I love the Arctic Monkeys – “Get on your dancing shoes, there’s one thing on your mind” they sung back in 2006 and it’s still a killer tune!
A few years after that I stumbled across future photography star Ross Harvey who just seemed to have the same incredible knack of drawing you in to a scene.
Much like Alex Turner does with his lyrics, Ross paints a great picture of what’s unfolding in front of him. When it comes to his dance floor photos you may as well have your dancing shoes on as it feels like you’re really there, so when Ross popped up on our awesome Facebook group I had only one thing on MY mind, and that was to quiz him a little about his approach to this part of the wedding day.
I’ve always been a fan of your night time coverage and one thing that still grabs me to this day is that it feels just like I’m looking through the eyes of a guest partying. Talk us through your process for getting such great shots.
You are, I’m partying with the guests :¬) Not to the same degree, granted, but I’m joining in with the crowds, going with its movement and having a drink at the same time. “You must never drink at weddings!”. Whoever said that has no idea what they’re talking about. I’d feel like I was failing if I *didn’t* get offered a drink during the party. Friendships are based on shared experiences, and the wedding party is a huge experience.
To be part of that means you make friends – and a wonderful side effect is that guests see you as such. Try beating a referral from that perspective. I don’t do it for that though, I do it because its FUN! The degree in which you join in depends on the party, of course. Destination weddings are usually quite a party!
What’s the key ingredient to getting such epic dance floor photos? Are the best shots late on in the evening or are you just so well integrated in the wedding people are relaxed enough to pull off their best moves right from the start?
No fear! Don’t be afraid to jump into it, you’ll never get the shots you want loitering around the outskirts of the dance floor. Rapport is key. Some parties kick off early on, some take time to build (i.e. people drink more). There is no set formula.
Some of the parties look amazing, they must be fun to shoot but once the camera is away do you find people pull you on to the dance floor yourself and you end up partying with them?
I’m often getting pulled into the ‘dancing circle’. When I first started I’d shy away (I’m an introvert at heart), but now I jump in, enjoy myself doing something stupid—fit in—then get back to shooting. I never put my camera down, even if it’s 4am.
Do you focus your efforts purely on the dance floor and band etc, or do you go for a wander and look for things off the dance floor too? If so what’s your process for finding cool shots away from the dancing?
If the party is hot, I’m there. Once I feel I have enough, I may have a wander to see if anything catches my eye, or to find a potential night portrait (if the couple want one, of course).
Do you ever have parties that take a while to get going? Do you have a plan B of things to shoot in that scenario?
Depends on two things; the guests and the bar. Sometimes you get lucky with a group who just hammer the dance floor all night. Free bar? Wild party :¬)
If there is no party, I’ll just shoot whatever is the most emotive/interesting in creative photojournalism mode.
This year you switched from using shutter drag and then came back to it. What made you start using it again and what did you learn from experimenting shooting without it?
I prefer dragging the shutter, it feels more organic and energetic. I adore colour, and you can often paint some wonderful scenes be using the ambient light. A handful of couples will ask for ‘normal’ flash, but it’s very rare. Three times in my career, I think.
Can you share any of the technical side of shooting the dance floor?
Patience. There is no silver bullet setting. Try until you get it. It took me 10 minutes to nail it once, and that happened by increasing the aperture by a stop and decreasing the ISO a stop (exposure remaining the same). Although the exposure remained the same, the effect wasn’t. It’s all about balancing the ambient and avoiding awful LED band/DJ lighting.
Finally do you have an all time favourite dance floor photo or just a favourite from this year if not? Why does this one stand out to you?
Yeah, but I can’t publish it (it’s under NDA). It was for the multi million pound Blenheim Palace wedding that was all over the news. Cracking moment!
Before you ask, yes, I had a couple of drinks during that party :¬)
A huge thank you to Ross Harvey for taking time out of his crazy schedule to speak to us!
Ross Harvey – www.rossharvey.com