On a gorgeous spring evening in May, I had the pleasure of photographing an engagement party for a lovely couple--Nick & Kate. The event was held at Gallow Green, the rooftop bar of the McKittrick Hotel. Dressed with lush plants, twinkling lights, and distressed wood furniture pieces, the garden setting did a wonderful job of making you feel like you were in a secret part of Manhattan that had fought against the steel and concrete surrounding it--and won. A jazz band and vocalist performed throughout the festivities, giving the warm night a cool vibe.
In terms of the technical aspects of shooting the event, this was the type of learning experience you get when you just do it. The party started around 6:00pm, with sunset scheduled for 8:20pm. The rooftop was partially covered with the foliage draped around the supports and scattered around the area. Figuring out how to best light each frame was actually more difficult than I had anticipated. I had my usual Canon 7D Mk I, sticking with a 50mm lens and 430EX II Speedlite. I also rented a Canon 5D Mk III, using my 28-105mm lens and other 430EX II Speedlite with it. I mounted that flash to the 5D with a bracket to give myself a few more angle options. I ended up loving that little bracket and was pleasantly surprised by how useful it was throughout the night.
I had to decide when it was worth it to try and bounce the light off the tall canopy vs. aiming the flash more directly at the subjects. At a party, you can't just keep asking your subjects to hold still while you readjust and re-do a shot. They want to get back to the party! So I actually would take 2 shots--one with the 7D and one with the 5D, with the flashes set at different angles and the camera with different manual settings that I would adjust based on darkness of an area and my distance from them (also another difficulty in a relatively crowded and small space--getting a decent distance between myself and the subjects so that the focus was solid and the distortion of angles minimal). This created a ton of options for me to sift through while I was editing, and I noticed that if I didn't get it with one camera, I at least had the other as an option.
I came as prepared as I could, but I was very nervous. I was so fortunate that the woman who hired me, Kate's mother Nancy, was incredibly kind and relaxed about what they needed from me. The happy couple was also kind and gracious, which is many times not the case when feeling the pressure and stress of planning a wedding. I wanted to give them my best possible effort not just because they were clients but because these life events--engagement parties, rehearsals, weddings--are so special and (hopefully) once in a lifetime. Preserving them through photos isn't an exercise in vanity, it's a way to accentuate and enhance the memories you carry with you. The joy and happiness that the couple, their family, and friends shared with each other that day was clear. They joked, they laughed, they shared sentimental and genuine hugs. It was a privilege to be amidst these moments, documenting what I could.
Overall, I was pleased with how the photos turned out (a few of which they've generously allowed me to share through the blog) and that I was able to capture the spirit of the engagement party. I learned so much from having the chance to do it, and I'm honored to have helped a wonderful young couple celebrate their love on a gorgeous spring evening in NYC.