Shooting by accident or standing out from the crowd?
Actress Jessica Biel arrives for the premiere of “Easy Virtue” in Leicester Square, London October 28, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN)
London-based Reuters photographer Luke MacGregor shot the picture above by using a slow shutter speed, around 1/50th of a second, and continually shooting frames with no flash in the hope that he would catch the moment a flash from another photographer illuminated Jessica Biel posing on the red carpet.
This reminded me of an earlier red-carpet picture of Jessica Biel where Luke had used the same “catch flash” technique. The picture of her arrival at the BAFTAs, below, caused a mini stir of discontent amongst the desk editors in Singapore. Some editors championed the picture, others wanted to reject it, or ‘spike’ it in journalistic terminology. One editor even said the technique was like “shooting by accident”.
U.S. actress Jessica Biel arrives at the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) awards ceremony at The Royal Opera House in London February 10, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN)
Luke himself says “I guess it is a little like shooting by accident – except that I have planned to shoot by accident and have thought through the situation to try and get what I want using some form of judgement”.
The technique only works when there are enough photographers using flash. You have to judge the optimum time to shoot. You have to wait until a subject reacts - waving or gesturing to the crowd for example - and then you stand more chance of catching other flashes.
It is an imprecise science, often resulting in blank and over-exposed frames. The combination photo below shows the frames before and after the picture Luke chose (top right) from the Easy Virtue premiere.
Luke likes the “catch flash” technique as it gives a similar effect to off-camera flash. It doesn’t illuminate the immediate background and so avoids the harsh shadows of direct flash.
Personally, I think pictures like this bring a nice variety to the wire. It is a great way to have your work stand out from the many hundreds of pictures shot by the large crowds of photographers who attend these red-carpet events around the world.
The picture below, taken at the Cannes Film Festival this year, gives you an idea of the competition Reuters shooters are up against.
Photographers work at the 61st Cannes Film Festival May 18, 2008. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann (FRANCE)