the Proto Photographer

Event photography for the rest of humanity

Amateur Photography

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[photo credit: Aaron Kaffen @]

Social situations, like parties, weddings, bars, have tremendous promise as fertile ground for interesting photography. Some people are interacting awkwardly, which, in and of itself, is interesting. Others are avoiding interaction awkwardly, even more interestingly. Beyond that, people are often drinking at these sorts of occasions, which generally amplifies the chance for interesting interactions.

But professional photographers will often look at these occasions and see a paying gig. It’s, after all, one of the few ways to make a decent living with a camera. There are a couple of basic issues that (usually) prevent these paying gigs from producing anything that we’d recognize as interesting.

First, a client will have expectations. A wedding photographer, for instance, is expected to get certain shots of the ceremony, the cake cutting, the first dance, etc. That won’t leave a lot of time to capture anything actually interesting, like the bride’s best friend sitting alone in the corner with a jealous glare on her face and a double shot of whisky.

Second, when someone is hired to photograph an event, they’re really being asked to capture images that give the *appearance* of a good time. This, generally, leads to photos that are pleasant. But rarely are they important or relatable to anyone who wasn’t a participant at the event.

The alternative is to view the next party/wedding/bar mitzvah you attend as an exercise in field photography. Seek out the party-goers that seem to be at their best or their worst, and try to capture it. This works best at events where you don’t know a lot of people, and there’s a modicum of tact required. So, if you’re the one throwing the party, it’s best not to be sneaking around with your Rolliflex trying to catch the guests passed out by the toilet.

Ultimately, this process is about taking pictures at events that would appeal to audiences who didn’t attend and who don’t know anyone who was there. It’s about capturing the reality of an event in a way that anyone could identify with, and in a way that complete strangers will find themselves drawn into.