Recently I was asked to photograph a live broadcast hosted by TV Presenter and Historian Dan Snow. The broadcast, from St James Church in Piccadilly, was a from the HistoryHit series of discussions.
My contact, Dan Morelle, who I had worked with on the Waterloo 200 event at Downing Street asked me come along on behalf of Dan Snow. Dan needed a photographer who was capable of turning images around fairly quickly, so they could be transmitted live during the event and be picked up on social media as the event took place.
The event consisted of a series of prominent experts speaking about different aspects of historical interest. Each speaker were given just 7 minutes to put forward their case on each subject, they were then followed by two minutes of questions, posed from the live audience in the church and from those following on the internet via Twitter and Periscope.
As the event was live, and I really didn’t want to cause any form of distraction I chose to shoot on my Fuji X series cameras. These cameras are incredibly quiet. Regular DSLR cameras have a mirror banging and flapping every time the shutter is pressed (thats the noise you always here at Press events). That noise can be rather distracting at live events, so this is the sort of occasion the Fuji mirrorless cameras come into their own. These cameras also perform extremely well in low light, so I didn’t need to use any flash(another distraction), although this had been partly taken care of by the video guys, who had set up plenty of lighting anyway.
I primarily shot on my X-E2s. These cameras are outstanding, offering incredible quality and flexibility at a very affordable price. I have two of them. I normally set one up with a 35mm f1.4 lens(equivalent to 50mm on full frame), the other camera is either set up with the 18mm wide-angle or the stunning 56mm f1.2 short telephoto. This combination allows me to cover just about any eventuality at events like this one. I also have, clipped to my belt, my favourite camera of all time my Fuji X100s.
To ensure everything went smoothly, I setup my cameras to automatically transmit the images directly to my MacBook. To speed this up, I had to shoot in jpeg. Nothing new here, the vast majority of my Press work is shot as jpegs. Shooting RAW isn’t really required on jobs like these, as speed is much more important than image quality. The great thing about Fuji X series cameras is that jpeg files are wonderful, straight out of camera. So long as you ensure that you have correctly set your white balance(the bit that controls accurate colour), and you expose the images correctly, you can get outstanding quality from what are relatively small files.
To set correct colour I used the grey card supplied in my ColourChecker Passport white balance kit. If I had been shooting RAW I would have used the colour chart to set up a DNG profile for the event, but on this occasion it wasn’t necessary.
To transmit the images to my Macbook I was using the amazing Eye-Fi MobiPro cards. I had the cards setup so that they only transmitted images I selected off the back of my camera. Basically, I would shoot a few frames of each speaker, then check the files on the back of my camera. I selected the image from the sequence I wanted to send, using the protect button on the back of the camera, and the card did the rest. The image was transmitted back to the computer using wi-fi. Most of the Fuji X cameras have built in wifi. This works via an app you can install on your smartphone or tablet. I know several photographers who use this regularly, but unfortunately I have found the app to be unreliable and troublesome, so I would prefer to use the EyeFi MobiPro cards. I don’t get the same control, but I do get more reliability, which in many ways is more important.
I had setup Lightroom CC to watch a specific folder on my desktop. As each image dropped into the folder IPTC Metadata was applied, to identify the event and copyright information, the image was resized to optimise it for social media and then it was copied into a separate folder. After each speaker had finished I would nip back to my computer to reassign the wifi, from the EyeFi card, to the event wifi(a process that took just a few seconds), and then emailed the images over to Dan so he could post them on the social media platforms he was monitoring. I would then reset the wifi back to the EyeFi card and continue to shoot. If I had chosen to, I could have used a software application called PhotoMechanic5 to do a very similar thing. In essence the process would have been the same, the only difference would have been that the images wouldn’t have been indexed into my archive for future use. PhotoMechanic is outstanding, and is considered the industry standard application for Press Photography, but it currently cannot catalogue images into a searchable archive. Lightroom on the other hand can, and since I knew that I would need to be able edit the images for future use after the event, Lightroom proved to be the best available option.
The whole process was incredibly simple and very effective, helped by the fact I was using such incredible equipment and software. This process is fairly typical for many press events and is generally accepted that any Press Photographer worth his/her salt can do this, so its nothing new, but is still a fairly specialised skill.