A prosperous City firm in London hired me to do a full scale shoot at their Christmas Party on Friday night at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, a swanky 5 star venue in the
West End of London.
Now I've not done anything on this scale before. This is EVENT PHOTOGRAPHY - 340 people
to handle - and with Son, my regular assistant, in Korea, I had to pull in alternative help. I chose to go with my daughter and her boyfriend, not an obvious choice, but they know how to deal with computers, both work Saturday's in coffee bars so know how to handle people and cash, and they could be trusted with the latter.
How did it go?
In the bar, with a low ceiling, I was able to get some really pleasing shots using bounce flash off the ceiling and often the soft glow of the lights behind the bar as a background. I got some good shots of performers in action using no flash and pretty good ones of the company's CEO delivering his speech (the length of which was of great benefit to me but I suspect everyone else in the hall wished it was a lot shorter!).
Unfortunately, over dinner, in the high ceilinged
main hall, I had no option but to use direct flash. I also had no option but to use .jpg
to record the images because they speedily had to be processed by my two assistants onto proof sheets so that the guests could purchase the images. These images I almost universally hate. And it would be no surprise if the subjects feel that way too! The variable ambient lighting (floodlights sweeping the hall) played havoc with the colour balance on many of the images and this really could not be fixed after the event because each one would have to be individually adjusted.
Also the Pentax P-TTL
flash seemed to give quite variable results. I was carefully checking the screen as I toured the hall snapping away but what looks good on a preview screen does not necessarily look good on a computer screen.
And then there was the hazard of the waiters! They seemed to follow me wherever
I went in their hordes and it's a wonder that a soup course did not finish up splatter over me or my gear. Often it was a case of nipping in and out of this ceaseless traffic to quickly grab shots from the narrow spaces between the tables. Near the entrance to the kitchen it became almost impossible....
The light was no good, making focusing a nightmare. I used my large f2.8 Sigma 24-70mm zoom to make it as easy as possible but it was still not bright enough. I used autofocus
for a while but this took a while to register correct focus to the irritation of the guests. So then I switched to manual focus for the rest of the night but still quite a few images had to be binned. I read of other photographers having the same problems with their Canons and Nikons
so I know I'm not alone in the frustration of getting focus right in these conditions but I'm also beginning to wonder if my eye is up to it!
Well I'm not going to make any money doing this! My nature is to not interrupt
people's conversations until the moment appears right. I felt like a predator in search of prey, while myself avoiding my own predators (those waiters!). So I finished up taking rather fewer photos than I might have expected (although I must have sailed past 500). Deleting all those that were a bit out of focus, or the expressions were wrong / embarrassing must have got rid of half of the images.
And people did not really start buying until after 11pm. We had originally planned to pack up at 12pm but went on until 12.45pm, leaving the hotel half
an hour later. So sales on the might paid for my assistants' help but not much more. Fortunately I have received a separate fee for doing the job, but not remotely enough reward for all the effort. Will Internet
sales rescue the situation? Very unlikely!
Still it was fun.
Labels: assignments, selling