When I got back to Seattle with my new camera, first thing I did was visit Seattle Gay News publisher George Bakan and associate editor Shaun Knittel, both of whom I'd met a month prior at a World AIDS Day event. I'd told them, "Hey, I'm gonna get a camera and be a photographer," and I think they liked me. We hit it off but, showing off my point-and-shoot, I don't think they took me seriously. Anyway, when the New Year came, I had my new camera from my parents for Christmas and came into the office and told George, "I'm ready to go!" so Shaun took me to a Greater Seattle Business Association event - it was a business casual mixer - and I didn't know anyone, didn't know how to use my camera, and did a really awful job. I was trying to get that magic shot of people having conversations with each other and eating and having cocktails. I came back, the pictures were crap, and Shaun gave me advice to engage people. He said to just say, "Hey, I'm with the newspaper and I'm going to take your picture."
Shaun's advice, more than anything, has shaped how I do my job as an event photographer. It's what I always try and share with new photographers - that instead of standing back in a corner and being a fly on the wall, to meet people first thing; let them know you're there to make them look good. We all like to be somewhat in control of how we look in pictures, so start by giving them that. Have them smile and do their thing and, in turn, gain some trust. Basically, give people a little to go on, and they'll start to let you get away with the candids you're after.
Anyway, here are the only two images I'm willing to share from that evening. The first is a sorta humorous but mostly just unflattering and pointless fly-on-the-wall of two gentlemen serving themselves, and the second is of now-former Seattle City Council member, Richard Conlin, and GSBA's current Vice President of Marketing & Tourism Rachael Brister (unflatteringly holding drinks for friends) both engaging the camera. There was room for improvement! Thankfully, George let me continue my trial run shooting photos for SGN.