TOP MOST USEFUL DSLR ACCESSORIES … for Social photography!
(Includes a heartfelt rant)
A mischievous guide by Antoine De Bent
Under this category I have included social photography events such as, weddings, family functions, and other outdoor stuff.
I have photographed well in excess of 1,000 weddings! That’s not including the numerous family groups and functions I have endured. Oh, what a whirlwind of stressful memories I have; oh, what a wealth of experience; regrets? Yes, I’ve have a few. Mistakes, neigh, cock-ups, thankfully … too few to mention, nevertheless enough to remember.
Social photography, especially, wedding photography, really is a unique ‘art-form’. Photography used to be based upon learnt skills, people management and a certain artistic innovation. A wedding photographer with a bridge camera? Gimmee a break!
Social photographers are now two a penny; using automatic cameras on automatic modes and then running for Photoshop. Before you attempt a big ‘event’ get a DSLR, learn the basic techniques before blundering ahead into the minefield.
Do not fall into the trap of trying to compensate your lack of experience by going for volume; hundreds, maybe thousands, of hit or miss photographs. A lesser number of quality shots will impress your clients much more than a pile of technically devoid, unimaginative ‘snaps’.
Seems to me that the ‘out of focus’ has become the new photographic art-form of ‘photographers’.
You can be as artistic as you like, but boy oh boy, you’re in big do-do’s if you’ve made the bride look miserable or worse still, set a tree growing out the top of her head.
Sorry, I touched my own nerve there.
Your most useful accessory is your knowledge!
A digital camera, an artistic eye and Photoshop, do not for wedding nor, social photographers make. It’s a business and skill that no college can teach; unless your tutor has ‘been there done that’.
So let’s assume that you live in the land of reality; you understand basic camera techniques and you are a ‘people person’ capable of directing and organising a bunch of aspiring drunks.
Be artistic by all means, but get the basic requirements, the boring difficult to organise shots, right first.
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Here, then, are some accessories and tips.
Reflectors come in many shapes, sizes and finishes; some are small enough to illuminate the side of a face, others the side of a bus. These lightweight shiny materials are used to reflect light into areas of shadow.
The set of reflectors pictured, by Neewer, show the range of surfaces. The usual combinations are restricted to gold and silver; gold will cast/reflect a much warmer coloured light than silver.
Why on earth would anyone use a black ‘reflector’? Now you have something to think about.
Reflectors can be, and often are, used in a studio environment, in place of a less harsh studio flashlight perhaps.
I always kept a medium sized circular reflector, gold and silver sided, in the boot of my car. In particular, I used it, the reflector not the car, when taking facial close-ups of the bride, just to, either, fill shadow or cast highlights onto the hair.
Now there you are! The simple reflector has proven its worth, you are beginning to elevate yourself from the realms of the ‘happy snapper’ into the embrace of professionalism.
You can now start thinking about putting your prices up!
By the by, the twisted reflector, by massG, is typical of the one I used; oh what fun my glorious assistant had trying to twist it back into its compact carrying bag![amazon bestseller=”massg reflector” count=”5″]
Some jobs are just too big or too important to take on alone. An assistant is really a no brainer; although my assistant, Viv, thought that the term ‘lackey’ was a more appropriate title. She definitely had attitude.
In all fairness, Viv was extremely good at fetching my tripod, adjusting the bride’s dress, organising groups and going to the bar to oink out the best man.
She, however, was not so good at returning from the bar.
Point being, a reassuring helping hand relieves some of the pressures involved in the melee of the well organised chaotic scrum of random interactive psychotics.
A good assistant can do all the ‘people’ bits and thereby, to some degree, compensate for a technically proficient and artistic photographer who can’t tolerate people!
Although classifying an ‘assistant’ as an accessory is, I would say, treading on very thin ice. So let’s just keep this between ourselves.
I have a love hate relationship with tripods; they are generally pretty big, cumbersome items … how come then, I’ve lost so many! Left in churches, pubs and town halls; who has them all?
Anyway, the illusive tripod is an essential accessory for anyone who knows how to use a DSLR.
The illustration is of a Vanguard tripod, they’re a good make, much sought after …I’ve lost loads of them. The example I’ve chosen is probably a bit weedy for most photographers; fair enough, Vanguard do more substantial pods, however bear in mind portability, especially if you’re constantly on the move.
Vanguard are not the only makers of tripods, check out the whole wonderful range of options.
The photo of the bride and doomed being blessed, is a classic tripod shot. No flashing allowed during the ceremony, so I’ve attached the camera to my trusty tripod. The photo was taken using slow shutter speeds and, fingers crossed that the groom doesn’t suddenly make a dash for the exit; because, with a slow shutter speed all movement becomes blurred. You knew that.
As a final note, a heavier, more substantial tripod will give greater stability and lessen the risk of ‘camera shake’. Tripods, it’s really down to the trade-off between portability and stability. Personally, I preferred portability and a gentle touch. Nuff said.
CONFETTI and other projectiles
At a wedding, sometimes guests chuck rice over the bride and groom. Hey, it’s traditional and cheap; but not very colourful. From a photographer’s perspective colour, in an event with black suits and a white dress, is a godsend elevation from the monochrome.
Take a packet, or two, of confetti with you. Even if the guests are well armed with an abundance of the stuff, it’ll be sods law that the vicar wants ‘a quick word’, whilst the bride and groom are being drenched in a colourful confetti photographic moment.
Armed with your own packets of paper rainbow remnants, you can relive the moment; in fact choreograph the whole thing. Welcome to Show Biz friends!
The confetti assortment illustrated, from the Truly Madly Deeply Company, great name, is composed of ‘natural biodegradable mixed colour delphinium Petals’; so they’re not all made of paper!
Biodegradable is the key word here; many vicars, ministers, wizards etc. quite rightly, go ape if you dare to litter their religious grounds with confetti, biodegradable or not! Listen to God’s representatives, do as you are told, and throw the confetti in the designated area.
Do not upset the Boss.
The confetti shot is not one to be missed. So don’t miss it! If you do miss ‘the throwing’, whether it be a variation on the theme, say; rose petals, streamers, party poppers, gravel, stones and even small animals. At least you’ll be prepared, with your own confetti supply, to restage the whole thing.
Be alert, get to the front, don’t be bullied out of position, and be prepared for a fist fight! Choreograph and shoot after your count of 1, 2 … 3. Let’s hope that your luck and camera techniques are up to producing a really great shot!
OK, next is, in my view, the most intrusive ‘accessory’ of all time; and yet it can be very effective if used sparingly:
OMG! No idea what that means, my adult children keep using it in reply to my texts; hey! Makes me feel down with the kids … no idea what that means either.
The megaphone is a great way to draw the attention of a shambolic maddening crowd; and usually, I must confess, the megaphone is an asset at large social events.
The megaphone shown, is a good one, as loud as my mother-in-law but with the benefit of an off switch! A very good and effective product from Shop Sports & Outdoors Deals.
However, as a muddled dunderhead, I found that the megaphone was just another encumbrance, something else to put down and loose. Furthermore, my megaphone was a, great fun, plastic toy-type version, it got stuck on the ‘Micky Mouse’ mode; funny but bloody irritating.
The megaphone, not for an ill-disciplined such as myself, but a useful ‘heads up’ for others. Recommended with reservations… what do you think, Pluto?
The flashgun, not so much an accessory more an essential. Many DSLR’s have their own built in flashes, and, quite honestly these little fellows will cope with most situations.
However, there will be times when you’ll appreciate more ZAP! And greater flexibility. Flashguns are available to fit and communicate with your particular make and model of DSLR.
The Neewer NW-561 Speedlite Flash, pictured, is an example of this; it can be purchased to fit either Canon or Nikon models, retaining all the dedicated features that enable the camera and flashgun to chat to one another. Very clever and well established, technology.
First piece of advice, always buy a gun with a rotating, tilting head; the ability to ‘angle’ the head opens up some great, inventive, lighting opportunities.
Simple flash techniques really can improve your photography; bouncing the flash off a ceiling will diffuse the light as it floods over your subject; firing flash outdoors to clear shadows is another extremely effective technique.
Flash will also add a twinkle to the eyes, even on a bright sunny day. The shot opposite was taken on a sunny day for sure, note the clarity in the eyes and … was a reflector used to light the side of the young lady’s face? I can’t honestly remember.
There are many flash techniques for the photographer to explore, a whole topic of delights for further articles and greater discussion. In the meantime, suffice to say, an independent flashgun can be a real asset.
Most flashguns fir on the hot shoe of the camera, however there are options to move the flash to one side by attaching to a flash bar, such as the superb Metz below. There are advantages in this arrangement, one being that the gun can usually be swiftly released from the bar to be hand-held.
There are certain pitfalls to be aware of when using flash, the biggest problem is intrusive shadow that a flash can leave behind your subject. This is where technique and practice come in to play. More on that, perhaps, at a later date. OK, let’s get back to reality, imagine, you have, perhaps unwisely, volunteered to photograph that obscenely large family group; the venue chosen for this important family occasion is the grounds of The Regent Hotel overlooking spectacular and beautiful untouched countryside; a truly magnificent backdrop!
What could possibly go wrong?
Well of course, the photographer’s nemesis, rain is what could go wrong; yes, surprise, surprise, it’s raining … in fact it’s howling. Plan B, (not a dietary supplement nor rapper), comes into force, the function room is cleared and it’s all yours!
Now you can bless the day you bought that extra powerful flashgun. A tricky photo to organise and take at the best of times … impossible to complete, any time, without the help of a trusty gun with some ‘grunt’ factor.
Sometimes you just can’t do much with the backdrop, it is what it is so work with it … or Photoshop it.
The message is clear, get a decent flashgun! Learn new techniques, elevate your photographic status.[amazon bestseller=”flashgun” count=”5″]
The humble umbrella serves one extremely important service; it keeps me and my camera dry! If there are umbrellas in any of my photos then rest assured there’s one also held over me.
Make the best of a gloomy rainy day, use flash to sparkle the light, use umbrellas to stay dry and improvises! Use umbrellas to add a little bit of colour to the occasion.
The photo opposite has an umbrella in it, can you spot it? Yes, of course you’re right, it’s being held by the man, who is incidentally, getting wet. Unlike the photographer.
Obviously, a pretty mediocre photographic effort were it not for the assistance of Photoshop.
Buy yourself a colourful umbrella! It really does provide a decent backdrop in adverse conditions.
What’s more it’ll protect you and your precious equipment from the elements; albeit only for a limited time, don’t get too clever in the rain, water is very wet, it will mess with your hair gel and knacker your camera in no time!
Well, that’s it with the accessory thing; although clinically approved sedatives and sledge hammers came very close to making the list.
So, just one final tip … always be critical of your own work. Don’t fall into the ego-trap of delusion; people want to see themselves with their family and friends.
Social photography is not all about you!
Photographs provide that important record of a moment in time. Don’t over-complicate simplicity! Yes, everyone wants ‘nice’ photos, but be careful, what the public wants is a record, they’ll see through that veneer of the bullshit you may call, art.
Second rant over!