The Bat Mitzvah Lesson
1. Always scout the location and learn the plan of events. Know where people will stand and what they will do. I had the opportunity to do so on Friday evening, but was too tired from work to go. Knowing where to sit for the best shots, and getting there early enough to garner that seat is essential.
2. Know the distance you will be shooting from. Take a few shots before the event of a model in the available light, from the distance you will be shooting. Determine which lens will be most suitable. Have that lens on your camera. If you use flash, and if flash is permissible, know which setting will get adequate light on the subject.
3. Be bold. I had been given permission to roam, yet I stayed in my seat. I did not want to disturb the proceedings with my digital SLR's mirror clacking. Out of respect, during the service, I used a digital point and shoot with the noise muted and flash turned off. Limiting my ability to take good photographs even though I had been given permission to move about was a serious mistake.
4. Have your batteries charged and your gear at hand. Shoot as though you might never get another chance. You won't. If the event is a milestone in that person's life, it will not be repeated. The ceremony is, however, predictable. Bobby Knight once said that everyone has a desire to win, but very few have the desire to prepare to win. I know that. I did not heed it.
5. You cannot get fine image quality by increasing the frame size and cropping out the good parts. As soon as I realized my subject was going to be miniature people in a sea of synagogue, I increased the frame size. I was able to crop out images with better composition, but the overall quality was badly degraded.
6. Don't throw in the towel. After the bat mitzvah, I went to the reception. While my wife chatted with friends, I continued to shoot photographs. The lighting in the reception hall was worse than the synagogue. After twenty or so shots of people with hollowed out eyes from spotlights directly overhead, I had two choices. Change technique, or go outside. I decided to change technique and shoot the reception as though I was a street photographer. The music was loud enough to cover the sound of the SLR mirror, and I could move inhibited among people who were expecting to be photographed. I learned another lesson. Good street photography on the level of Joe Wigfall and Bruce Gilden does not come easy. If I'm going to do that, I need to go manual with a wide angle lens. But that's another lesson.