

Tutorial Outlines

    Part I Read it here
    Part II In this tutorial we will look at how to capture luxury, interiors and details. All boats have a great deal of effort put into how they look and what they do. All are for some form of lifestyle, whether it be a fishing trawler, a palatial cruising yacht or the humble rowing boat. What defines them and makes them special? We will show you how you might approach these shots.
    Part III Month three moves over to events. In this month we will be looking at working with light and how to capture images at all times of the day and the tips and tricks that enable you to capture great shots, even in the midday sun.
    Part IV Month four will be the final one in the series and will look at working with people. In particular how to approach strangers to get shots you want. We will look at the types of shots you might consider to enhance these images. Working with people also brings up the concerns of Model Releases, so we will look at this briefly as well.

Capturing Interiors and Details

 Lounge, Oosterschelde, Tall Ships Festival 2013  © Mithun Rajshekar | courtesy Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Lounge, Oosterschelde, Tall Ships Festival 2013

© Mithun Rajshekar | courtesy Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Setting the Scene

This may seem an odd subject when setting out to photograph events. However, when it comes to the Australian Wooden Boat Festival, boat interiors will be on show everywhere. So how do we go about capturing them?

Firstly don't think boat. This can be applied on land, in your own home, so plenty of opportunities to practice.

Work from Wide angle to Close Up

Start as if you are going to take a wide-angle shot. Look at the whole scene as if it were a film set. What belongs? What doesn't? Be prepared to set the scene; add props, dress the crew, clear rubbish etc. Don't be afraid to ask for their assistance. Get them involved. Make it fun.

Look for distractions

The human eye is extremely receptive to changes in light and can gather detail from harshly lit areas and dark shadows that are side by side. A camera can't. So start by throwing on the lights. Give the camera a chance.

Lighting your scene

 Bright lights through windows often need to be balanced with internal lights, reflectors or strobes (flash units), for the camera to be able to capture the full dynamic range (whites to blacks) without clipping (under or over exposing).  © Bob Linacre, Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Bright lights through windows often need to be balanced with internal lights, reflectors or strobes (flash units), for the camera to be able to capture the full dynamic range (whites to blacks) without clipping (under or over exposing).

© Bob Linacre, Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Once your lights are on, look for lights pointing at the camera, windows with bright lights coming through, furniture or other obstacles creating shadows, mirrors that will reflect your flash or your camera, anything that will challenge the camera or detract from the image you wish to create. Using your camera in Spot Meter mode, check your exposure settings, for the Light and Dark areas. You can get good indications as to whether you will be able to capture the full light range in your image.

If you need to use fill light (reduce the shadows), Consider the use of reflectors, to fill in/reduce shadow contrasts. Also look at the colour of the light. Early morning and late afternoons can be a warmer orange, midday is generally a white/blue (on sunny days).If you are using fill lights, consider using gels on any lights you use (especially your strobe/flash), to change their colour to match the natural/ambient light. They are simply fastened over your strobe/flash with masking tape (it leaves less residue).

A final consideration for lighting is try to diffuse (soften) the light, to reduce harshness of shadows they may create, especially your strobe(s). Some strobes come with a plastic pull out diffuser/slide that simply lays over the lamp. Other methods are to bounce the strobe off the ceiling, wall, umbrella or using a softbox.

Some shadows can be used creatively in a scene, eg those from a blind over a window.

Populating your scene

Windeward Bound Lounge
Windeward Bound Lounge

Having set and lit your scene, look to the people in your scene and repeat the process above. What is necessary? What isn't? Have them stand or seat in places you want to enhance your set. Recheck your lights.

Watch out for those eating and/or drinking

If the shot involves a cocktail set or similar be particularly aware of people eating or drinking. We are not the most attractive eaters and any shots you may have seen of yourself or others ... well I will let you be the judge. Just be aware when taking your shots in these circumstances. The suggestion of drinking and eating serves just as well. Also allow your subjects to be a little animated, enjoying a joke or telling a story to a group, illustrating a route on a map etc. For working boats, it is easier to have people go through the motions of working. They will feel far more comfortable and your shots will be more realistic

 Erica - Sunset drinks  © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

Erica - Sunset drinks

© Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

Capturing Details

Once you have established your wide shot and captured your images, working towards the details becomes far easier. You have already set the lighting you require. Work round the room and take your shots.

Use lenses creatively to achieve unique perspectives

You can work with the same wide-angle lens and get close to your subject(s). Wide angle lenses allow more light and also provide fantastic depth of field. If you are shooting people, this maybe a little invasive, but can create unusual and interesting images, if managed sensitively.

Using longer lenses, is also fine, but be aware longer lenses often require more light and will almost certainly require a tripod/monopod to stabilise the camera. Not always easy on a boat.

Shooting close-ups (not to be confused with macro), it is worth considering using Aperture priority mode. Many close-ups suffer for lack of depth of field. To achieve this requires control of the aperture. Try to work around f.11. You may notice your shutter speed drop significantly, so be prepared to put your camera back on the tripod if not already, or work with a higher ISO.

Where to focus in Close-Ups

Shooting close-ups often requires the viewer to do some of the work for you. If you photograph a person or an animal focus on the eye(s). The viewer will fill in the rest for you. With boat details, the same applies. If you provide a reference point a viewer can understand, they will generate the rest of the image that you cannot focus on.

 Porthole view  © Tim Ikin | Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Porthole view

© Tim Ikin | Courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival

Why you start with Wide Shots

Now you are shooting your close-ups, you can start removing and packing down, unwanted lighting and equipment. This means when you have finished shooting you are just about packed and ready to move on to your next shoot :)

It is your time to shine. Get out, have a play and let your creative juices flow

Still feel like you are heading for a disaster?

 Fear not, help is at hand. If you have a question, post it here and we will see what we can do to help.  Image © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

Fear not, help is at hand. If you have a question, post it here and we will see what we can do to help.

Image © Rob Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography

© Robert Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography Travel and Events Photography and Editorial

Next Month

Month three moves over to events. In this month we will be looking at working with light and how to capture images at all times of the day and the tips and tricks that enable you to capture great shots, even in the midday sun.