Photographing Barack Obama

You don’t have to be a celebrity photographer or a famous, sought after portrait photographer to find yourself photographing famous people. I have had the opportunity to work at many corporate events that have brought in some high profile speakers and entertainers. One such event had me photographing Barack Obama, then a US Senator from Illinois … with much speculation about a run for the White House.

Each event is different. Some provide the option of walking up fairly close to the speaker or entertainer to capture a few images. There’s really no such thing as trying to get only one shot unless they’re standing still and smiling. Otherwise, you run the risk of an unflattering facial gesture or closed eyes.  As I discussed in previous posts about entertainers, sometimes you can use a flash and others it’s just stage lighting.

At this particular event, I was asked to remain inconspicuous. I had setup my tripod at the back of the room and had a Canon EF 70-200mm IS USM lens on a Canon 5D camera with a cable release attached.

To reiterate what I’ve written about before, all that really matters with this type of photography is the person’s face. The face has to be tack sharp and well exposed, nothing else matters. If the face is good, the rest of the image will fall into place based on the ambient light. If there’s not enough light for the rest of the image, then it can be adjusted when editing the RAW file.

Barack Obama speaking at a podium
Illinois Senator Barack Obama speaking at a corporate event. Larry Shapiro photo

I chose the appropriate focal length to frame the image that I wanted and set a single focus point in the upper area in the center of the viewfinder.  This would allow me to keep his head in the upper third of the frame and ensure focus on his face. Keeping the cable release in my hand, I watched for his gaze in my direction and then grabbed one or more continuous image captures. Since he was speaking from a stationary position at a podium, I didn’t need to worry about him moving around.

Barack Obama speaking at a podium
Barack Obama speaking to a gathering in Chicago. Larry Shapiro photo

There is no sure thing, there are no guarantees. You have to be patient, you have to consistent … you have to know your craft!