zondag 16 augustus 2015

How to take photos at a fashion show, surviving the photographers pit

10 tips to get that stunning photo at a fashion show

1) Be On Time
It's all about planning. Make sure you are there way before the show starts and when you've found the perfect spot:

2) Mark Your Spot
Put your tripod there, or leave your bag, or mark it with tape and !!!!! write down your name with a lot of !!!!! to make sure others do not dare to take it.

3) Make Friends
Really, shouting at your fellow photographer doesn't really help you. Make sure you bond with a few of your colleagues, so you can e.g. take turns when you need to eat, pee or just stretch your legs.

4) Do Not Wear High Heels
I've seen the most fashionable lady photographers balancing on high heels in the pit, standing, sitting, even half lying down, and they all sighed: 'My feet are killing me!!' So better wear or bring an extra pair of sneakers.

5) Make Sure To Bring Extra Batteries, Body, Lens, Memory Cards
and keep these at your side. I know, a little obvious right? But when a photographer ran out of batteries during the show and walked off the platform ruining the film of the guy standing next to him, he didn't make friends.

6) Be Invisible
To me being polite and rather invisible got me more good photos than being a rude and emphatic photographer. Might depend a bit on which mood you're in.

7) Work Out
Yes, as in excercise. Taking photos of five shows at AFWL meant standing in the same spot for over 12 hours. Hardly any room to move your feet. I did a few on-the-spot lunges etc to keep the blood flowing, and after a few weary looks from my collegues they admitted they had sore backs, legs or worse, cramped hands from holding the camera all day and so much more. You're not alone in this!

8) Find Your Zen
Not joking. When you are in the same spot for a long time, with more waiting than action time, you need to be able to find your zen, to be mindful and happy as otherwise your photos will suck. If you are stressed, you'll use the wrong lighting, shutterspeed or other and you'll be even  more pissed. Om.

9) Know Your Gear
You don't have to be a professional photographer, but you must know the right camera settings to take your best photo. Which aperture suits your style? f 1,8 or f 5,6? Shutterspeed? Lens? My Canon colleagues were having more trouble finding the right white balance than me (Nikon D700). Always try to shoot in RAW. This way you can adjust the image perfectly afterwards.

10) The Right Moment
Last but not least, it's all about the right timing. Make sure to shoot the model's walking in her nicest way, with the best leg up front. Sometimes models walk fast, sometimes they don't even stop at the end of the runway. So make sure you get that photo, with the clothing visible in its most perfect way.
The right moment
f 1.8
When you take photos from the side, that one leg has to be in front

I am back in London, to visit the Africa Fashion Week 2015 at the Olympia in Hammersmith. Being a professional photographer for nearly 20 years, I am thrilled to work with these beautiful and inspiring people again. Never before I was here for the full two days so I am so happy to be here. This time I am intrigued by the photographers' pit, the podium where all the camera people are during the show. Shall I? Or shall I stick to my story and take slow journalism, backstage and other pictures?

When they call for the photographers to take their place, I decide to go for it and see how it works in the pit. I find a spot at the right and had to tell the photographers behind me, who were setting their tripods up on the podium, that I will not be sitting down but will be standing up while taking pictures. A lot of my colleagues in the front sat down and stayed there for the rest of the time. I felt tempted to do so too, but decided the best view would be standing up, as I don't want to take photos 'up the models' nostrils'.

To be in this buzzing, over-heated and over-crowded spot is so not me
There are five shows in two days, you think you can always decide to leave your spot and come back. So you think. Wrong. When I return after my first show and see there's no bag on the edge, nor tripod or any other marking I decide to take that spot on the platform. Boy was I wrong. At some moment there's a little guy with a monopod who eagerly approaches the podium and starts telling us 'That's my spot! That's my spot!' in a loud way. I am shocked about his furious way of doing, as there was no marking, no bag, no nothing in that spot.

Anyway, I stick to my spot but apparently we have to allow him to be there, so we all move a bit to let him be. "Man, be polite" I tell him and he again starts about this being his spot. Okay, okay, we get it. More photographers behind me agree with me he's just very rude, but I do not want to be too annoyed by it so I focus on the upcoming show.

We were waiting for more than one hour prior to each show. Also the photographers in the perfect centre spot almost weren't leaving at all, just to keep that position. Anything for a good photo right? I now know why they are so eager to do so, as from the photographer's pit it's the most perfect position to watch the show. A true dream spot.

It turned out to be an obsession to most photographers, how to get that perfect view, how to be in that perfect spot. I e.g. noticed the models were turning right mostly, so being at the left side of the platform would've been better to get perfect photos. I also noticed a lot of the sitting down photographers were all aching in the end, complaining about sore butts, and more, as being in one spot for over two hours is really hard, and remember: this times five! So yes, it truly is hard work.

But I am glad I did it, what an experience, being front row in the photographers' pit for the very first time...

and some photos of the pit:

Me in the middle

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