As a long time Toastmaster, I was honored to be asked to be the official photographer at a district convention. Totally unpaid, of course, but it sounded like fun and would be a great learning experience. And boy, did I learn.
The good-What I did right:
I brought two cameras, a charging cord for one, an extra battery for the other, extra memory cards and my lap top. That gave me some flexibility, with my DSLR on a tripod and my P&S to carry around the crowd. I was able to dump my images onto the laptop every evening and empty my memory cards for the next day.
I shot in RAW. That came in real handy because the light was VERY low and RAW is so much easier to clean up in post.
I shot big pictures and lots of them. That gives me the opportunity to pick and chose, as well as being able to downsize a bit as needed to "sharpen" the appearance of the pictures and reduce the appearance of noise.
I knew what the "must shoot" pictures were because I have attended these conferences several times. So I got all the expected shots.
I sought, and got, advice from a long time professional photographer at the event. You know, the type that has a lot of paid work and doesn't need the learning experience. I am going to be like him someday! His advice-use shutter priority and set the shutter speed to 1/500.
The bad-what I wish I had done differently:
I was not prepared for the terrible quality of the light. I knew it would be dim, but I didn't realize quite how dim it would be! I had a good tripod, so I didn't get camera blur. But I was taking pictures of people. And people move :-) Some of them move way too fast to capture sharp pictures at the shutter speeds I was using. The tip about using shutter speed control was a good one-but trying to shoot at that speed resulted in astronomical ISOs and lots of noise.
I like taking candid shots and I got a lot of good ones, but I wish I would have communicated more with the conference chair so that I could be set up in the right place for the best light and taken more formally arranged photos, which give people a chance to look their best.
I seriously underestimated the time it would take to do the post processing. Yikes!
And now for the really ugly:
My response when I was asked was something along the lines of "I'd love to, but I'm not sure I am good enough." AHEM, not good enough to work for free!! What was I thinking?
If you get a chance like this, I definitely recommend you give it try. The most important thing is to be prepared before you go. What is the venue like? Will you be getting a lot of group shots? Large groups or small groups? What are the most important images to capture? What equipment do you need? Think these things through and give it your best-you will have a great chance to meet people and I promise you will learn a lot!
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