October 17, 2011 Kindergarten to 60

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of photographing a sixtieth birthday party for a group of friends who first met in Kindergarten, along with their closest friends and family. This was my first event as the official photographer, rather than “guest first, photographer second,” and it was quite an experience. In addition to sharing some of my favorite images from the night, I’d like to reflect on what I learned – and thank the guests of honor for allowing me to take part in their festivities.

 

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The first, and possibly most important, lesson that I learned was that the more comfortable you are behind the camera, the more relaxed the guests become, leading to better pictures. I was quite “stiff” at first; I was afraid of interfering with everyone’s night, of getting in the way, of disrupting the very moments that I was there to capture. And, to be fair, I’m sure I did that more than a few times in the first hour or so, by not realizing that relaxing behind the camera, laughing with the guests, and acting like I had been there before, was an integral part of being a photographer. You can’t capture a moment if your very presence interrupts it, but as I became more comfortable in my role, everyone else did too. I took a step back, and a deep breath, and then got to work. Once I was smiling, so was everyone else. I was there to capture what they were experiencing, and they gave me every opportunity to do so.

 

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I also learned how easy it is to become overwhelmed – 100+ people and just one photographer, how to do make sure you’re capturing everything that’s happening? The short answer is, you can’t, but it’s easy to feel that as the professional, you are responsible for recording each and every single moment, and by missing something, you’ve failed in some way. Being a photographer means learning to anticipate a scene worth capturing as it unfolds; if you simply react, you’ll often miss the pure emotion that you set out to capture. By taking stock of what was unfolding around me, and attempting to anticipate what was going to happen next, I was often able to place myself in an ideal position. I couldn’t be everywhere at once, but I was where I needed to be when it mattered most.

 

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Ok, final big picture lesson from this event: when the moment allows (e.g. posed shots), take more pictures than you think you need to. You can’t do this with every shot, nor do I advocate taking thousands of pictures of everything, hoping one sticks, but I found that often shots I thought were great while at the event had flaws that meant they didn’t make the cut. Whether it was one person with their eyes closed or looking away, or just slightly out of focus, taking the time to shoot a few more frames would have dramatically increased the number of unique images I ended up with.

A great friend and outstanding photographer said to me the night before this event that you never forget your first professional photography event. He’s right, this was a night that I will always remember, and rely on to guide me forward as a photographer. So, Joey, Angela, Carol, Chrissie, and Sally, thank you all for for the experience, the laughs, and the chance to grow as a photographer. I hope you had as much fun that night as I did, and that the images did justice to the great time that was certainly had by all those closest to you.

2 Responses to “Kindergarten to 60”

  1. Debbie Ellis says:

    It’s a rare skill to stop time and capture that right moment and make it possible to hear the giggle or the whispered conversation or feel that intimate moment between dancers. Kudos! Well done.

  2. mjordanphoto says:

    Thank you! I appreciate the feedback, and glad to hear you enjoy the images!

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