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 😉
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:
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!