By Douglas Gritz
At the beginning of this month, which is to say after the holidays, I was contacted by Faction, a software company based in Denver, to be their corporate event photographer for their holiday party later in the month. Apparently they have a tradition of doing their corporate holiday party after the new year. I guess there’s less competition on the calendar than there is in December. But I gotta admit it was little weird seeing a Christmas Tree in late January!
The company had rented out Denver’s Aquarium downtown for the event. I’ve driven by it a million times but never actually been in. I imagined it would offer a photographer like me a lot of creative material for interesting event photography.
Sure enough I was told prior to the event that there would be a mermaid event (!) and that employees would have free rein of the joint and so they wanted photos of their staff walking among the aquariums and exhibits.
Below are some of the photos from the assignment with some additional comments.
The first part of the event was a schmoozer, as it typical of most of the event I shoot. However, this space was a lot more interesting than the usual hotel bar or conference center. The Aquarium has a bar area that the company rented out for the event. Lot of great glass sculptures and interesting light fixtures. The walls looked organic, making the whole space feel like you are toasting among a coral reef. That was the good.
The bad: Light. I mean, there is mixed lighting and then there is MIXED LIGHTING. Just about every color and color temperature of light was happening in this room. I’m not sure what I set my white balance to, perhaps 3200 kelvin, which is a tungsten white balance setting, but I knew whatever I set it to I was going to need to do serious tweaking with it later. I shoot everything in RAW format, which allows for non-destructive white balance editing in post. And boy, I did spend considerable time on each photo tweaking the color to get something that was both pleasing and also not quite removed from the reality of the experience so that when my client looked at the photos later it wouldn’t feel different to them than how they remembered it.
While there was a large amount of light colors, there wasn’t a large amount of it. The room was very dark, which meant I needed to crank up my ISO into areas that start making me nervous. As I wrote in my post about fixing noise in photos, in these situations I shoot underexposed on purpose. The higher the ISO setting, the larger your noise or gain size will be, which in turn means the less sharp your images will be. So I shoot with the lowest ISO I can get away with while still getting some kind of exposure. Later in Adobe Lightroom I will increase exposure where it should be, then send it to DXO Photolab, which, for my money, has the best noise-reducing features on the market.
Yes, it requires a great deal of extra time because you can’t batch process through DXO Photolab, unfortunately, but the results are pretty impressive.
I mentioned the mermaid above, but did I mention there was also a chetah? I mean, these guys got the full treatment for their holiday event party!
After socializing, the meat of the event began, which included dinner and a speech and presentation by the company CEO. Again, another insanely dark room. I should note here I almost never use a strobe (flash) for event photography. It’s intrusive, distracting, and it’s flat light.
After dinner employees were free to move into and peruse the exhibits. This was my favorite part of the event photography assignment. Lots of great visuals to work with and yes, a mermaid!
The last photo in this sequence is my favorite of the shoot. Love the light and the pose of the subjects.