Lesson #1 – Opportunities Come From Unexpected Places
You never know where your next gig will come from. Thanks to my Facebook page leaning heavily towards my passion for photography, I was asked by a friend three days prior to their Halloween party if I would bring my camera and take photos. I was flattered but nervous — it was a daunting task. Did I have the right equipment? Would I be able to pull this off? But I quickly told myself to get over it and figure it out, and that the opportunity to shoot a party at a nightclub would be a great learning experience.
Lesson #2 – Be Prepared
Even if you’re not a professional photographer, it’s important act like one. Getting the right equipment was easy with a quick trip to Borrowlenses.com. Knowing what to do when I got to the club was another story, so I tapped into every resource I could find. I emailed a friend who is a talented event photographer. He gave me information on basic camera settings to start with and reminded me not to be afraid to experiment with the flash, and practice “shooting blind” to get more candid shots. He also said that when people are dressed up, they aren’t shy about posing for the camera. Make sure there is a colorful background, shoot the details, watch for people doing interesting things.
And yet no amount of preparation will ever cover all your bases. You always have to expect the unexpected. One thing that didn’t occur to me is that when you’re in a dark club and you look through the viewfinder, it’s, well, dark. But you work with what you’ve got and make the best of the situation. I made sure I was at the 17mm end of my lens so that I didn’t miss too much. Since it was loud, I found it easy to tap people on the shoulder, smile and point to my camera, and without hesitation everyone posed for me. The nervousness never really goes away, no matter how much experience you have.
Lesson #3 – Be Assertive
You’ve got the gear, you’re stalking subjects like prey. You look like a photographer and not just some goofy party guest with a camera, so be confident. Don’t be afraid to ask people to take their photo. Push your way up to the front of the stage to photograph the band. Be bold enough to get up on a couch here and there and take some crowd shots.
Lesson #4 – If You’re Working, You’re Not a Guest
A crowded, raucous party is a danger zone. Heed this cautionary tale: As I tried to make my way from one end of the room to the other to get another angle on the band, I got bounced around like a pinball. My hands kept a death grip on my camera. I couldn’t put the strap around my neck because of the obnoxious, long blonde wig I had on. At this point in the night drinks were being spilled and the party was cranked up into high gear. I tried to protect my camera as if it were a newborn baby. A split second later I felt myself start to slip on a wet spot on the floor. Thankfully, I caught myself, but what did hit me was the reality of what working an event was really like.
It will be a lot easier to shoot if you’re not dressed up in a long, blond Lady Gaga wig and boots. Focus on your duty as a photographer and don’t worry about mingling. You’re not missing anything. If you try to balance being a guest and a photographer, you’ll end up failing at both.
Lesson #5 – Have a Card, Any Card
Always carry business cards. You never know when a random guest could be in need of your sercies. One of the band members came up to me when they were done and asked me for my card. You never want to be in the situation where you can’t give a potential client a way to contact you. Paying job or not, never go anywhere without your contact information ready to hand out.
Lesson #6 – Be Nice
Any big event may have other photographers or videographers there. Cooperate and be considerate of each other’s workspace. At this particular event, a fellow, more professional photog offered his assistance and handed me some advice. I tried out his suggestion to be courteous but didn’t really see any difference. Not wanting to offend him, I took a few more pictures the way he suggested and then went back to how I’d be doing it before. It’s all part of the learning process.
Lesson #7 – Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Shooting live events comes with perks. Often you’ll get an upclose view of the action. The surprise guest at this event happened to be world-renown performance artist David Garabaldi. He took the stage and rocked the house while he painted 5X6 foot portraits of Mick Jagger, Bob Marley and Albert Einstein all with a couple of brushes and his hands. I was front and center. I couldn’t believe that I was a few feet away from him, and able to shoot all kinds of details from his paint cans to his famous hand stamp signature. This was definitely one of the highlights of my night. When you can, forget about the other photographers, the insecurities — just have fun and soak it in.