Elle Macpherson photo by Kevin Landwer-Johan

Be Prepared to Make the Most of Every Photo Opportunity

by
Kevin Landwer-Johan
Kevin Landwer-Johan

Know your camera well and be prepared for whatever might happen when you least expect it. If you are ready to seize at an opportunity you will probably get better photos than you expected.

This means checking your attitude as well as your camera gear. If you approach a photo opportunity with a negative preconceived idea of how it will be, you are not so likely to get great results.

Be open to whatever will happen and look for the best angles and lighting and get your timing right. You will be far more likely to capture great images than if you have a negative outlook.

Assigned to Photograph a Supermodel

When I worked at the newspaper we’d often have requests from companies to cover events they were holding. These were mostly nothing more than an attempt to score some free advertising.

Editors were reluctant to assign me such work and I was reluctant to cover it. However, on occasion, I’d be required to attend such things and produce some photos for the paper to publish.

Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson was to be visiting a local shopping mall to promote her new range of lingerie. Our office literally backed onto the mall carpark, so it wasn’t going to take me any effort to attend.

However, I did have a busy day with a number of photo sessions around the city planned for the morning. My editor just said for me to make it if I could manage. No problem if I didn’t.

I knocked out all my morning assignments pretty quickly and headed back to the office. As I approached the traffic was far heavier than normal for a Friday lunchtime. Pulling into our office parking lot I had to double park. There were cars everywhere.

The mall car park was overflowing. People were parked on the grass verges and across driveways. It was chaos.

I started to think that maybe this event would be worth photographing, if I could get close enough.

If Your Photos Aren’t Good Enough, You’re Not Close Enough

I had the famous words of Robert Capa ringing in my ears as I walked across the car park. “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I could already see there was quite a crowd around the stairs leading down to the mall.

As I approached I caught sight of the local community police officer, so stopped to see what his thoughts on the huge crowd were. As we leaned on the railing looking at the rear mall entrance on the next level down, I saw another photographer. I knew him and knew he was covering the event for Macpherson’s company.

I figured he’d be in the right place so pushed my way down the stairs and through the barrier to talk with him. Sure enough, he’d just spoken with her and she was due to arrive at this entrance in two minutes.

Looking around me the scene was incredible. The lunchtime crowd at the mall was ridiculously huge. I could see a narrow roped off walkway inside that snaked its way through the crowd. I popped my 24mm lens on the camera and prepared for some action.

Two minutes later the blue Rolls Royce pulled up and out stepped Elle ‘The Body’ Macpherson. The crowd cheered. She looked stunned. And there was lots of jostling. I was the only member of the press there, so that was pleasing. It was always more fun to have a location like this to myself.

Somehow I managed to get right in front of her as she entered the mall and began down the narrow walkway. The noise was terrific. I was walking backwards, facing her, with a massive Samoan security guard right behind me. I could not have been in a better place for photos. The other photographer I knew was stuck behind her and there was no way for him to scoot ahead.

At one point Elle looked at me and commented that I was lucky to end up in the right spot.

Photographing while walking backwards is not easy, even with my big Samoan backstop. Elle was only about a meter from my lens and constantly moving, looking around and waving to her appreciative audience.

We managed to make it down the escalators and into the central atrium where there was a stage set up waiting for her.

I did manage a number of good photos as we made our way through the crowds. However, the editor settled on publishing one from the stage where more of the hordes were visible.

Being prepared and getting lucky are a great combination that make for good photos and great experiences.

Kevin Landwer-Johan photographer
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Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post you will also enjoy “How I Made the Most of a Great Photography Opportunity” and “How Frightening it is to Reach the Top”.

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