Focus on the right people to boost your pictures

A few years ago, when I had just started at Tatler as the Bystander photographer, I had to cover a theatre premier in the West End.

Arriving alarmingly close to curtain call, I heard my editor, Ewa Lewis, remonstrating with the actor Edward Fox, who’d been complaining about the photographers.

‘Come come, your career depends on photographers’she challenged him, to which he replied: ‘… and that’s utter rubbish”. Spying me, red-faced, flustered and gasping with late-arrival anxiousness, Ewa announced: ‘Well, here’s my photographer, you can jolly well smile for him”.

Fox smiled for about three or four pictures, and then all but told me to bugger off and leave him alone for the rest of the evening.

I walked away from the scene, a bit dazed and looked down at my camera.

Top Tip 1 – always load film. Yup, I had arrived in such a hurry, with such floundering haste, that I hadn’t had time to prepare anything, let alone load film. (This was pre-digital days).

During the interval I tried to steal a few surreptitious pictures of Fox, who was, understandably, quite cross. What was I to do? I had to confess.

It took balls of steel but funnily enough, it was the best thing I could’ve done – he was charmed by my calamity, and let me take plenty of other pictures. So, my other top tips are:

Arrive with enough time to case the joint, and prepare yourself

There was one occasion when I was photographing at a birthday party, when two friends got up after dinner, one to play the piano, the other to sing. How often do you find yourself listening to Mick Jagger sing Happy Birthday, accompanied by Jools Holland on piano, eh? Did I know this was going to happen? Did I miss the shot? Almost.

Energy is a good thing

Photographs are a record of a moment, and if you are feeling sleepy, lackadaisical, non-plussed or disinterested, there is every chance your picture will reflect that feeling.

A good picture has energy. Smile, and people will smile back. Give them energy, and they’ll give your picture energy.

Who is the client?

If it’s the mother of the bride, she will want pictures of her daughter, her friends and her family. If your client is a PR firm, they need ‘the product’to appear with the people, and preferably with the celebrities they have sweated blood to get to attend. If your client is a magazine, they want pictures of celebrities and ‘peacocks’– not people who are nice-but-dull.

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