Being a professional event photographer requires a specialised mental discipline and a certain boringness.
Many photographers, and I’d wager a lot of people generally, consider themselves to be outsiders. We all understand life and other people in our own unique ways from the perspective of our own isolated consciousness, based on our own personal experiences.
Photographers specifically tend to pride themselves on seeing things differently, having a unique appreciation, having that much vaunted ‘eye’, having above average observation skills. We are happy to be categorised as such and these things are usually intended as compliments or positive elements. Indeed, if you don’t think that of yourself, some might question your abilities as a professional photographer.
When placed in a professional event photographer role, you are pointedly segregated from proceedings, contained in your own invisible bubble. Whether you are photographing a wedding, a party or a corporate event, it is incumbent upon you as a professional delivering a service to be removed from the event you are photographing. You should not contribute or disrupt, you should be impartial and invisible and perform your function. You should document, you should be boring.
[Read the Composed piece: 10 Tips To Better Event Photography]
A tension might arrive after a certain spell of time: several hours, or even a day or two over the duration of a conference. This controlled, boring behaviour might start to feel onerous, demeaning, even sort of dehumanising. It might seem like you have become some kind of automaton, a robot who stands in ghostly fashion against walls with that device against their face, making repetitive clicking noises, speaking to nobody, monotonously churning out picture after pointless seeming picture. Something instinctive and human in you doesn’t want to be that person anymore.
Maybe you’re experiencing a fascinating and illuminating journey with all these people, because you are able to listen and process information in your role. You are closely observing and photographing their enjoyment and reactions. You might feel a rising urge to share your enthusiasm, your interest, your admiration. Who has never felt moved to laugh during a wedding speech, or swallow hard as the emotion levels rise? But inside your camera-laden bubble you are imprisoned, gagged and bound by your duty as the event photographer.
Eventually this might feel frustrating. You might want to be recognised as a reasonably well functioning human with a brain and thoughts and humour and opinions about the things being discussed.
You might be lulled into confidence after a while in their company. After capturing several hundred images of people you can strangely feel like you know them: their genuine smile from their fake smile from their nervous smile. But to act on these feelings without any direct request is dangerous, and outside your remit.
You’re a professional event photographer, present to capture photographs which represent the event. You are not an attendee or a participant. Yes, people might cheerfully approach you and ask questions about photography, your equipment or how many photos you’ve taken. Politely answer them.
But it’s highly likely that you have been hired and will hopefully be hired again for the quality of your photographs and your discreet behaviour; not for your amazing banter, magnetic charisma and hilarious jokes. So however strong the urge to pop the bubble, it’s always safest to be boring, calmly deliver the goods and hope you get commissioned again.
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