Being an event photographer is like being a dancer.
I retired from the wedding/event scene back in October of 2017. After 30 years of covering them, 20 of them full-time, I decided it was time to hang up the camera bag so to speak. While I love the action and challenge, doing them right is a full body contact sport that wears down the body.
But there are certain aspects that I really miss doing. I’m the happiest doing detail shots and capturing real, honest moments between people. Back in the day this was called photojournalism event coverage. No fancy strobes, no extreme posing or elaborate set ups. Just me, a camera, available light, and my skills to capture fleeting moments of magic that can never be recreated.
So, when Mercedes, a friend of Amira’s, reached out to me to ask if I would cover Amira’s bridal shower as a surprise gift recently, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Now, let me make this clear – I’m still retired from most events. However, Amira and I go back. We have teamed up multiple times in the past several years and always created amazing art. Not to mention that she is an amazing soul to boot. If it had been for almost anyone else, I would have politely said no and offered up names of people still working in the business.
So Mercedes and I met to go over plans and expectations. We mapped out the event and what would be covered. The theme was Paris and it was being held at Mahi’s in Virginia Beach.
Let me tell you, getting back into the groove of these things was like slipping on a comfy pair of shoes. Because we were in perfect alignment about expectations, the whole set up was 100% in my wheelhouse, I was cut lose to do my thing with zero interference, and it was for an amazing friend…..mmmmmm.
I got there before guests arrived to capture images of people setting up the space and detail shots of everything before things got messy. If you’re just starting out as an event photographer this includes establishing shots of the overall space, inside and out, as well as the little moments within that space that identify the theme, the mood, the work put into creating the event, et cetera.
Lighting, as always is paramount. Flash would destroy the whole light and airy feel of the event not to mention blind people and make them more self-conscious. Trying to use off-camera strobes would bog the whole thing down as you try to balance out the available light with the flashes. The entire east facing wall of this venue was windows with no direct sunlight as the sun was high up and it was a mostly cloudy day.
So it was a hand held, available light, stay light and mobile, run and gun situation.
As it was a surprise to her, we had to take a few precautions to keep it that way when Amira arrived. I actually captured the moment, as she was walking into the space, when she realized who was taking pictures. That stuff can’t be faked or recreated. The honest, open smile, the slight widening of the eyes in recognition and realization. Either you get it or you don’t and there’s no going back if you don’t.
So, I was dancing around, looking for the best positions. Always moving, always searching for the next moment. Step in to get close ups, step back to get more overall shots, twirl around to see what’s going on behind you, get down low, circle the floor, et cetera. My head always on a swivel always searching for the best combination of light, subject, and reactions while trying to remain as unobtrusive as possible.
People tend to freeze up when a camera is close so I worked mostly with a zoom telephoto to get their pictures so I could stay back and zoom in as opposed to being right in their face.
When it was over, I felt like I had just ran a race but, like a real race, the runner’s high after always makes up for it. I got to work with a dear friend again and capture more amazing shots of her and her friends having fun. That, to me, is everything.