Events are important communication tools. They connect people face-to-face, and allow emotional connections to be forged in ways that print or online media just don’t match. For attendees, they feel part of the proceedings, whether they’re active participants or bystanders.
In my last post, I talked about the art of wedding photography. Weddings are very special and emotional events, with huge artistic opportunities.
Today, I’m talking political events. When I worked in government, I’d organized and photographed many of them. This post is my own photography – one I took of Justin Trudeau at a family event hosted by LiUNA Local 183 at Downsview Park in 2015, three months before he was elected Prime Minister of Canada.
What do you like about this picture? What could have been better?
Things we can’t control
Weather: It was a very bright day, so Justin and the other members of his team have shadows on their faces. We can use fill flash to help reduce the shadow. Cautious that when it’s hot, people are sweating, that can lead to glare. Post-processing can do a lot, too. The subjects are also squinting in the sunlight, which can make them look severe. It isn’t Justin’s typical look.
Bystanders: The fellow in the striped shirt, standing in front of the LiUNA trailer in the background is a little distracting. You wonder what he’s saying as he gestures with his hands. Depending on what your role is, maybe you can have assistants serve crowd control, often this isn’t the case. You can try to be aware of them, and use the subject to block them out while not compromising framing.
Subject placement: Sometimes as a photographer, you can direct people where to stand – in a group portrait for example. Sometimes you can’t. Experienced politicians learn to be aware of their positioning for photos, but there is never a guarantee you’ll get the exact shot you want when groups of people are involved in a candid shot.
Things we can control
Framing: At most political announcement events, the speaker will be standing alone. This makes it very easy to frame the speaker with just the podium sign and backdrop. The theme of this event was unity, so his team of Toronto candidates were clustered around him, along with officials from the hosting union. I think the framing is good, with Julie Dzerowicz and Ali Ehsassi at either shoulder, looking towards their leader with pride. I bisected Michael Levitt, which is a little unfortunate in this tight shot.
Exposure: I think Justin is captured with good exposure in this shot. I’d used fill flash, to reduce the shadows on his face. It didn’t use quite enough power to reach his team to the side and a little further back. The gentleman behind Justin has some shadow on his face, cast by Justin and my fill flash. I think it serves to give separation between the main subject and others around him in this example.
Our own positioning: I was standing directly in front of the podium for this shot. The sign is straight on, while Justin is scanning the audience catching people’s eyes. He happens to be looking away from me at this moment. We can say it demonstrates his ability to connect with in-person audiences, but that means he isn’t connecting with the viewer of the image in the same way he would If I’d caught him looking straight at my camera.
Field of view: Choose the right lens. Event photographers will typically work with a standard zoom like a 24-70mm and a telephoto like a 70-200mm. These are your workhorse lenses. This photo was taken with a telephoto, to keep the shot tightly framed around Justin and his team standing nearest to him.
Post processing: This image was good right from the camera, but I used post-processing to adjust the exposure so the sky isn’t blown out. I adjusted the crop slightly, as well.
What would you add to this critique? How would you use this photo to share the story of the event afterwards?