Event Photography – The Gear

21 03 2011

A few weeks back I had the privilege of covering a large event once again (I think this is the 2nd or 3rd year now) in Pittsburgh as an event photographer.  The event, History Uncorked, at the Heinz History Center is one of the largest events in the region and a blast to photograph.  So I thought it would be timely to share some insights into event photography from my perspective.

Many event photos at a social event include small groups of friends at the event having a good time. A wide angle zoom lens is a good flexible option.

Let’s start the conversation with gear…  After doing several events both big and small, I have learned a few things about the gear that is best for me.  I am sure that there are other tools of the trade that would be good to have, but this has worked for me.  The other key of course is that you have to find what works best for you.  Some people like to have several lenses available at all times.  Some prefer a vest.  Some a small bag.  Some a belt system.  There are endless possibilities for how to carry your gear and what gear to carry.  And I would love to hear from some of you about what you use and like best.

The key I think is traveling light but having what you need.  So for me, this typically means:

  • dSLR camera body (or two).  Two definitely makes life a little easier.
  • Wide angle lens.  I personally use the Pentax DA* 16-50mm f/2.8 lens.  Light enough to carry around throughout an event and yet the highest quality glass available by Pentax.  I also like the constant aperture and fast f/2.8 for the most flexibility.  Since group sizes will also vary in size and what I am trying to capture will vary, I like using a zoom lens over a prime as well.
  • Telephoto lens.  This really is optional depending on the event I am covering.  In the case of a major event in a larger venue, I will typically have the 16-50mm on one lens and a longer lens on a second body for quick shooting.
  • Other lenses.  This is typically based on the individual event.  Outdoor sporting event like the Ben Roethlisberger youth football camp I covered in the past, meant a 100-300m f/4 lens.  I also rented a fisheye lens to give some unique perspective on this fun event.  Low light events and you might want an f/1.4 lens.  Perhaps a super wide like the Sigma 10-20mm would be nice perspective.

    Capturing the scale of the event and the fun people are having makes for good promo photos for the organization.

  • Bounce Flash.  Pretty much a “must have” for the majority of events either as a main light in low lit situations or for fill for an outdoor event.  In most cases, I am using the flash on the camera’s hot shoe.  But there are a wide variety of options for shooting off access or off camera whether that is a bracket, hand holding the flash, or a small portable light stand.  Some events of course it might make even more sense to setup flashes in the venue and fire them remotely with wireless triggers.  For the events I have covered to date, I am typically “running and gunning” so on camera is my best option.
  • Flash accessories.  While not necessary, I have found that it is nice to have a few options for diffusing the light coming from the flash.  On many occasions this is as simple as a Stofen diffuser.  There are literally hundreds of makers of these products and it might take some trial and error as to what is best for you.  My personal favorite for events right now is the Demb Flash Diffuser Classic.  In essence a large white bounce card to reflect the light off of and onto the subject.  I like that it is portable, doesn’t take up a lot of room in the bag, and is light weight and still gives consistent results especially when photographing a small group of people at an event.
  • Memory cards.  I tend to bring more than necessary but never know when you will need more.  I think on average I have 20 gigabyte or so of memory on me pretty much all of the time.  These are predominately Sandisk 4 gb Extreme III cards for pretty fast writing speeds.  I don’t personally like any larger than 4 gb in order to spread out the shots from an event.  But that still typically means a capacity of 250-300 jpg images at highest resolution on my 14.6 mp Pentax K-7.

There is always more gear and other options for event shooting, but I hope these insights were beneficial.  So what is in your event kit?  Feel free to post a response to share with others!

Sometimes Less Is More

17 02 2011

Yeah…yeah…I know.  Been forever since I posted on here.  Just have had little to no motivation to sit and write as of late.  But a few new posts in the works coming soon.  Actually the next couple of posts will be some insights on event photography as I will be covering the annual History Uncorked event at the Heinz History Center once again this year.

For this post though I thought I would share a recent experience from a photo shoot.  Perhaps you would call it a startling revelation…but probably more accurately would be a “well duh!” moment.  I am doing a photo shoot in the studio that I have access to with a young model in vintage wardrobe.  I have a vision for a shot next to a window with her vintage-looking gloves against the glass and using the nice white vintage looking walls with wood slats as a nice compliment.  Model is in position.  Lighting is set up (Alien Bee 800…my go to lighting in studio).  And BLAH!  Lighting looks flat and bright and terrible.  Everything is looking like…well…like it is lit with a big powerful flash.  No moodiness.  No drama.  Nothing special about the photo.

No problem, shoot it through a big piece of translucent paper that is hanging there from a past shoot.  BLAH!  Feather the light.  BLAH!  Shoot through a soft box.  BLAH!  Change the angle.  BLAH BLAH!  Nothing is working.  I am getting frustrated.  Model probably impatient.  Deep breath.  Walk around.  Clear the mind.  Think.  And then a small voice in the back of my head whispers these words of wisdon, “sometimes less is more!”  Turn off the light, set to aperture priority, just use the natural light streaming through the window.  BINGO!!  Here’s the results (click on a photo to see more photos from this shoot).

Review: Pentax DA* 60-250mm f/4

21 12 2010

Thought I would share some insights on a really great Pentax lens.  The Pentax DA* 60-250mm f/4 is part of the high-end series of professional lenses that Pentax has available.  I rented this lens as I was looking for a longer option that had better quality and a set aperture.  There are not many options on the Pentax mount at the longer lengths.  I currently own a Sigma 70-300mm which is compact but rather slow and the image quality is not that great.  I previously owned a Sigma 100-300mm f/4 for a short period of time and REALLY wish that I had not sold it now as it is discontinued and hard to find.

So it is with all of this, that I decided to rent the DA* 60-250mm.  Now where and what to shoot in the brief period of time that I had the lens available to me.  The answers?  A college baseball game and the Pittsburgh Zoo.  And then I rented the lens a second time just a few weeks back for a trip to Tampa where I knew I would need flexibility, but also some reach for bird and candid people shots.  All of the photos in this post are with this lens.  Click any photos to see more photos from these sets.  But for some quick pros and cons…

Pros of the Lens

Great size. Actually smaller than I initially thought it would be making it not all that hard to carry all day and easy to hand hold.

Great build quality. I would expect nothing less from one of the Pentax DA* lenses and definitely not from a lens that retails for around $1,100

Constant f/4 aperture. I really am addicted to having a set aperture on the higher end lenses and an f/4 or f/2.8 is basically a requirement now.  And the f/4 is still fast enough if you crank up the ISO a bit more or in good lighting to capture fast action.

Nice range. It’s nice that this lens could partner up very nicely with the Pentax DA 16-45mm or the Pentax DA* 16-50mm and yet give enough reach for the majority of shooting situations.

Cons of the Lens

Cost. Did I mention that this lens was $1,100?  So it is not for those with tight wallets but still considerable less than lenses from other brands.

Lens Creep. The lens creeps when it is carried over your shoulder.  Kind of annoying.  Would be nice if they had a lock on the lens like some of the Sigma lenses have.

Range Duplication. For me at least, this lens already covers a lot of the same range as one of my favorite lenses the Pentax DA* 50-135mm f/2.8.  So although it is tempting to purchase this lens, there would be a lot of overlap.

Check it out or rent the lens from Camera Lens Rentals to give it a go yourself.

Photos of the Week: Fun!

5 12 2010

Yeah yeah…I know…it has been awhile.  Not the first time and surely not the last!  HAHA!  But a burst of creative energy so riding the wave while it lasts!  Thought I would share a few photos from a GREAT recent shoot I did.  Well I have had a lot of great photo shoots of late and they are all great in their own unique way, but these were super fun.  Great makeup artist and GREAT, fun, new model that brought a lot of energy to the shoot.  She was also a real trooper because it was FREEZING cold in the studio for the shoot.  Make sure to check out more of Stephanie Campbell’s makeup artistry as well as the modeling skills of Melissa Pagani.  As always, you can also see more photos from these shoots on my Facebook fan page.

Interview: Angie Fec

6 10 2010

I thought this was a great time to share this interview having just concluded the first annual Pittsburgh Fashion Week this past week.  You can see some of my photos from Fashion Week (and many more to come) on my 412foto Facebook page.  Check out the wrap up article on this event and great photos from the photographers at the Tribune Review.

Many of you already know and love her, but perhaps some have never heard of the talented Angie Fec.  Angie and her company Sew Addicted are well known in the Pittsburgh area gracing runway shows across the region or being used in countless photo shoots (including a few of mine!).  So I thought you would all enjoy learning more about the woman behind the fashions.  Sew read on and tell 10 friends about this interview and the latest updates via my 412foto Facebook page.


Angie in front of the camera for a photo shoot at a local pinball company. Photo by 412foto.


So let’s start off with the basics…. How old? Where did you grow up? Schooling? What part of the region are you in now?

26, Allison Park, Hampton School District, now I live in shaler, very close to the city tho!

So you are the owner and designer of the local clothing/fashion line called Sew Addicted…how did that all start for you?

I always knew I wanted to do something in fashion, so I went to school for the business end of it, began creating and POW! taught myself to sew basically, and had some people just keep telling me over and over “you have something special” sew I went for it :)

Have you always had a passion for fashion and design?

for fashion YES…. design… I didn’t remember til recently, but I always used to make dresses for my beanie babies and barbies out of fancy socks and stuff! hahahah


Angie's fashion as modeled by Abbie. Photo by 412foto


Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?

Really from the fabric! I see a certain fabric and automatically know what I want to do with it :) I am backwards, I dont plan something then look for the material.

Any clue how many unique items you have made to date?

couldnt even count! hundreds easily :)

How who you describe Pittsburgh when it comes to fashion? Are we a hidden gem? Slow to adopt new trends? Unique in some respect?

Pittsburgh I would say is on it’s way…slowly but surely. Definately behind but becoming more and more open to dressing OUTSIDE OF THE BOX. I don’t see a whole lot of unique dressers, but there are some VERY unique designers :)

Are there a lot of independent designers in the region or is Sew Addicted a rarity in these parts?

There are a decent amount for sure, who are VERY talented, But I am proud to say I am probably one of the most known right now just because I MAKE myself known haha. I probably blast myself and my work out in people’s faces a bit more than most

As many from the area already know, your fashions are highlighted in runway shows throughout Pittsburgh at various venues. How many such events do you do per year or month? What was your biggest event to date (give me some details like when it was, where, how many models, MUAs, etc)?

I have done close to 50 fashion shows to date. I have slowed down on shows recently, just accepting bigger shows, benefits, or ones that I do annually due to the wear and tear on the clothing basically, and have focused more on photoshoots recently being more beneficial :) My biggest show would be my 2nd lingerie show at Altar on February 9th 2008! There were over 500 people for my SEW SEDUCTIVE SOIREE… I had hair designs by Mane Attractions and several independent makeup artists. There were about 25 models, most wearing 2 outfits a PIECE! It went fantastic :)

You obviously have worked with a wide variety of makeup artists, models, and photographers in the region. Any tips for these folks on how to work with independent designers such as yourself or just tips/insights into the industry as a whole?

DON’T BE A DIVA! A lot of people in this industry tend to let things go to their heads. We should all be in this together. We are on our RISE in Pittsburgh Fashion, and by people being catty or snobby they are only hurting themselves :) There are a lot of talented people, and being competitive is OK, but some people take competition a little bit too far.

I am a photographer and one of the challenges I often face is being limited by the wardrobe that a model has in her closet to work with on a shoot. How would I best approach a local designer or boutique and work out an arrangement that is mutually beneficial?

Obviously a quality model, with proof of a good portfolio by both the model and the photographer :) and VERY important A CREATIVE CONCEPT  If I know I am going to get some photos that will help my portfolio out, and it is a really cool idea, then I am totally game!

You are also working at Altar Bar as their Marketing Director. From what I recall, you have really put Altar Bar on the map in the region with all of the events and performances there. Tell me a little more about the work you do there.

Yes, I have been there for about 2 1/2 years. Starting out was quite a struggle. I got my job there b/c of my fashion shows I had been holding there. They stuck with me, I taught myself a lot of stuff and worked with some great people. We finally pretty much got it down, and Altar Bar is VERY successful now! I deal with most of the advertising, all of the private parties, website updating, public relations and all of that fun stuff! I am not responsible for the majority of the bands scheduled, but I do work hand in hand on promoting most of these shows.

Has working at a popular night club been of assistance in your pursuit of being a fashion designer?

Yes it most certainly has. The job and my label go hand in hand a lot~! I use the place of course for fashion shows, and because of my line and job, usually when someone is looking into having a show they choose Altar! I will auction off some of my goods at several benefits as well. And have designed some items for Altar Bar.

Many of the events at Altar or even your own fashion shows have had connections to charities in the region. Tell me a little more about your charitable connections/outreach.

I have dealt with several non profit organizations and such. Every year I have a SEW PINK party, which benefits Breast Cancer. I have worked with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Glimmer of Hope(several times), Keep A Breast, as well as Cystic Fibrosis(several times), two different private Battered women and children centers, Children’s Hospital, the Lemieux Foundation and more! For all of these I have done fashion shows and donated items for auctions.


Renee modeling Sew Addicted fashions. Photo by 412foto


I saved one of the more exciting developments for last. I know you are in the process of launching a new store to showcase your fashions. Tell me more about this venture.

YES! :) Finally… Now THIS is really my lifelong goal. I have known for years upon years that I wanted to have my own boutique, and it is VERY close to coming to life! Details are pretty much set, but I cannot release all details til confirmed! Let’s just say it will not be your average small boutique. There will be a very unique feel to the place and concept! It will be more of a place to come and enjoy rather than just walk in shop and leave! Hoping to have info confirmed soon!!!!!!!!!! BUT I DO PROMISE there will be a HUGE party when it happens!

I know that you like to travel and you have been doing a decent amount of it over the last year or so. If you could have Sew Addicted fashions featured in a photo shoot anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I do as much as I can although my job keeps me from it quite a bit! But I have tried my best! Honestly, I LOVE japanese fashion!! They have such amazing city lights! Would love an urban shoot in the middle of tokyo!

If you could pick any actress, music artist, or celebrity in general to model your fashions on the runway or to a big event, who would you pick?

definately Rihanna or Lady Gaga!!! HANDS DOWN NO QUESTION they both have the best taste, are very unique~!

To stay up to date on the latest happenings with Angie and Sew Addicted check out Angie’s Facebook page or her Sew Addicted Page. You can also heck out additional photos and an article on Angie in the Fall 2010 issue of Pittsburgh Fashion Magazine.

Photographer Appreciation

28 09 2010

Since my last post was regarding what it takes to be a model, I thought this post originally from Winnie, a model from Singapore, on a Model Mayhem forum would be perfectly paired with that post.  I am sure that other photographers have felt unappreciated at times or that people don’t fully understand all it takes to do a photo shoot.  But instead of a photographer (in this case me) getting on here and sounding like I am whining and complaining, I thought it would be cool to hear it directly from a model.  So here are Winnie’s thank you to photographers.  Enjoy!

There has been a really great thread going on about showing appreciation for models and what they go through, so I want to take this chance to do the same for photographers.

Photographers make a significant investment in their equipment. This guy just takes it to the extreme. Photo by Nathan Rupert.

1)  Thank you for taking the time to take up photography classes, start off as being lighting assistants and lugging other people’s equipment to learn about lighting, directing and composition. Those who are self taught, more kudos to you to you for taking the extra effort and time to study online manuals, asking questions and getting new models to test with you.

2)  Thank you for taking the time to learn this stupid and ridiculously difficult programme called Photoshop to help models look better, be it burn dodge heal, liquify, lighting, cloning and definitely helping us look better when we have an unexpected pimple or rash. Not to mention the amount of time you spend editing after each shoot. For models, we go home after a shoot and we can rest and wait for images, for you guys, the shoot is only half done.

3)  Thank you for taking the patience to coach us and making little jokes to help us relax when we are nervous on set, and taking the effort to make models feel as comfortable and confident as they can.

4)  Thank you for having to deal with flakes, escort problems, whine and still move on and not give up totally on models, and photography.

5)  Thank you for climbing stairs and ladders and trees and squeezing into funny positions to capture the best angles of us ever, perspiring and tiring yourself out after the shoot and going home to a grumpy wife/girlfriend/boyfriend.

6)  Thank you for spending about half of your hard earned cash you earn at your day job to puchase camera and lighting equipment, and using more of your money you could have bought yourself a new car or Rolex to maintain your equipment every now and then to be able to carry on with your profession, which in turns allow us to maintain our profession.

7)  Thank you to the newer photographers for having the courage to approach models for TFP and having your ego slammed when they do not respond to you.

8)  Thank you for not looking down on us. (Most of us anyway).

9)  Thank you for taking the time to research on concepts, recce locations where you could be having your day off going fishing or spending time with your SO or getting hammered with your buddies.

10)  Thank you for spending the extra money to engage and negotiate rates with stylists, muas and agency bookers so we can all have nice images to print for our book.

11)  Thank you for taking the extra time aside from photography to spend time in the forums to give newbies advice.

12)  For photographers who shoot film, thank you for spending the extra money to develop them when you can shoot digital and get a cheaper result, especially when film is so fucking ridiculously expensive.

13)  Thank you for for having to be the bad guy and reject us because our look don’t fit your project, your concept, but deep inside your heart you can’t find the heart to tell us that outrightly because we are so earnest when we respond to your casting or when we message you. You try to act like a jerk, but you feel uneasy about it. It’s okay. we understand

Can You Be a Model?

24 09 2010

I saw this posted a little while back on Benjamin Kanarek’s Blog and I thought I would share it with all of you.  It was a repost of a message from photographer John Fisher from Miami, FL.  John has been a commercial photographer for over twenty years, specializing in fashion and commercial advertising.  Over the years his clients have included General Electric, Hyatt and Sheraton Hotels, Inner Harbor, Atlantic Coast Cotton, CBS Sportsline, Playboy, as well as Bisou-Bisou, Red Chic, Yuka/Paris, InGear Sportswear, DJ Resort Wear, Venus Swimwear and many others.  He has also worked with some of the top fashion agencies in New York and Miami, having placed models who have worked for such agencies as IMG, Elite, Ford, and Wilhelmina.

So the question that is posed to him often, and that many of you may have asked a photographer or yourself…  Can I be a model??  John’s response…

From one of my photo shoots with Abbie. Click photo to see more photos.

I’ve seen them come, and I’ve seen them go (but God, in her infinite wisdom, makes more!)  I actually get asked that question frequently, in fact I invite it. The people I invite to ask the question for the most part could model. The real question (for these people) is rarely “can I model?”, but rather, “will you model?”

Will you go to a place where you don’t know anybody, set up camp, be responsible for yourself (at an age where most American girls are hoping to get invited on their first date), and commit yourself to the life?

Will you go to ten castings in a row where you stand in line with 20 or 30 other girls who look a lot like you (and you have never in your life seen anyone else who was your age, 5’10, thin, and actually pretty)……. And not get picked? And then go to the eleventh casting with the same sense of excitement and joy that you went to the first casting?

Will you give the industry your undivided attention for the two years it will take to get you fully developed? Will the industry be your boyfriend/girlfriend? Will you not go home except for Christmas, and book round trip because you know you have to be back on the 2nd of January? And actually come back, on the 2nd? Will you on your own change planes in Abu Dhabi on your way to Shanghai? Live with 5 other girls you don’t know in a model’s apartment in Milan with one bedroom and one bathroom?

Will everything about fashion be endlessly fascinating to you? Will you learn a basic walk in high heels and do it over and over and over, until that’s the way you walk? Do you accept that every guy want’s to date a model, they just don’t want the girl to actually model? That no boyfriend is “supportive”? That your friends back in Lake Wobegone will say you are stuck up, think you are better than they are, that you’ve “changed”, and ignore them?

Will you watch your diet, accept the fact that your body is going to play a dirty trick on you as you get older? You used to be able to eat anything and everything, and unless you learn not to, you will fight a losing battle after seventeen or eighteen. Can you accept that you must stay out of the nice car, even when it’s raining and the car appears warm and dry? You have a chance to have your own car, not now, but soon. That nice car that you get to ride in? It belongs to someone else, and there will be another girl in the nice house, driving the nice car, and wearing the nice clothes in six months, a year, or if your lucky, two years. And you will have lost your opportunity to be a model, to have your own car, house and clothes. You can not buy back the time you lose in the beginning.

I can tell if you can be a model. I can not tell if you will be a model. I can see your face and body, I can not measure your heart. You will not try this business, the business will try you, and most will be found wanting.

Strangely, models have it easy. They do have access to managers and agents (in fact they must have them). And it happens quickly for them (two years? Humph, I can do that standing on my head!). But everything I’ve said can be said of those who want to be fashion photographers, and it’s harder, much harder, and takes longer.

That it is hard is what makes it great, if it was easy, everyone would do it! (And no one would pay to watch!)

Hope you enjoyed this and that you found it helpful!!  I will be posting some insights on being a photographer from the view of a model on Monday.  Valuable insight for both models and photographers.


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