You’ve probably heard the first line of this chapter: Judge not, that ye be not judged.
I like the first part of the second verse too: For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.
As the busy-busy-busy events season draws to a close, I’m reflecting a bit on what the job of an event photographer actually is.
If you were to say: “taking nice photos of events, obvs” I’d almost be tempted to sound the QI klaxon. I mean, that’s definitely part of it. But I think there’s something more essential at the core:
I’ll spend a few hours at your conference/party/team day, taking pictures with the best equipment there is. But it’s my judgement that you’re really hiring, I think.
There’s a technical layer to this: choices of camera, lens, lighting. But these are relatively trivial, and beyond them lie some of the more intriguing questions:
– someone looks fabulously lit and really interesting: but alone, and somewhat contemplative. In the set, or out?
– the birthday girl is overcome with tears; but these are getting a bit beyond happysads, and something more troubling may be surfacing. Take the pic, or turn away for a bit?
– two colleagues have been getting on famously all morning. Over coffee, their eyes locked together, the shutter catches a brief moment as their gesticulating hands *appear* to touch. Keep, or bin?
And in the edit:
– the VIP at this event is in the picture, but they’re being very low-key, and look upstaged. Do I subtly crop to recompose the image in their favour, and use very gentle lighting adjustments in post to make it “all about them”?
– I’ve got a million great shots of the most photogenic person there. All ‘keepers’ on the face of it. How much of them, in the final set, is enough? And what becomes too dominant?
– that ‘jokey’ guy looks really goofy in this picture. Where’s the line between appreciating his clowning, and mocking him? Should I also include a ‘straighter’ picture of him as some sort of balance?
There are hundreds more. Many can only be answered by going back to the objectives of the job: am I there to entertain, to record, to publicise the company/venue/individual?
Others just require a ton of experience, having had some of the corners knocked off by getting it wrong.
That’s the reality of it. You can always find someone to take a photo.
But you can’t always be sure about their judgement.
I wrote this about judgement generally, as an easily overlooked skill. But it’s also pointed at those AI systems that attempt to do things like selection, or storytelling. I can very much see some AI systems, such as those that will quickly take an image to a particular editing style, has having some value and worth tracking. But when I see the ones that claim to be able to identify the frames from a shoot that really tell the story, or skirt round some of the hazards listed in this post, well, good luck with that.