People sometimes ask me why I love to photograph events like Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Some people are in this business strictly for the money, but I shoot these events because I feel privileged to be able to capture family history and I push myself to create something very special for them. Not only that, but I am invited to be a part of the family for the day. For a typical day, I am with the family from 9am until 11pm. We better have fun together! This past Saturday I became part of Sophie's family and I had a great time capturing images for them. As always, I tried some new photo techniques and looked for those key moments that defined them (not me).
We started taking photos at 9am. In order to separate the family from the background, I chose to use the Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens. The depth of field on this lens is amazing and allows me to have some fun. I also used a Canon 580EX II flash with a diffuser to add a little punch of light.
Sophie showed up in the morning and was ready for photos. She knew the routine, since I had photographed her for their signature board at their beach house months before.
As we started shooting images on Saturday morning, she and I looked at the back of the camera, and she said "I am so photogenic today" and she was!
Later that evening it was party time! They had the party at the Pacific Athletic Club in Redwood Shores, CA and the place was decked out! But before I shot images inside, I took Sophie outside to get some shots of her in front of these trees with lights on them. I knew that shooting the Sigma at an aperture of 1.4 would let me blur the background beautifully and keep her tack sharp. (Photographer's note: You might be wondering why I shot this image with Sophie so far to one side. I did this, thinking that this might make a nice cover shot for their album, or at very least, a good two-page spread. If you were to wrap this image, you would have Sophie on the cover with the lit tree on the back page - where you could inset another image. You should always think about your final product when shooting images at these types of events.)
There are certain "key shots" when shooting a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and this is one of those. I made sure to insert myself into the middle of the dancing to get this shot of Sophie being lifted in the chair. I love her reaction as she first gets lifted high. (Photographer's note: For this shot, I used the Canon 16-35mm wide angle lens at 16mm - aperture of f2.8. It is very important that you make sure to stand back a little. If you get too close to the subject, they will become too distorted and you will end up with some pretty hideous shots. The best shots are usually just as they first get lifted in the chair, since this is when they are most surprised.)
And then I quickly moved back onto the DJ's stage to get a high shot of the family dancing.
The DJ can make or break these types of parties, and Dan (from Denon and Doyle) is one of the best. He is great at getting people out on the dance floor, and I grabbed this shot of him working the crowd.
These two images (above and below) show mom having fun at the party. For these shots, I made sure to have the focus on her, but also shoot wide enough to include the crowd around her.
(Photographer's note: To draw a little more attention on mom, I lightened her face (and Sophie's) in Adobe Camera Raw. Remember that your viewer will be drawn to the lighter part of the image.)
My favorite part of shooting any event, is when something great happens that was not scripted. This shot shows one of those great moments. The DJ invited everyone to sit down for dinner and then put on one of Sophie's favorite songs. Without missing a beat, Sophie stopped in her tracks and started singing the song with her friends. I love this!
Speaking of "real moments", check out this shot of Sophie watching her photo montage. Do you think that you can recreate this moment? No way. This is the real thing. I knew that she had not seen the montage before, so I sat down on the floor near her, pre-focused on her eyes and waited for her moments of surprise. I was rewarded with this. (Photographer's note: While everyone in the room is watching the video montage, this is the best time for you to be taking images of mom, dad and the children. Because the room will be darker than usual, you should use a very fast lens and a diffused flash. I like to turn the flash down a bit, making sure not to over light my subject.)
Another great moment during the montage, as Sophie and her friend react to a funny picture.
If this photo does not make you laugh, something might be wrong with you. :) I saw these two putting on some props and getting ready to step into the photo booth. I set my camera to the proper settings, pulled the curtain back, and shot this. When going through the images at home the next day, my wife and daughter said that this was their favorite of all time. Too funny.
Towards the end of the evening, Sophie did a candle lighting celebration.
Of all the images of the day, I think that this is my favorite. Again, shooting this image wide open at f1.4, I was able to grab this image with no flash at all. I wanted to make sure to keep the mood from the candle light and not add any "artificial light" to the shot. I did lighten Sophie in ACR in post processing, but was able to maintain the great light that was surrounding her.
As the night wound down, there was time for one last slow dance. I saw that Sophie was dancing with this nice young man, so I ran over, hopped up on the DJ's riser, and asked them to look up at the camera. Another fun shot, and another memory for them forever.