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I'm a professional photographer. I mostly photograph cars and the outdoors. Recently I was asked to take pictures at a one year old's birthday party. These things are not ideal but I've done them before so I accepted the gig.

I get there and it is not at all what I expected. Everyone is super fancy, they have a live band, blah blah blah...but the room had no lights (expect little table lamps). They also had a backdrop there that they hadn't mentioned to me before and expected me to take photos of guests on the backdrop.

I was taking pictures in a dark room with moving people and I'm using a Canon Rebel T3i. I swear I went through every setting on my camera to try to find the best one for this situation (I usually shoot in raw). It never really worked out for me.

So now I have a bunch of dark/blurry/yellowish photos and I'm having the hardest time making them look good.

Are there any tricks that you know of that could help me make these photos seem a little more professional?

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A great deal of what makes a professional photographer; professional - is that they are able to capture great images in a wide range of different scenarios (especially true of event photographers). Another factor is simply being prepared, which can come in the form of research being done on the venue, bringing the appropriate equipment, or setting expectations with the client before the shoot.

Unfortunately, I think you didn't approach this shoot with any of these things.

The sad truth is that it is unlikely that you can save blurry images, captured without the right equipment, and without the knowledge of what you and your kit are capable of. I'd swallow your pride, admit fault with the client - and learn from this unfortunate situation.

I'll add that I'm sorry if you take this unnecessarily harsh, but frankly anyone that posts on the internet "So, I'm a professional..." then follows up with what you shared - needs to hear this.

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First off...you use this word...(professional)...I do not think it means what you think it means...

All kidding aside, you need to try to save some images, if at all possible. For something that's as severely underexposed as I think your shots are, the best possible thing you can do is:

  • Crank the exposure in Lightroom
  • Up the shadows while trying to control the highlights
  • And then convert to black and white

Use some noise reduction but don't overdo it. There will be plenty of noise to go around and if you overdo it, the image will look less sharp and somewhat pasty. But, the conversion to b&w should help downplay it a bit.

Use sharpening sparingly. You end up sharpening the noise as well.

This will hopefully salvage a few photos...

Now, onto matters of professionalism. It sounds like you botched this job. In order to salvage things in the customer's eyes, you need to work with them to come to a solution. You may want to offer reimbursing them, offering to re-shoot, and just flat out give them any images you could recover.

This is a terribly hard thing to do.

The best thing to do is to swallow your pride, check your ego, admit your mistake, make amends with the client, and then move forward quickly.

You are not alone in having to do this. Every professional has been at this point before in their career.

I'm going out on a limb for the rest of this, but I think you will grow immensely from this experience. I think you could also learn more about:

  • How to do proper prep...what to ask before a shoot, how to plan for all scenarios, creating a gear list, setting customer expectations
  • How to shoot in dim event spaces, mixed lighting, white balance

Good luck, and keep shooting!

  • Careful, I got lambasted a few weeks ago for using that old Inigo Montoya quote in this answer. – Michael C Jan 28 '18 at 23:33
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    Now I'm just waiting for @AlaskaMan to come along and say, "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you took lackluster photos in a dim event space, prepare to post process." – Michael C Jan 28 '18 at 23:35
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I'll bite...while I agree that you should go into a situation being prepared for the worst scenario...and while there is probably little you can do about the pictures now, here are some general ideas to prevent this in the future...

  1. User a higher ISO, which allows you to increase your shutter speed.
  2. Use the widest aperture your lens will support, doing this will allow you to drop the ISO, and use a faster shutter speed
  3. Bring your own light. You were uncertain of the environment, and therefore wasn't sure what the lightening conditions where going to be. This could have easily been rectified by bringing your own light...You can get a decent set up to throw in your car for fairly cheap on Amazon.
  4. Ask to scout the location. While this isn't always an option, it certainly could have gone a long way in being prepared on party day.
    1. Make sure your expectations match your clients, then aim to go beyond.

Part of being a professional is being prepared, and there are simple things that can be done to be prepared.

Hope you use this as a learning experience and not a show stopper...we all have to start somewhere.

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    I can't even imagine shooting an event in a venue I've never been to without having at least one speedlight (and a backup) with me! – Michael C Jan 28 '18 at 19:33

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