D800, 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G, 1/60s f/4.5, 6400ISO © Nicola Arber
Photographer Nicola Arber covered the launch party for the new camera bag for Nikon 1, designed by J.W. Anderson. Here she shares her experience of the event as well as some advice on photographing social occasions.
Get there early
It’s Monday, 7.45pm, and the J W Anderson party is already creating a buzz at Factory 7. Arriving early is always the best start to an assignment – learning about the venue and the event is important. With this I can more or less predict the shape my pictures will take, how I will work, and where I will work through the night.
It’s exciting watching people prepare the venue, watching things come together. The ladders are up, the champagne is delivered, the staff arrive, the lights are tested. It’s like a theatre before the main show. I like to take a few shots to prepare – play around with available light, walk around the different areas of the venue. Again, this will inform me later, when I’ll need to work quickly. Sometimes these early shots include my favourites – they can really show off the beauty of a venue, and the camaraderie of people behind the scenes.
D800, 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G, 1/30s f/4.2, 6400ISO © Nicola Arber
I find that introducing myself to staff is invaluable. They can give me tips on how an evening will pan out, and I want them to recognise who I am. People don’t necessarily appreciate having a lens thrust in their face whilst they’re working; if they can understand a little more about the person behind the camera, this really helps.
Check, and check again
I ensure I have everything on me that I may need through the course of the night: my equipment and an array of spare camera cards. Tonight I’m using the Nikon D800, a beautiful piece of kit. It’s light, fast, and the dynamic range of images from the evening is fantastic. I couple this with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G lens, which is versatile and works well in low light. I can get some wide scenic shots, or good portraits – it gives me a lot to play with.
Then guests begin to arrive. An evening often takes time to warm up, as people relax. However, capturing people meeting and greeting each other is always a personal favourite of mine. They’re entirely distracted, caught up in a moment, looking at one another and reacting – it’s a great opportunity to snap emotion.
D800, 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G, 1/50s f/4.2, 4500ISO © Nicola Arber
As the night develops I creep around on the alert, always attempting to predict what may happen, how someone will move or react, to get that perfect shot. I spot a conversation or situation and take a few shots. Interaction between people is the key. A drink bought, a tentative foot on the dancefloor… all great fodder for pictures that tell a story.
It’s a fashion party, you can tell just by looking – I mean, the clothes are great. I’m dressed very simply, in flats and jeans for easy movement, but I’m jealously eyeing up some of the outfits. There’s a real range of styles, from casual hip hop to tall, elegant and dripping in bling. I have to ask for some posed shots, I can’t help myself. But many of these guests are familiar with being photographed, and the results are great.
D800, 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G, 1/4s f/4.2, 6400ISO © Nicola Arber
It’s tiring but tremendously rewarding work. The evening’s a success and now it’s time to leave. But there’s always that anticipation of getting home and looking at the results. Nothing can replace the joy of being able to relive and share the event through pictures, time and time again.
Peek inside the aftershow party in this short film and find out why Nikon is partnering up with the British fashion designer. You can also find out more about the camera bag for Nikon 1 in this interview with J.W. Anderson or go to the Nikon store.