Great photography is really all about the unique way you look at things. It sounds obvious at first, but the more you think about the more profound it becomes – especially when you realize just how many different ways there are to see the world. Every person has a different view of the same events, no matter what they are, but as a photographer it’s your job to see the beauty that others miss.
This is true metaphorically, of course, but it’s also true in the most literal sense: where you choose to place your camera can be the difference between a terrible shot and a World Press Photo award.
Even when the stakes aren’t quite that high, it can still be the difference between a successful shot and a rejected one. So let’s take a look at some of the ways you can re-examine your typical event photography processes and turn the next christening you photograph into a resounding success.
How to See Differently
Every good photograph tells a powerful story. Many photographers don’t think of what they do as visual storytelling, but in event photography it is an inescapable reality. When the event is something as important as a christening, there are a number of incredible opportunities to create powerful images that show viewers the world through a truly different perspective.
The simplest choices – like the angle you choose to shoot from – can make a huge difference in the story your photographs tell. You can create narratives by placing certain people together or apart regardless of their actual relative positions, and by what elements you choose to include or crop out of the photo.
One of the best ways to create a strikingly different image is to startle someone with a perspective they would otherwise never have. If the church or event space has an upper level, try to capture a few shots of the ceremony from above (an assistant can be invaluable here!) – almost a bird’s eye view, giving a view of how it may look from the ceiling of the church, as God may see the world.
You can also try shooting from an incredibly low perspective, looking upwards at your subjects. If done properly, this can help to create a sense of power and impact.
In photography, as in all things in life – when in doubt, experiment! Push the boundaries of what you’re comfortable with doing.
Try to teach yourself to see the world the way the camera sees it. We are so used to binocular vision (ie having two eyes) that it can sometimes be difficult to project how a given angle will change the shot for the monocular perspective of the camera.
The more you experiment with angles that challenge your ingrained view of the world, the more comfortable you’ll be taking chances during an actual event shoot.
Just remember that in the midst of all that experimentation, you’ve still got to ensure you get the crucial shots! It’s all well and good to try to see the world differently, but you have to be careful to balance that against what your clients want.
Your more artistic shots are great content for your portfolio, and helpful for convincing potential clients who are deciding whether or not to hire you, but they will still want a wide range of more traditional shots that cover the entire christening.
Choosing The Right Lens for the Angle
For most event photographers, it’s often easiest to choose a zoom lens that can cover a wide range of focal lengths because it offers the greatest amount of flexibility. It’s important to keep in mind just how much your choice of focal length can change the scene. Not just in terms of how much of the scene you can capture at once, but the distortion effects that different focal lengths create. You can create the illusion that two people are closer together by using a portrait or telephoto lens, or you can make them seem farther apart with a wide angle lens.
Unfortunately, good quality zoom lenses that are fast enough for decent indoor photography across their entire focal range are often extremely expensive, which can limit your options. A good compromise is to carry two cameras that are set up at the same time, one that’s better for wide angle shots of the crowd and the church (or whatever the event space happens to be), and another that’s better for intimate portrait shots of the ceremony, the child, the family and the guests.
Applying Your Appreciation of Angles
The real trick comes in balancing out your knowledge of the effects of focal length with your newfound appreciation for the power of angles. If you take the example of shooting parts of the ceremony from a bird’s eye view, you’ll get a very different result if you shoot that unexpected angle with a telephoto lens, a portrait lens or a wide angle lens.
Naturally, you’ll have to make these decisions on your own based on the circumstances and the effect you want to achieve. But instead of trying to decide on the fly during the actual event, take your time to research the ceremony proceedings ahead of time and visit the event space while it’s empty.
Explore the event space and take advantage of its emptiness to experiment with angles that might turn out to be silly. Explore the edges of the room, and the very center. Explore upper levels and stairwells that might allow you to capture completely differently angles of the proceedings that you would miss just walking the floor with the guests. Be prepared to get dirty!
The more comfortable you are in the space, the better you’ll be able to play with the angles and truly see everything from a different perspective. Hopefully these tips will have given you enough inspiration to try out a new way of seeing, and get your some great shots for your portfolio into the bargain.
If you’re looking for some more in-depth assistance with a particular problem or a particular event space, feel free to me for some additional personalized consultation. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 801-938-5513.