Photographing the SPIRIT of an event

NOTE: This video can be a bit loud. You may want to turn down the volume on your computer before playing it. Also, if you have a slow or weak internet connection and find that the video is getting interrupted, just put it on Pause for a minute or so. Enjoy!

Busy, busy lately. I will be working over the next week or so to put up some images from the past few weeks. Today, we'll have a look at a few highlights from a charity event I donated my time to a couple of weeks ago. Instead of a slideshow, this time, I'm posting the video I created for my client (with a minor change to the link at the very end). Hope you enjoy the change of pace.

The images in the video are from the 30th Annual Chocolate Lovers' Fling. This Boulder event has been raising money for three decades to support SPAN (Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Non-Violence). SPAN is dedicated to ending violence against women and children, particularly domestic abuse.

My goal in event photography is to go beyond photos of what's happening and get in touch with the spirit & energy of the event. Think of it this way, if a friend had gone to this event and you asked what it was like, what would you want to know? You'd probably want to know what it looked like, how people were dressed, what activities took place, how was the food, etc. Most importantly, though, you want to know what kind of time people had - was it fun & exciting or dull & boring. In other words, how did it feel to be there? Event photography needs to answer all those questions.

This was a pretty typical charity event with a silent and live auction, dinner, live entertainment, dancing and (of course) incredible chocolate treats. My primary role was to capture the spirit of the event, along with portraits of the vendors and special attention paid to big supporters. The low light made things pretty challenging for photographing with available light. I knew some pictures would be lost to movement with the slow shutter speeds I had to work at, but I'm glad I made the decision to do so. The photos tell me it was the right way to go. The one exception to working with the available light came during the dancing, which would have been nearly impossible to photograph without introducing some flash. My first shots of the dancing were made with bounced on-camera flash. They were fine but nothing special…and I'm always looking for ways to turn ordinary to extraordinary. The dancing photos you'll see were photographed with the slightest bit of on-camera flash fill and a second strobe to backlight, thanks to the help of a SPAN volunteer. The idea of introducing the second light was to create separation and a bit of flair. My lovely assistant's instruction was to position herself so the couple I was photographing remained in between the two of us. Occasionally, the flash became visible, but with a little help from Photoshop and Lightroom, most of those were salvageble. In fact, many of those "mistakes" wound up being flat out terrific!

Overall, I was pleased with these results from this event. More importantly, the folks at SPAN were very pleased. The only negative from the entire night was that I didn't get a single piece of chocolate! Unbelievable, I know…but true…not a single piece. Oh well, there's always next year, right?