Hello and welcome to my Shoreham-by-Sea blog! This week showcases the nostalgic style and glamour of the vintage era, as seen at Johnny Loves June's Vintage Summer Fair. I do love a bit of vintage - regular readers may remember my blog of Belle's Events Vintage Wedding Fair, back in March - so I wasted no time in offering my event photography services to local organisation, Johnny Loves June. My brief? To capture the atmosphere and events of the day in whatever way I felt best!
My first challenge was clothing. My own, that is. I don't actually own anything vintage, having not yet found a dress to flatter my small frame and poker-straight fine blond hair, or fabric that won't snag beneath my camera strap. I tend to associate vintage with 40s and 50s glamour, featuring perfectly coiffed brunettes with a glamourous wave in their glossy hair. Or huge blond beehives with a 60s shift. My hair sadly won't do either. I remember from university days, a stylist spending hours on my then longer locks in preparation for a much anticipated cocktail party, teasing them into an elaborate up-do, only for it to fall down half way through the evening.
So I opted for a long-sleeved dress with a teal design that could just about pass as 'vintage-inspired' and some beige wedges with brown ribbon lacing to complete the look. Then woke up last Sunday to the hottest day of the year and ditched my carefully planned outfit in favour of a much cooler sleeveless black dress and flipflops. Wedding and event photographers rarely get the chance to sit down anyway, so I figured my choice of footwear would be forgiven; as it turned out, flipflops were the non-vintage style of choice for many of the stallholders too.
As a photographer, I spend a great deal of time thinking about colour. Many wedding photographers I have come across love shooting weddings (well, you would certainly hope so!) but hit the 'auto' button when it comes to album design, or leave it to the labs to manage. For me, designing a wedding album is actually a hugely gratifying part of the job. I love combining images on pages, arranging the layout according to how the colours combine and complement each other. Clients often elect to choose their favourites for the album, but I always suggest leaving me a bit of latitude to pick out other images that will complement and enhance the double-page spread. In fact, I often shoot with the album in mind - combining panoramics with close ups and portraits with landscapes for double-spread potential!
So when considering how the heck I was going to narrow down the 230+ photos I took last Sunday into a manageable amount for this blog, it struck me that the simplest and most enjoyable way was to do it by colour. At an event this size, it would simply be unrealistic to feature each and every supplier I photographed, and in any case, all the photos went out on facebook earlier this week, and I wanted to do something a bit more creative with the images that my facebook fans hadn't already seen. So I picked out 7 key colours and used them as the basis for each collage - I hope you like them!
I have photographed events at the Shoreham Centre before, including Shoreham's Artisan Market for this blog (week 12). On that occasion I opted for natural lighting, owing to the need to photograph unobtrusively in a busy market and not unduly disrupt the stallholders. The problem with natural lighting in indoor venues is that it is anything but natural. The mix of florescent overhead bulbs, tungsten spotlights and window light makes colour balancing difficult, and can produce muddy or even green-hued skin tones if you're not careful.
Being commissioned to photograph the Johnny Loves June event gave me more scope to shoot a little less discreetly, so I opted to boost my arsenal with speedlights. Everybody knows that on-camera flash is not the most flattering, even with the best speedlights money can buy. At weddings I try to get my flash off-camera as much as time and venue layout allow. For most other events, it is unrealistic to start setting up umbrellas, not to mention a public liability, so on-camera flash is the only option. But there are ways to soften it and flatter your subjects.
One way is to use bounce flash: you swivel the flash round and bounce it off a wall or the corner of a room. This works extremely well in relatively small spaces - I often use this technique when photographing brides and bridesmaids getting ready, for example. But in larger venues, or those with dark coloured walls and high ceilings, bounce flash doesn't have sufficient reach, and a more direct light is required. Such is the case in the cavernous Shoreham Centre, so I opted for my Gary Fong diffuser, which I knew would help to flatter the mostly 30-50 something women (and a few men!) exhibiting and attending the fair. Being of that age group myself, I know the magic a little fill flash can do to smooth out the wrinkles!
The Gary Fong (named after the guy who invented it and made a fortune from wedding photographers, especially in the US where I first came across it), is essentially a large cylindrical piece of semi-opaque plastic. It attaches to a hotshoe flash, and adds considerably to my bulk, necessitating careful manoeuvring among china and small children. But it does the trick! As confirmed by the lovely feedback I've received from stallholders this week - if any of you are reading this, thanks guys!
Another challenge is the variation of available light throughout the venue. The corners are dark, while the stalls opposite the window are evidently several stops brighter (in camera speak). I constantly change my ISO setting and adjust my shutter speed to compensate, maintaining only the aperture, which I typically use on it's widest f/2.8 setting for this kind of event.
I have photographed so many weddings and events now, that the technical side of things is second nature - but I have to confess, learning about f-stops and ISOs was far from easy initially for my arts-based mind, not to mention the most boring thing in the world! It is, however, a necessary evil to ensure the camera can capture your vision and allow you to focus on the fun creative stuff.
I hope you enjoyed my photographic take on the Johnny Loves June Vintage Fair, and, if you're one of my amateur photographer readers, picked up a few tips in the process. I just read on facebook that the gorgeous orange dress (above, bottom right) was purchased by the lovely singer Noelle Vaughn (below, top). I can just imagine a great fashion shoot on the beach, with the orange contrasting perfectly with the blues of the sea! Noelle, if you're reading this.....
And having seen the miracles they performed on many performers and fair goers on Sunday, I might just have to challenge local hair and beauty salons Lady Loves Beauty and Kitty Boo to make me look suitably vintage sometime... ready for the challenge, ladies?
Well, that's all from my blog this week, but please come back for more - my schedule may be a little erratic over the coming weeks, it being the school summer hols... but I'm determined to keep more or less on track with my blog. Please keep up your comments so I know someone's out there! Thanks for reading... Jenny x