Staying Flexible During a Photography Shoot

Photo shoots can be very unpredictable. Sometimes, despite your best efforts to prepare ahead of time, many decisions will still need to be made on the spot. 

 A most crucial ally has nothing to do with photography specifically, but with what most call the ‘poker face’. Even when the craziest requests or challenges are thrown your way a calm expression goes a long way.

I will now walk through things expected, predicted, and few situations I did not see coming and how I dealt with them.

The Expected

For my most recent shoot, schedules did not allow for an advance walkthrough. However,  a walkthrough would not have been very advantageous since, by request, this was to be a  candid dinner event in a hotel ballroom. I did know some things up front. In a hotel ballroom, there would be beige or wooden walls, cave-like lighting conditions, and high ceilings. All the mortal enemy of bounce flash. To address this I chose to use the Sto-Fen esque modifier that came with my on-camera flash. With TTL this did the trick quite nicely regardless of the lens used.

The Predicted

While the setting was a candid centric setup, I knew a room full of well-dressed folks would appreciate a portrait set up also.

Knowing the light would be awful to non-existent, I brought my own. The lightweight Godox set up performed flawlessly. After surveying the land I decided on the three light configurations below.

The Unexpected

There was a great band, but woah was the lighting awful! 

The band was phenomenal! Seriously. I have been trying to find out their name since the event. But they had unfriendly photographer lighting in the ballroom that flashed red, blue, then white-ish which would impact the candid photos.

As a solution, I got myself in the habit of waiting until the lights flashed white.

How many people now? My vision for portraits was geared towards couples. Partygoers thought otherwise and regularly showed up en masse so one main light would not do.

In this case, my Godox flashpoint TTL really came through here. All I had to do was pull the main light further right and pull the left side highlight around the front left and TTL sorted the rest. Problem solved! 

Forget your lights, let’s shoot outside at night with no warning! Seriously this happened. For the main group, I shot they, with no forewarning, left the ballroom, walked past my lighting set up, and went outside to a patio in December at night to a space I had not surveyed at all.

My first attempt was on the fly. With no time to move lighting gear or test scenarios due to the cold night air, I first gave on-camera flash a try.  This technique worked, but I lost the wonderful background ambient light and the shadows below. I kept the earlier shot for safety, but for the 2nd attempt I went with ambient light only, imploring the very cooperative subjects to hold still, braced myself as best I could, held my breath, took 3 shots (which I always do for on the fly portraits to combat distracted gazes and closed eyes) and got the shot above. While not tack sharp for pixel peepers (but at 1/8s shutter speed I could not ask for better) I really like the result. It is my favorite of the entire shoot.

That about wraps it up. In the end, the folks themselves were fantastic to work with and I had great fun. Happy shooting!





  1. Thank you for this article! It was really informative. I laughed out loud when I got to the section about shooting at night without warning. Flexibility really is key when it comes to photography! Thanks again, Eric.

    1. You are very welcome. Thank you for the kind words.

  2. Very useful article with practical solutions to real-life problems. I greatly appreciated seeing the lighting setup, and the event photographs were a treat. Thank you.

    1. You are very welcome. Much success to you.

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