Wanda Merritt Anthony

Wanda Merritt Anthony

Monday, May 26, 2014

Available Light Photography

It has been said the photographers who label themselves existing light photographers don't know how to use flash.  I can only speak for myself; they are right.  I don't know enough about flash to use it effectively.  I do know enough to not turn on my built in on-camera flash.  When I had a separate flash for my film camera I knew enough not to point it straight at my subject.  I knew enough to tilt or swivel the flash head but me results were terrible because I didn't know how to adjust the flash output.  Now I know enough to not only buy a flash that tilts and swivels but to also get a stand to put it on, remote, (The remote may be already built into the camera and/or flash unit), and possible a reflector.    Because I don't have the money for all that, and haven't studied how to set it up, and practiced, I'm still an existing light photographer. 

I've been thinking about calling myself an available light photographer.  This came about at this club/bar/restaurant we were in the night before my daughter's wedding.  Between the need to photograph people in low light, and wanting as little noise as possible in the pictures I was momentarily in a quandary.  I started out by using that terrible on-camera flash.  I don't know why, wishful thinking I guess.  As you know, the pictures turned out awful.  I put on my thinking cap.

I remembered YouTube videos where the photographer used a flashlight to "paint" light where needed in night scenes.  "Andrea, turn on your flashlight app," I said. 

"My phone is dead," she answered.

I thought a bit more.  Then it came to me, my magnifyer light.  I dig out my magnifyer and turn it on.  I hold it in one hand and my camera in the other.  Now I'm able to angel the light so it makes their faces look pretty good for a club/bar/restaurant. 

Use substitutions in a pinch.  For the most part shoot in conditions your equipment can handle.  Be an available light photographer when you have to be; it's better than putting your camera away.  


Give this video a look 

"People like to take pictures, not have pictures." Constance Merritt

 Recently I had a unique experience at a wedding.  I may step on some toes but I've only calmed down a bit since the wedding.  I had offered to photograph my oldest daughter's wedding as my gift to her and her groom.  How hard could that be?......

My experience as a wedding guest or as the wedding photographer is both limited.  Maybe I should crash some weddings to see what happens at picture taking time.  Times do change, am I not with them? 

When my best friend Shirley got married in 2000 I offered to photograph her wedding.  She had planned a small church wedding but her friends showed up anyway to wish her well.  I wish I had some shots from back then to compaire with my current work.  The shoot was uneventful. 

In 2003 when my sister-in-law got married in her home church, wedding guested gathered behind the photographer in an effort to capture the same shot he was taking.*  He asked everyone to wait until after he had shot each pose, then he'd give them time to get the same pose with their cameras before he moved on to another pose or grouping.  This worked well, he got his shots without people firing off flashes at random times potentially ruining his exposures.  Guests interested in taking pictures heeded his instructions and nobody positioned themselves in front of his tripod on any plane to take a snapshot. 

My neighbor's daughter employed a different tactic at her wedding.  The ceremony and reception were held in a Victorian house converted for weddings and such.  I was the photographer for her wedding so I was aware of her plan.  All the guests were to wait in the dining room until the DJ called their family or group to come to the stairs to take pictures.  This worked well too.  Again, nobody got in front of my tripod's plane to snap off a picture.  Most of her guests stayed in the dining room as requested. 

My daughter's wedding was a photographer's nightmare.  As soon as she and her new husband emerged from the LDS Temple they were bombarded with well wishers wielding smartphones and possible a camera or two.  As soon as I got set up nothing changed.**  The location of my tripod made no difference to these wedding guests; they simply moved in front of me and kept snapping away.  I was told somebody would be taking the video.  If someone was taking video they were shooting in the midst of the smartphone mob.  I'm sorry to say I lost it when two people realized they didn't have any shots with the bride's mother and sister in them and offered to take them for me.  Maybe I should have lost it sooner because they finally backed off and I was able to get some pictures.  I have never seen anything like it and hope never to see anything like it again. 

I had come prepared and with high expectations.  My youngest Daughter was my second shooter.  She has less patience than I and got pictures of the guests huddled together with their phones and cameras snapping pictures. 

We don't mind if you take pictures at events; really we don't.  We do mind if you prevent us from getting pictures.  Stay behind the tripod and make sure the photographer isn't about to press the shutter if you're using a flash.

My daughter's wedding pictures can be seen at http://www.blindaseyelook.com/Clients/Weddings/Merritt-And-Gabriel

*You are not going to get the same shot the photographer gets.  You may be close but it won't be the same.  The photographer or his tripod is covering that spot.  Being a bit to the left or right, higher or lower will change the shot.  Other things determine the look of the shot as well; focal length of lens, exposure with it's permutations of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO; if indoors the white balance settings, post processing, etc.  

**We were a bit late setting up because we had the wrong address.