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by Aditya

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It happens now and then when I'm invited to an event, like a boat cruise, a visit to zoo or a party. Since I like photography and am in the middle of a photo-a-day project, I usually take my DSLR bag with me. However, I've noticed that keeping an eye out for interesting scenes, fumbling around with accessories and settings and generally carrying the damn thing is keeping me from fully enjoying the event. The problem is accentuated when I'm at the event with family members, because then I have to divide my time between camera and them and feel like getting "in the flow" with neither.

So, I've tried to divide the events in half, usually spending first half with camera and second half without. It has been kind of working - now I'm spending half the event as a photographer and half as a late-arriving guest (who will miss all photo opportunities).

Since I have another event coming up soon, I was wondering if anyone has figured out an alternative strategy for handling such double-duty events?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

My tip would be to bring as little equipment as possible. No extra lenses, filters or other stuff that takes time to use.

By limiting the equipment you also limit the types of pictures that you can take. Some situations simply can't be a good picture, and some sitations take a lot of time and effort to catch. With a limited equipment you can take the pictures that work well with what you have, and just leave the rest be. That makes it easier to balance the photography and the leisure.

I bought a smaller camera bag for daily use, that only fits the camera and its lens, a spare battery and an extra memory card. That way I can carry it whenever I like, and still cover most situations that I want to photograph.

When you are participating in an event yourself, some of the time you just can't also be photographing. For example when I have been documenting a play that I was in, when I was on stage acting I could naturally not also be photographing. (Especially as it was a historical play, so cameras would not be invented yet for 800 years...)

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+1 for the smaller camera bag, which also helps with the "carrying the damn thing" part as @Imre says... –  Francesco Sep 8 '11 at 19:33

As someone who is a professional event photographer who also enjoys attending and participating in events, you're not going to like my answer: you really need to choose whether you are part of the event or documenting the event.

If you're involved and engaged with friends and family, that's where your attention is going to lie. If your goal is a set of photos that reflect all that is going on and a good portion of the attendees, then by definition you'll need to "be everywhere" and move around to capture a lot of different scenes and people.

The exception to this is where your photography is part of the event, such as a photo booth or such. In that case you're both working and engaging, but you're still going to be focused on the photography which means that if there's something fun going on in another part of the room, you can't be part of that.

It sounds like you're doing this as a hobby and not as a paid event photographer, so these are simply suggestions. If you're getting paid (or otherwise being expected) to cover the event, the line is even clearer: you're not being paid to socialize, you're being paid to photograph.

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I totally agree. I've discovered that I can either photograph the event properly and not really participate or I can socialize, relax and enjoy myself and only do a cursory job of photographing it. I used to do the former, now I do the latter. –  Matt Grum Sep 3 '11 at 20:39
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+1 "you really need to choose whether you are part of the event or documenting the event." Countless times I've been in the middle of this. –  Benny Jun 7 '12 at 9:42

As an amateur dancer and photographer, I quite often both participate and take photos at dance (Lindy Hop) events.

When indoors, it is quite easy:

  • If I can, I leave my flash on a stand, somewhere it can light a wall/ceiling and provide a nice indirect light
  • I take pictures for a few tunes
  • I put down the camera in an easily visible place (e.g. near the musicians, or near the DJ), then invite someone and start dancing
  • alternatively, I drop the camera when someone invites me to dance
  • after a few dances, I get tired (Lindy Hop can be physically demanding), then I take the camera again and continue taking pictures
  • once I got the needed rest, I start dancing again, and so on.

The need to get some rest and the urge to dance provide the natural way of balancing both activities.

Outdoors it's more tricky. I cannot dance while carrying the camera, and it's hard to find a safe place to leave it. Sometimes I just ask some friend to hold the camera for me, just for a couple of tunes. He may try to use the camera to take pictures of me, it's OK.

As an example, here is what I took at the last event I attended: http://edgar.bonet.free.fr/2011/cologne/

Last but not least: once back at home, I share the pictures with the other participants over the Internet and provide the link on Facebook (posting on the event's page). Dancers enjoy getting nice pictures of their dances, so it's a way to build a relationship with the community. This ensures I am always welcome to take pictures.

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