Happy Birthday!

event and documentary photography Portland Oregon

That’s Precious, Micki’s much beloved cat. I also shot that photo.

I was recently hired to be the photographer for Micki Naito’s birthday party. For those of you unfamiliar, Micki Naito was married to the late Bill Naito, who is a Portland Oregon legend for his work in the community and as a entrepreneur and developer. If you’re from Portland or have visited, you’re probably familiar with Naito Parkway downtown.

Micki’s life is just as culturally rich and amazing as anyone around, and her birthday is certainly worth celebrating. Family and friends paid Micki a visit at her downtown home in honor of her special day, and I was there to photograph guests and document the event.

In my opinion, once the customary group photos and informal group portraits are completed, the most important thing is to document the event so the photos can be organized chronologically and to make sure the critical moments are captured cleanly. In other words, get the lit birthday cake being presented and also tell a story.

Certainly this should be done with some style, but this shoot is about the people in the room and Mrs. Naito, and not a shoot about I, the photographer. So keeping things relatively simple yet elegant and styled yet clean, is a good way to go.

Also, it meant blending in with the party in a way that seemed natural and without imposition, all the while maintaining professionalism. Once I established myself and let people know a camera was there and would be used often, I gave the party time to breathe and evolve naturally before shooting some of the more important photos of VIP’s.

The equipment was light and efficient. I mostly used my Nikon full frame camera, 85 mm and 50 mm prime lenses, and a speedlight with a Fong diffuser. I shot in TTL. There is a time and place for creative strobe use but when the assignment is to capture candids at a party and things are moving fast, I really don’t want to think about manual speedlight settings too much. Also, I don’t mind dodging in the digital darkroom. Better to get the moment and underexpose a little bit instead of overexposing, because exposure can always be added later.

Given the lighting in the home was generally on the low side, with a colorful array of background, my intent was just to get a good clean image with soft and flattering skin tones. For this assignment, a healthy 1:1 and 2:1 seemed about right for lighting and with good depth-of-field in each shot, looking flat wasn’t a problem. No deliberate and posed Rembrandt lighting, for instance. Given the context of the setting, the lighting worked nicely and captured the mood.

The photo you see above was shot with a Sony a7 and Zeiss 35mm lens, using available light and a nearby window. This camera was used for more of the creative shots and perspectives, which if done intelligently and in a timely way, is fine to include with a set of event photos and could be what sets you apart.

Once the final product was presented, Micki was very happy with the photos. And that, despite all of the technical things, is really what is most important. It was a fun assignment and certainly an honor to be there.



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