Event-Photography for Fans

The posts here on Guylty Pleasure are few and far between, but today is one such day when I feel compelled to write here. I have a special occasion to mark: It is my first bloggoversary in A___world. Most of my blogging happens over at me+richard armitage, and I have decided on my debut post on me+r as the date of my bloggoversary. But this being my inofficial head quarters, I ought to mark the day here, too. So happy bloggoversary to me πŸ˜‰

I had been wondering how to mark my first bloggoversary when the Hobbit Fan Event hit and we were flooded with new imagery – both official, new movie stills, as well as a flurry of fan candids. It struck me then that maybe I could put some of my knowledge about photography to use for the RArmy and give you something back for a year of pleasure and fun and excitement that I have been given by all the attentive and generous readers who read my posts and lavish their attention on me. Something properly useful, not just subliminally beautiful as the featured images of Mr A, and (hopefully) entertaining as my *ooof*s. I read so often statements like “I know nothing about photography” and “I only press the button”, so how about a few proper pointers on fan photography, or rather: photographing at events? They might come in handy, should you ever find yourself at an event with Mr A, just like a lot of lucky RArmy girls did last week. They took loads of photographs and kindly made them available to the fandom via blogs, tumblr, fansites like RAnet and flickr. Thank you for that, fellow sistas-in-RA! Your images were great and I really enjoyed looking at them.

I commend you for taking those pictures. Because I probably wouldn’t! You gasp? Guylty a photographer, and she wouldn’t shoot? Is she a fraud maybe? No. This may sound really strange coming from a photographer, but I would *never* spend a whole event, relentlessly taking pictures. Well, an event that I am attending for my own pleasure such as an A___ drool fest, that is, not a work thing, obviously. I never bring “Marky Mark” (my trusty Canon 5d2) to the events, concerts and festivals that I am going to. There are several reasons for that: My camera is very heavy and can be a bit of a chore to lug around. It is also very valuable, and my working tool, so I cannot afford to lose or damage it. But the main reason for leaving it at home is that my hands would shake too much upon being in the presence of Mr A___ I can only concentrate on one thing – either I enjoy the event and register my reactions, or I document the event with the camera. If I do the latter, I miss the immediate reaction, and I only have the images to look at, but no recollection of the feel and atmosphere. Personally, I prefer to take the images of events people that are close to my heart in my memory where they will be stored forever – soundtrack, atmosphere and smells inclusive ;-). That is why I don’t even take my handy little Canon Ixus with me – as small and easy as it is, I would not want to miss *one second* of the event, not *one* blink of Armitage’s eye or even *one twitch* in the left A___ peach. Besides, shooting with a little automatic camera like that has a few issues which manifest themselves in the resulting images.

More often than not, the images taken at indoor events turn out less than satisfactory, and the photographer wonders how that happened. Everything looked fine on the little screen while they were taking the pictures – but seeing them on the computer screen is disappointing. Why is that and what can you do to avoid disappointment? The solution is not a better, bigger camera. Your automatic compact is fine, it sets all the settings automatically and shoots in quick succession. But you may need to familiarise yourself with the settings and workings of your camera, understand the principles of photography and then make informed choices about photographing at the event. In my opinion, amateur photography at events has six main problem areas that have an impact on the quality of the photographs which I will address one by one:

1. flash

Unless you are really close to your subject of admiration there is little point in shooting with flash: One little in-built flash can hardly illuminate the stage from ten metres away. Moreover, flash can result in unsightly colour casts (when other lightsources interfere) or shadows. Plus it is often frowned upon by the organisers. Disable your flash!

KEEP CALM and shoot

Message from Slow-Hand Guylty

2. ISO

Shooting at an indoors venue without flash, you need to make your camera as light-sensitive as possible. Your camera will automatically set the ISO for that. The higher it is, the grainier the image becomes, but that is the trade-off you need to accept. So make sure your ISO settings are high!

3. shutter speed

Your automatic camera will try to set the shutter speed (i.e. the length of time that the shutter of your camera stays open to let in the light onto the sensor) for as long as possible. It does this to get as much light onto the sensor as possible. However, you can not hand-hold a shot for anything slower than 1/60 of a second. Slow down your heart-beat and possibly take a couple of beta-blockers before the event. Nah, just kidding. Make sure your shutter speed is no slower than 1/60s!

4. digital zoom

The temptation is really strong to zoom in with your camera as close as you can get to the subject. Sure, I’d like to get up close and personal with RA, too… Your camera may possess both an optical and a digital zoom. The optical zoom is the lens that can extend from your camera body. The digital zoom on the other hand, which automatically gets activated once you have extended the optical zoom fully, only creates an illusion of a bigger picture. It does not change the angle of view but only enlarges the pixels and therefore creates fuzzy images. You may be able to disable it in your settings. Only use your optical zoom!

5. aperture

If you shoot with a large aperture (= low f stop number), beware that the result is shallow depth of field. Even slight movements of your hands or your subject result in out-of-focus pictures. Focus very carefully on your subject and hold the shutter release button half-pressed until you are ready to shoot!

8287049665_b0be70a617_o

Armitage, cropped within an inch of his life…

6. Resolution

Don’t worry about framing, composition or how far away your subject is. If you produce a big enough image, you can cut annoying co-stars and eliminate leading ladies beside Mr A crop it smaller and create the illusion of a zoomed-in picture in post-production. Always shoot on the highest resolution possible!

7. Miscellaneous

Most compacts tempt users to shoot by looking at the live view only. However, holding a light camera with arms outstretched is much less stable than releasing the shutter while holding the camera against your eye. Yeah, you may look anachronistic and silly, but at least your images are not blurry! If you can, use the viewfinder!

You can never tell how sharp and clear a picture is by looking at the little screen. Only delete your images once you have seen them on the computer screen!

Large resolution images take up a lot of storage space. Make sure you have a large enough SD card! And check that it is indeed inserted in your camera… Even professionals have been known to go out shooting without a memory card in their camera. Not naming any names, but… *ahem*

Keeping the camera ready to shoot uses a lot of battery. Charge your batteries before you head out!

These are my top tips for event photography. They apply to automatic camera settings only, specifically to compact cameras, and I hope they are useful to you. If you have a DSLR, things may be slightly different, especially if you know how to shoot manually. For specific questions on the topic, feel free to ask me in the comments or to e-mail me. And remember: Don’t forget to put the camera down and look with your eyes only – the pictures in your head are the clearest, closest, most colourful and dearest you will ever take. Plus – that memory card is always on you.

Lots of love and thanks for a year of fun!

Guylty xxxox

49 thoughts on “Event-Photography for Fans

  1. Pingback: *ooof*: The One Ring | Me + Richard Armitage

      • ah! If only… I’ll do my best. I went to a couple of concerts in which I tried to do my best (and the best of my camera) but I failed miserably. Fantastic memories, tough. Now I will treasure these advises and try to do better πŸ˜‰
        Thanks to you :-*

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        • I am glad you have the memories. They are precious. And I bet you can find photos taken by other people at the same concert, so there… no need for you to get frustrated with your camera πŸ˜‰

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  2. Happy bloggoversary, long may you continue! πŸ™‚ This is not a LITTLE pressie though, at least not to those among us who are barely able to press the button. Thanks, I’m bookmarking it for future reference! I agree with you though, the most important memories are best recorded and kept on our own CPU. πŸ™‚

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    • If it is useful to you, that is the best reward for me. It would be so much better to spend an hour practicing together, and explaining the principles of photography. Once you know WHY it becomes clear HOW πŸ˜€
      Hehe, I prefer the term RAM to CPU – the Richard Armitage Memory *ggg*
      Thanks for commenting and your support! xx

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      • practising together – like!
        RAM – hehe love!
        I had innocent memories in mind, such as kids’ birthdays, but memoRAes work too. πŸ˜‰

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  3. Happy Blogoversary! Thank you for this, very informative! If it’s not too much trouble, would you happen to have any tips with regard to shooting glossy paper/materials in an indoor setting? I’m using a Power Canon sx50 HS, but I don’t think my pictures are coming out very well:

    http://fruityadobo.tumblr.com/tagged/creatures%20and%20characters
    (levels fiddled with photoshop though, but I can provide raw samples if it would help)

    I’ve no idea what to fiddle with to make things look better. I’ve tried noise reduction and higher ISO settings, but they still come out uber grainy or unfocused (text can barely be read). Trying to find a good angle so that there’s no sheen on the paper’s also a bit of a nightmare.

    So sorry for the very newbie questions! Please feel free to ignore this if you’d rather not answer, I totally understand. ❀

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    • Hi Fruity! Thanks for commenting. ooooh, that is a tricky subject you have thrown out there for me πŸ™‚ But no, don’t apologize for asking a question – I am glad to interact and I love the challenge. I take it you have no scanner at your disposal, hence you are taking pictures of the magazine pages. (The scanner would be adept at dealing with the reflections on the glossy paper.)
      Photographing shiny, reflective surfaces without a whole arsenal of photographic equipment at the ready is tough. Have you tried placing your magazine on a window sill, and then shooting straight down on it with your camera? That way you get lots of light and would avoid the grainy effect of a high ISO and enable your camera to shoot with a slower film speed. This only works on an overcast day or if the sun is not directly shining in through the window in question. Keep a piece of cardboard nearby with which you could block reflections if necessary.
      You could possibly try to shoot with your on-camera flash, but only after you have stuck a bit of Scotchtape over the flash. That would act as a diffuser and make the light soft – so you’d get lots of light, drown out secondary light sources and still avoid the harsh reflection that an uncovered flash produces.
      The fact that the text seems blurry could also be caused by camera shake – especially if you are shooting straight down (awkward pose). Have you got a tripod? You could stick the magazine against the wall, set up your tripod in front of it and then do an exposure without flash but at lowest ISO possible – which means a long shutter speed (can’t be hand-held).
      These are the three ideas I would try.
      Hope this helps πŸ™‚ Let me know if it does!

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      • Thanks so much for such a detailed and helpful response, wow! I tried the scotch tape thing, but I used masking tape instead–I think I’ll use that in my next batch of photos from one of the books, thank you! Would scotch tape be better? Very interesting effect.

        We do have a scanner, but it’s flatbed, and I’m selfish and don’t want to ruin the books. 😦 They’re hardbound with stiff spines, and I’m scared they’ll fall apart if I stretch them too much. I’ll try the windowsill thing soon as well, that sounds interesting! I always get the urge to photograph these in the middle of the night, oops. No tripod, sadly.

        Thank you so much for taking the time to answer! ❀ I really appreciate it!

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        • You are welcome, Fruity – glad to be able to help. Ahhh, I didn’t cop that they were books, not mags. I see that you wouldn’t want to ruin their spines by flattening them on the scanner.
          Re.Scotch tape. Yep, that is different to masking tape. The Scotch tape is that translucent sticky tape that is easy to peel off. It lets the flashlight through but diffuses it. The masking tape might be too thick for that?
          Definitely try shooting this in daylight. Much better than shooting with artificial light because it is naturally diffused and is only *one* lightsource (i.e. no cross-lighting effects).
          And hey – I appreciate you asking!

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          • Hi, just wanted to drop another note of thanks, ’cause the photos came out with way less noise than before and I was able to upload them in a larger resolution on Tumblr (the recent two posts, ie Orc pages). πŸ˜€ I had to do way less editing in Photoshop as well, which is always great. I tried the scotch tape method, but it was still too bright – I added a piece of tissue paper against it, and it seemed to do the trick really well! I shot the photos indoors but early morning with the windows closed and the light turned off. Really made things so much easier.

            Thanks again! ❀

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            • What a great message to wake-up to! Thanks for letting me know and taking the time to write, Fruity! Must check your posts now – at the weekends I do tumblr rather erratically. But I am really glad if I was able to help you out a bit.

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  4. Happy anniversary Guylty and may you have many more. Hope some of us will use your tips for the red carpet in L.A. Would they change for outdoors at night? Just wondering, I also would never mess up my memories of such an event by looking though a camera. And it would have to be waterproof to deal with excessive drooling.

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    • LOL – waterproof camera because of drooling. Good point. Should’ve included that in my tips *ggg*
      As for shooting at night and outside – chances are that there are strong lights at events such as this (at the London premiere last year there were – it was bright as daylight on the red carpet!), so by and large the recommendations are the similar.
      If you are shooting from the fan area and have RA coming close to the barrier where the fans are, you may want to use the flash, though – it would illuminate him and leave a lot of the (unwanted) background dark, plus it would enable the automatic settings much better and the ISO could be reduced.

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  5. Happy Anniversary! I’m not one for taking many pictures myself, like you said, I prefer the experience & just remembering πŸ™‚ but part of that has to do with the fact that I hate my camera! I miss looking through the view-finder, and hearing that satisfying click when you wind the film after each picture…and those funky flash cubes! *laughs* so, a lot of this is lost on me but I still find it interesting. your “ooof”s especially have taught me to look at the details in a photo, the lighting and the symmetry, etc. πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks Kelbel. You know, appreciating good photography can be done by non-photographers, too. In fact, I am glad that not everybody is as much into photography as me. Where would my profession be if everybody could create images like I can?
      I am with you on the satisfying feel of photography as it used to be. Liveview kills good photography imho, and there is no nicer sound than the click of the mirror switching back into place after I have released the shutter. I can do without the film winding, but I will say that film photography is a league of its own, crafty and tangible and much more deliberate than digital shooting.
      Keep clicking the shutter in your head. It’s valuable in its own right. And thanks for commenting!

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  6. Thanks for the tips, Guylty πŸ™‚
    How do you know?! I didn’t tell anyone!..you know..about shooting without a memory card in the camera?

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    • *ggg* It’s happened to me TWICE, and I also did not happen to have a replacement card on me, so there… you are in good company. Even the pros occasionally slip up on that πŸ˜€

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  7. Happy blogiversary Guylty!

    I have leant so much from you this past year – I don’t always comment as I usually have to save your posts until I have a quiet moment to really absorb them and by the time I get to them everyone else has moved on. But every essay is very much appreciated.

    You know- pouring over Armitage pictures in minute detail is a tough job, but for the sake of my education, I guess it has got to be done…

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    • Thank you, Bolly – no matter when you read, any comment is always welcome.
      And yes, intensive study of images is part of the fangirl job description. Together with drooling, laughing, commenting and general support of RA and his fandom.

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  8. This is lovely – especially now that I read it in your particular lilt and “Dgerman aksent”. I noted the mention of not deleting images until you can see them on a computer screen. Excellent suggestion. It might look blurry or otherwise flawed on the small camera screen, but you may never know what you really had if you deleted it. Case in point:

    http://crystalchandlyre.tumblr.com/post/66261141354

    Happy Blogiversary, Guylty. πŸ™‚

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    • Thanks for commenting, Crystal! Part of the reason why I recommend everyone to only delete once they see their images on the big screen is that that also forces you to actually import the images from the camera to the computer. Too often pictures are taken and then never viewed again, languishing on the memory card. That applies to all photography. (And I tend to be very guilty of that, myself.)
      The pic you linked illustrates what I mean (although I am not fond of it… but that is a personal opinion)

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        • πŸ˜€ The “art” of this image is of a kind that regularly has me going off on rants – so I won’t get into that. I completely acknowledge that *my* aesthetic preferences are not universal and I understand that sometimes “art” happens coincidentally. Personally, I prefer *deliberately* created art.

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  9. To Gulty-pleasure headquarters: Thank you so much for this post, itΒ΄s really helpful. My personal goal is to attend the red carpet event in London 2014. But like you, “my hands would shake too much upon being in the presence of Mr. A.” so IΒ΄ll have to delegate. Looking for a person whoΒ΄s not armitaged yet will join me πŸ™‚

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  10. Pingback: Richard Armitage Legenda 105: Stuff worth reading | Me + Richard Armitage

  11. I know I’m late, but Happy Bloggoversary!
    Also thanks for the tips. I’m terrible at clicking pics, so this is just great! *hugs*

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    • Better late than never, Siriusly – I take good wishes any time πŸ™‚ And I hope my tips can be of use to you and anyone who usually doesn’t do much “snapping”!

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  12. Happy late late Bloggoversary! I have enjoyed reading your *ooof* day Tuesday blog post, they make my day. It has been a bit crazy in my world here, but hopefully things will settle down soon.

    Thank you for the year of photo tips, maybe some day I will start taking pictures again, I think I need to upgrade on a camera, I still have my 35mm with film. Mr. 70 takes the pictures these days.

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  13. Pingback: me + Richard Armitage fan selfies: musings on self, presence, and the proximity question [a bit on evidence] | Me + Richard Armitage

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