Whether you are a professional or an enthusiastic amateur, you are going to need to know certain things about taking pictures for special occasions. This is not a rare occurrence in a photographer’s life. Almost everything is a special occasion for someone.
It is not just about birthday parties and weddings. There are births, and bar mitzvahs, school plays, and soccer games, recitals, Thanksgiving, and… Well, you get the idea. In some ways, every moment of life is a special occasion, as it only comes once. There is only one first step, and first kiss, and first driving experience in one’s first car.
The thing that all of these special occasions have in common is the fact that they are memories worth saving in as pristine a condition as possible. To do that, you are going to need the right equipment and the right know-how. Get it wrong, and those once in a lifetime memories are lost forever. Getting it right will reward you for a lifetime. Here is what you need to know to immortalize those special occasions in pictures:
Making Light of the Situation
You can’t get good pictures without good light. There are a certain quantity and quality of light required to make the picture just the way you want it. No one would be confuse were I to say you can’t get a good oil painting without good oil, or a good sculpture without good clay, or a good wood carving without good wood and a good knife. Photography is the same way. Light is the medium of photography.
You have to know how to properly manipulate the light and the camera sensor, from f-stop to ISO, to shutter speed. F-stop is another way of talking about aperture: the size of the opening that introduces light to the sensor.
A rule of thumb to live by is that almost all special occasions are lit poorly for photography. You have to fight the lighting every inch of the way. If you are indoors, you are dealing with artificial lighting that is often unflattering and insufficient. Outside, you are dealing with whatever the sun and clouds are doing that moment. Knowing how to put each kind of occasion in its best light is the first and most crucial step.
A Big Bag of Tricks
It is usually a bad idea to buy gadgets for the sake of buying gadgets. However, photography may be the one exception that proves the rule. You never know what situation you are going to face when you show up on location to do a shoot.
If you find yourself doing wedding engagement photos on a sandy beach where there is a lot of ocean spray, you are going to need to dig into your bag of tricks and find the right sleeves and hoods to protect your equipment while getting the shot.
A sunny day can also present many unpleasant surprises. That is why you need an assortment of UV filters. You might also need that mount with the spider legs that can wrap around just about anything. Your professional tripod can do a lot of things. But it can’t suspend your camera from the top of the banister for that perfect shot.
They say that prior preparation prevents poor presentation. That is especially true for those special occasion photography sessions. You can’t bring along every piece of equipment you own. And you can’t prepare for every lighting possibility. You need to understand the environment before you leave for the venue.
If possible, visit the venue ahead of time during the same time of day as the event. See what it looks like in the best and worst lighting conditions so that you can prepare for a range of possibilities. Make sure you know what types of photos are expected beforehand so you can get the right mix of posed, group, closeup, and candid shots. For perfect special occasion photos, don’t skip this step.
The right photos can make any occasion feel special. So be sure to bring your A-game with your ability to tame the light, your big bag of gear, and enough advance prep to make it all look easy.