Last Saturday I was working a Bar Mitzvah when something happened that is pretty common lately: The lights came down and the glow sticks came out.
Bar Mitzvah photographers know what I’m talking about here. The DJ at a Bar Mitzvah has one of the toughest jobs in that industry because they have to entertain a room full of 13-year-old kids and their parents at the same time. (In fact, a friend of mine who used to hire DJ’s for a national chain of nightclubs told me that he would seek out Bar Mitzvah Jocks because they knew how to play to the whole room.) One of the ways that they make the kids happy is with glowsticks.
Suddenly you are shooting in a pitch black room and flash totally negates the effect of the glow sticks. How do you “capture the moment” in a dark room with no flash?
The answer is simple: Stop being a photojournalist and start posing.
I found two boys standing at a table attempting to cover their bodies from head to toe in blinking, glowing goodness. I walked up and said, “Do you think you guys could stand absolutly still for two seconds?” Then, I grabbed my tripod (What’s that? You don’t have a good tripod nearby at all times? Shame on you.) and fired off 4 shots of varying exposure and speed. The boys did a good job and I got a picture that perfectly captures what the kids were doing.
I think a lot of photographers get caught up in the “fly on the wall” mentality when they first start doing events. Photojournalistic photography does not mean you never take charge to get the shot. What matters is that it looks photojournalistic. Wait, that’s not always the case… what matters is that you get the shot. Whenever I find myself thinking of an excuse for why I can’t get a good shot I drop all pretense of objectivity and get the shot. In fact, at the same Bar Mitzvah I missed the prayer over the bread. What was I going to tell the mother, “I’m so sorry…. after the candle lighting the lights came up and I was still changing my ISO speed when your father came up and gave the shortest prayer in history before I was ready..” I never want to have that conversation. So, I said, “Whoa! I wasn’t ready!” and the DJ gave the microphone back to Grandpa and I got a quick shot.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. They are paying you for results, not excuses. The worst thing that can happen is that they think you are a little pushy. While you want to avoid that label if possible, better to be pushy with great images than super-nice and easy with mediocre work.