Last week, I was guest at a Christmas party. My husband’s office Christmas party. People came all dressed up in their finest, and I had volunteered to take pictures of everyone in their nice outfits, in front of the Christmas tree in the lounge.
I came early to set up. I brought my two lightstands, my Photek Softlighters and two flashes. I move a table around to create enough room for me to work. I set up the umbrellas and lights. I set my camera on the tripod. A waiter comes over to look at my camera.
“Looks expensive!” he says. “What camera is that?” “Oh,” I say, taking a step closer to the tripod, “it’s a… “, when suddenly, the camera falls of the tripod. OMG! We both gasp. My heart skips a few beats. I pick up the camera and it doesn’t look damaged. But it won’t turn on. “Is it broken?” asks the waiter, and I mumble “No, no, it can take a spill like that. It’s carpet!”, begging God under my breath to please not make me a lier, but it still won’t turn on. I open up the battery compartment, take out the battery, reinsert it, turn it on again, and finally, it works.
“It’s fine,” I tell the waiter, but I don’t really know if that’s the truth.
At this point I am bathed in sweat. The first people are arriving and wander over where I am fiddling with my camera. “Can we have our pictures taken?” someone asks. “Just a moment, I’m just finishing to set up,” I answer, and rummage in my bag for my wireless flash trigger. Where the hell is the trigger? OMG, were is the trigger…??? And then I remember. Oh yeah. I left it at home, on the shelf, where I replaced the batteries just before NOT putting it in my bag. A frantic phone call to my husband. Luckily, he’s still at home, waiting for his ride. I ask him to go look for the trigger, and he finds it. “When are you coming?” I ask, desperate. “Oh, my ride’s not here yet, it will be a little while longer.” Shit.
This is when I remember about the little mini-flash in my bag. Ok, I’m going to fire the two Godox flashes in slave mode. The Fuji has a Flash Commander setting. I try it and it works. I’m saved!! I reposition the umbrellas to make sure I get everything lit properly. More people are coming over now, and I invite them to stand in front of the tree. “SMILE!” I say, hit the shutter …. and the flashes don’t fire. “WTF?” I mumble under my breath. I try again. Nothing. I apologize to the couple and tell them that I still have technical difficulties. For some reason, the commander mode flash on the Fuji won’t trigger anymore. It takes me another 20 minutes to realize that at least one of the Godox flashes has to be in front of the little Fuji flash to see the light before it triggers, and that in turn will make the second flash fire.
By now, dinner is being served. While people are waiting for their turn at the buffet, I invite a few couples to pose in front of the tree. Slowly but surely, it is starting to work. More and more couples are coming forward, and people are pleased with the results. I relax a bit, and my concentration goes haywire. Because later, when checking for sharpness, I realize that sometimes the tree in the background is sharper than the faces of the people standing in front of it.
From the very beginning, this was a fiasco. I have been flustered, and I have messed up. I wasn’t organized enough. I wasn’t skillful enough, and not being calm didn’t help. I messed up, and it’s not a good feeling. But I’ve started to write down where the problems were, and I am creating step-by-step instructions, complete with check-list what to exactly do when taking pictures at an event, be it a family portrait session or a party. I also got myself more organized with a proper case for all the stuff I have to bring. A case, in which everything will have its place, flashes, stands, umbrellas - and the trigger.
It’s something I have to do, because I’ve been invited to be the photographer again next year. And people are already asking me if they can hire me to do some family portraits for them. I suppose my pictures weren’t that bad, after all. But next time, I want to actually enjoy what I’m doing.