Photographing a 21st birthday garden party

I don’t think photographers do the thing where they talk about how they feel at their first job or commission, (it doesn’t seem very professional/discreet??) but I felt the need to blog this for myself to remind myself of things, a bit of word vomit coming up.

A few months ago I was commissioned  to take some photos at a 21st birthday party. It sounded like something I could handle, just a few casual and candid snaps of people and the decorations and location, in any case I am used to doing things like that amongst friends and gatherings. It felt surreal a few months back, the party being on 1st December like a faraway date that will never happen, or might get cancelled at any time. Two days before 01/12, Laura emailed me confirming my availability so I summoned my enthusiasm and buried my nervousness with a cheerful reply.

It was a pretty garden party at a glass house art gallery in Croydon, about half an hour drive from Clayton. Beverly drove me and her friend there and after a quick chat with Laura, I started to “do my thing” and went around snapping and interrupting people for their photos. To be honest, during the whole 2 – 3 hours I was scared and nervous shitless, I couldn’t even appreciate the finger food and sweets table, I was too nervous to eat or do anything besides my job, I was worried I didn’t interrupt more people to get more of people pictures, I was worried I looked super out of place, I was worried about people thinking I’m rude, I was worried about everything and very stressed out. I did not know a single person there, they were all strangers, but  surprisingly friendly. Another thing I noticed while taking pictures of people, all of them were mat sallehs, naturally tall, and with a party going on there’s bound to be high heels for the ladies, I had to go on tiptoes for every people photo I take. Disadvantages of being short(er). When the speeches started I was so taken in by what Laura’s friends and parents had to say about her – she was so awe inspiring! – I felt like I was part of the crowd and almost forgot I was there to do a job. I was quite relieved it was a sunny day though, the afternoon light filtering through the glass house more than helped me for good photos. Laura had the place decorated with flowers, artificial monarch butterflies stuck to ceiling lanterns, and photos of her growth from baby to teenage, it was really something.

Here are just some of my favourite pictures, more candid than proper snaps of people:

After stressing out about the day to a few close friends, I poured all my stress into editing the photos at high speed and sent them to Laura. To my delight, I received positive feedback in caps locks and exclamation marks and I was so happy the whole day! One of the most satisfying feelings ever you must know.


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