NCTJ put on a fantastic awards ceremony and gala at Quendon Hall in Essex, to celebrate some of the extraordinary achievements throughout the students’ time at the organisation. I have photographed a number of events for them, and the students are always really lovely to work with.
The Photographic Brief
The brief was to photograph guests in a natural, candid and unobtrusive manner, mostly in the horizontal (landscape) format. The awards were documented with the posed handshake on stage as per the usual manner at a gala. One group shot of all the winners was required for social media within just a couple of minutes after I had photographed it - this is often possible if arranged in advance. I then took the initiative to take a few more off-stage posed shots of students and recent graduates feeling a bit more relaxed after the shock of winning! As is usual with NCTJ, the brief itself was exceptionally well executed, which helped everything to go smoothly.
Thankfully I’ve been shooting these ceremonies for a number of years, and so the (highly challenging) aspects of photographing galas comes quite naturally to me - this means I can concentrate more on the feeling of the photography, and the technicalities are fairly instinctive! For this event I used two high end Canon DSLR’s, a small Fuji camera for wide-angled close-ups to get a really casual and “immediate” party atmosphere, and a variety of prime and zoom lenses which I keep in a bag off to one side of the room. I used flash occasionally, which I balanced using gels (clear coloured plastic) to mimic the effect of the naturally warm lighting of the room. I also used my laptop for immediate image editing of the group shot which was then transferred to a USB stick, to put onto the event organiser’s own laptop.
Galas are one of the more challenging of events for photographers and event planners alike, which is why I’m always both excited and really careful to get the event photography details carefully set out before the big night. There are usually plenty of details that need to be photographed, and a selection of images are often required very soon after or even during the event. Regardless of my own business interests, I would say that a gala and awards ceremony event should always be photographed by a reliable, competent professional with high end equipment. The available lighting tends to be coloured, low in brightness and directional, with people’s expressions changing during animated conversation fairly constantly. Drinks, nibbles, complex shadows and so on will add to the complexity of getting a wide variety of flattering shots.
Sounds Like Hard Work!
It’s that kind of hard work that I really enjoy - constant stimulation and so many things to photograph, great people, and happy clients!