Thanks to a friend's referral, I got to attend a 6-year-old's birthday party as a "photographer". I didn't know the parents and didn't know the child. Being called "photographer" a few times that day, I still cringe a little at that name. I still think I have a lot to learn about photography, and for some reason, am doing it at snail pace. So I still don't think I'm ready to have such a title.
It definitely isn't all easy. Not the first or first dozen times anyway. What I did love most about photography was being able to blend into the background, do my own thing, capture candid shots, and hopefully save a few precious moments in a couple snapshots. What I learned though is... stepping out of your comfort zone is the only way to learn. Not hiding behind the scene.
Try taking photos of children who are packed full of energy and cannot stay put in one position for very long. It's pretty challenging. I was chasing down kids and trying to get up close. Also try asking a child who doesn't know you at all if you could just get one quick shot of them looking at the camera. Almost impossible. But I pushed to get that one shot. I only wanted one. For memory sake. On this special 6th birthday.
Then the family did cake cutting together. Shall I get the entire family looking at the camera as a group shot? Or should I go candid? I decided to stick with the latter. Partly due to my beginner's shyness. Partly due to the bombardment of other family members and friends with their cameras, all shouting "Over here! Look over here!". And as the cake-cutting segment ended, I made myself a mental note thinking, "You probably should have done a posed family photo. Gosh darnit." Controlling the scene is a whole lot harder than it seems.
In the end, it was a whole lot of fun. I probably did a bit too much thinking. The lighting. The birthday girls. The parents. Get the details. Get that angle. Get that shot. Don't forget the family. Oiy.... And so a bit of photography, (composition, art, finding the right moments, etc) went out the window. I was too immersed in everything else. A bit overwhelming. Just inside my head.
When I finally went to edit, I was happy with the candid family cake-cutting shots. The real expressions. The real interactions between the family. Those fake "look at each other and laugh" kind of photos... I got it naturally. A true documentation of them enjoying this very moment. So maybe I shouldn't kill myself over missing a posed family photo.
In the end, I was able to hand over 100 photos. And there are probably 1001 things I'd like to change about them. I learned a great deal. About lighting. About what to look for. About how I would do things differently for myself if there was a next time. But I think greatest of all, not to be so harsh on myself. They certainly weren't perfect. And it's no secret that I'm not the greatest photographer I can be yet. And few years down the road, I can guarantee that I'd look back on some of my photos and think, "What the heck was I doing?!". But isn't that the best part? Because then you would know that you've evolved. And learned. And grew.
The parents love the photos. I accomplished what was most important of all. To give a little piece of memory. Sometimes, you just gotta remember... that's all that matters.