Seeing the Potential - a workshop
As photographers we sometimes have to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Especially when shooting weddings: you’re often working in bad light, you’re up against time pressure, the weather can be pants, and maybe there are factors that mean you have to make cool portraits in sub-optimal locations.
A while back I was scouting for a location to take portraits for a family who didn’t want to go far from their motel, and as I was gathering ideas and taking reference shots I wondered what potential my colleagues would see in the same unexciting environment. I thought it might make for quite a cool collaborative afternoon, where we all met up and brainstormed about what we would do in an unpromising situation to make sure we delivered for our clients. I haven’t yet made that happen, but Paul Whitham, one of the organisers for the Photographic Society of NZ’s national convention in Lower Hutt, caught wind of my idea and thought it would make a great workshop at the convention.
I was very flattered to be asked, but also a bit nervous, because although I’ve done presentations before, I’ve never actually run a workshop. Also my original plan was that I would be learning from my fellow photographers as much as teaching them! But I said yes, mainly because at that stage it was still months away, so it didn’t seem so scary.
It got scarier as it loomed closer, but then when I started pulling together material for a slideshow, I realised I had numerous examples to show people. I had portraits taken in what were effectively broom cupboards, a lovely shot of a groom who’s actually straddling a toilet at the time (not that you’d know), and an entire bridal party shoot done inside a motel unit in 30 minutes. Wedding photography in particular is really great for honing your skills, teaching you tricks for eliminating chaos, and generally just helping you see that there are usually things you can work with even when they’re not immediately apparent.
The Lower Hutt Events Centre is set within really beautiful gardens, but we ignored those and headed around the back of buildings instead to see what we could find. We practised using foreground objects to block distractions or add interest, working in bright sun, and finding frames and natural reflectors. We finished up at the toilet block, which offered lots of options, with its fluted white sides, textured ends and red-tiled entranceway. I’m not sure that anyone straddled any toilets but they should have, because the yellow tiles in there were also very cool. It was a great group and I was so thrilled at how they all just dived straight in and started enthusiastically photographing our wonderful models, actors Jordan Rivers and Renee Perry. It was a really fun afternoon.
Here are some photos by the participants and by Craig Robertson from sponsor Fujifilm. The top row were taken by Craig, the second row by Rachel Hume and the third by Destina Munro. The next five images are from Don Hogben, and the final three were taken by Mark Burgess. Click on any photo to see it larger. Thank you so much everyone for sharing these photos, to Jordan and Renee for modelling, to Fujifilm for supporting this workshop and to the convention organisers for the opportunity!