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Whether it’s an elegant dinner party, black-tie event or charity ball, digital photography’s capabilities and techniques will put you in the center of all the activity, allowing you to capture the stunning apparel, fascinating personalities and glitzy ambiance. You may be a member of an organization hosting such an event and you’ve volunteered to be the photographer. Maybe, you’re a professional who has been hired to record the event. Often, these are opportunities for semi-professionals to take the next step toward a full-time business. However you may find yourself shooting a party or formal event, this two-part PhotographyTalk.com article reveals a number of tips the seasoned professionals use whenever they are photographing in Hollywood, South Beach or the Rivera.
For events of this kind, the primary equipment tip is less is more. You don’t want to carry a camera bag with you through a crowd or around tables. Of course, a DSLR camera will provide you with more features and capabilities, but a compact, or point-and-shoot, camera can also do more than an adequate job in this kind of shooting environment.
Because parties and even large balls are actually many small groups and gatherings of people in one place, you won’t have need for a long telephoto lens. Most of your photos will be individuals or groups of less than 10. In fact, a 24–70mm zoom lens may be all you need, since it is important to be able to shoot wide angle. Lenses in the 15–150mm zoom lens range may also be suitable. The key is that you don’t want to be shoving a long lens in people’s faces. Shorter lenses also allow you to be less obtrusive, so you can record images that may not have occurred if you thrust a long lens into a group of guests.
For this kind of shoot, insert new batteries in your camera and check the space on the memory card. Bring extra batteries and a memory card that can be easily carried in your pocket.
Pay Attention to the Ambiance.
The host of the event expended plenty of effort and money to design and decorate a beautiful, glamorous setting, so that is where your photographic story begins. Use a wide-angle lens to shoot a decorated entry, rooms, table settings, etc. It’s a good idea to arrive before the first guests, so you can record these types of images without interference. Then, you’re ready to photograph guests as they arrive and capture their reactions to the decorations and their greetings of each other. Look for details and make them part of the story: the cut-glass pattern in the stemware at the dinner party, the textures in an elegant wrap or gown, etc.
Friends as Celebrities
If you’re among friends at the dinner party or ball, then give them the same photographic treatment the celebrities receive on the red carpet. Shoot a series of portraits: full-length to show the eveningwear, jewelry and hair in one shot, then a waist-up picture, and finally a head-and-shoulders image. Consider positioning them near a portion of the decorations, so these photos are “portraits” of your friends dressed to the nines, and identifies the occasion.
Keep Your Finger on the Trigger.
Opportunities for interesting and memorable photos happen too quickly at these types of events to carry your camera in your pocket or strapped over your shoulder. You should have it at the ready most of the time and your hands pre-positioned to snap those candid shots that people will discuss for years.
Capture the Spontaneity.
Any of the women in your group would not forgive you if you didn’t photograph them in all their glory, in formal shots of their attire, but the best part of parties, balls and soirees is the interaction, repartee and people’s reactions to the comments and jokes of others. Plan to spend a significant portion of your time “eavesdropping” and hanging around the edges of small groups of people ready to record an once-in-a-lifetime moment, such as when Sylvia sprayed champagne from her nose because she laughed so hard at Michael’s joke.
Read Part 2 of this PhotographyTalk.com article for 6 more digital photography tips you can use during that next dinner party, charity ball or similar event.