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Black Tie BBQ

BlackTie BBQ Secret Supper | Valentines Day

Last Saturday night while I was photographing Deborah & Mark’s wedding, +Laura and Intern Jen were photographing BlackTie BBQ’s latest Secret Supper. I’ve photographed several of their secret suppers in the past and worked with them on other events as well. This was the first time I would send a team to photograph one of their events without actually being there. Now, it sounds simple enough – it’s just event photography.

Except we’ve all seen event photography that just wasn’t… up to par. Someone sticks a flash on their hotshoe, then they stick a tupperware diffuser on top of that and call it a day. Their photos don’t look any different from the ones taken by everyone else with their point-n-shoots. In case you haven’t noticed – lighting is a big deal around here. Whether it’s natural light or off-camera flash, it’s important to us. So when I realized that I wouldn’t be photographing this secret supper… I’ll admit that I was a little worried. So I sent in +Laura.

Because it’s one thing to just photograph food, but it’s completely different when you aim to capture the atmosphere and really do more than just document what went on. This isn’t documentary photography and we’re not just snapping pictures for historical record. The pictures have to be more. Because for a full service catering company such as BlackTie BBQ – it’s honestly more than just about the food – that’s a given. You’re not going to last long as a caterer in Atlanta, nevermind grow as fast as BlackTie BBQ has in the past year – if your food is anything less than excellent.

The secret suppers they put on are also always at interesting locations – On Stage –  The Goat Farm – An Old Garage – so part of the treat is that you’ll also be having dinner someplace that you’ve never been or probably never will be again.

Great job team.

Check out the Full Gallery by +Laura & Intern Jen, HERE.

Black. Tie. BBQ. Secret. Supper. +Laura. Photos. Valentines. Day. Millennium. Arch.

BlackTie BBQ | Low Country Boil

This past Saturday we photographed another one of BlackTie BBQ’s Secret Suppers. This time it was a low-country boil. In case you missed the first few – we photographed their Cinco de Mayo event, and then also the last Secret Supper that was held on stage at Theatrical Outfit. The food was Out.Standing.

The low-country boil was at the Atlanta Goat Farm. Yes. The Atlanta Goat Farm.

We photograph events that interest us. Not necessarily the event itself, but the conditions – specifically the challenges. Above everything else, photography is light. Aside from composition – we focus on handling light no matter what situation is thrown at us. That includes the middle of the day with no cloud cover, a black box, or a rainy day wedding – ‘bad light’ is never an excuse. No matter what any photographer tells you – there is no bad light – there is only light that they don’t know how to control or manage.

I started out planning on setting up a few light stands, cross lighting the space and shooting it like any other event – except I had four interns with me and not enough gear to go around. So I decided to make it a challenge for all of us. Attach a flash to our hotshoes and see what we get.

Now – you might be new to us here at so you probably don’t know how we feel about ‘on-camera’ flash. Basically – we don’t do it. We see many event photographers using big white tupperware diffusers on their $400 flashes, turning them into… soft light bulbs. From the start we decided that we were never going to make photos that way. I know – other photographers swear by them and generally we’re the only ones not using them… hey, that alone makes sure our photos will be different from everyone else’s – even if we have to work harder.

In the shot above you can see a good 15 feet back into the space – all lit with our on camera flashes with no tupperware diffuser. What some people don’t realize is that those diffusers cut the light so much that you’re rarely ever able to throw it past 4 feet and then you get complete darkness, and a flat looking photo where the people are bright bright bright and then it’s just black behind them – they look like they’re floating in space. We don’t like that look.

The interns are sometimes more comfortable starting off shooting details shots – the ‘stuff” – so lately I’ve been giving them that job completely and you’ll see shots from earlier in the evening in the intern posts.

I didn’t really start shooting until the last hour and a half and that’s when me and all of the interns were technically stuck with the same restrictions (on camera flash, low light conditions, small space with a finite number of shots) – so I told them we were all ‘competing’ because it’s too easy to just ‘check out’ and accept boring photos when given a difficult shooting situation.

If anything – I did not want us to give up and resort to a gallery of posed ‘get together and look at the camera’ type photos. So we all worked the entire time of the event, looking for shots that were less standard and more up to par with how I’ve photographed events in the past. Click. Click. Click.

Because there are few things that separate a good event photographer from everyone else on Facebook with a ‘photography fan page’ – and one of those things is the determination to work an entire event, looking for the best shots even if they don’t come until the last 10 minutes. Because we don’t wait for inspiration, or the perfect conditions, or even luck – but we do work the entire time, and even if we don’t succeed, we aim for beautiful photography, not just ‘good coverage’ of the event.

Below are the blog entries and photos by the interns who helped photograph this event with me:

Deborah | Christy | Robby | Maigh

Atlanta. Event. Photographer. Wedding. Low. Country. Boil.

Secret Supper | Theatrical Outfit

We like photographing the Secret Suppers held by our friends BlackTie BBQ. They’re always fun AND we get really, really great food. Not satisfied to hold their secret suppers in normal event spaces – they held their Valentines Day Secret Supper in the unfinished eighth floor of one of the high rises in Atlantic Station. That’s just cool. So when I found out that this time they were serving dinner ON STAGE at Theatrical Outfit – I knew it’d be awesome.

I also suspected that lighting the space for photos would be… like lighting the inside of a black box. Yup. Exactly. Below is a photo of what it looked like with just the available light – except of course in real life it was even more dim, and you know – moody. This shot was taken at f/4.0, ISO 3200 – and a shutter speed of 1/10th. If you don’t know what that means – trust me – you can’t photograph events that way. Everyone will be blurry.

There’s technically enough light in this picture – but like we always ask, ‘Is it the quality of light that you want?’ No. Absolutely not. If we only used the house lights we’d be stuck with far too many badly colored photos with generally flat lighting.

But hey – it’s okay – they hired – and we always bring our own lights.

Now they’re not ‘floating in black space’ like they were before. And you know – now we can do some cool stuff with shadows and where the light hits – stuff you can’t do when you don’t have control and you’re dependent upon the theater tech for lighting. The trick though is to not BLOW OUT the guest with your high powered studio lights. It’s still supposed to be a candle lit dinner ya know? So fully lighting the space isn’t an option – at least if you don’t want to anger the guests. It’s not a wedding and everyone’s not drunk… for most of the dinner!… so you have to be aware of what your lights are doing to the scene and mood.

We had initial difficulties finding the right light setups – and then we were making adjustments all night.

I spent waaaay too much time trying to get this light to go across the curtains like that – and even then, I helped it in Photoshop.

Plus, if you’re having dinner on stage – you want it to look theatrical right? Of course!

What’s cool about BlackTie BBQ is that they’re absolutely great people. In case you haven’t noticed – Leah and I are all about working with great clients that like us, and ones that WE LOVE. Now – we’ve both worked in really rushed and hurried kitchens where when things get crazy, politeness goes out the window and people start snapping at each other. But even at the height of the rush and when attitudes could have easily gone south – all of the BlackTie BBQ staff weren’t just polite to each other – they were genuinely good to each other.

Mistakes happen, plates are dropped, and in other kitchens, we’ve seen attitudes change for the worse – but not with this team. Having worked with BlackTie BBQ several times now and seeing how all of the staff interact with each other, it’s beyond impressive. They’re not a ragtag crew of servers hired for the night. I see the same faces over and over again – and they all do a great job.

You can tell their food is made with the same consideration they give each other.  There’s just something special about it.  Love and goodness and amazing flavors.  We can’t get enough.

BlackTie BBQ | Secret Supper

Check out the Photo Gallery Here.

Last Wednesday I was hired to photograph Black Tie BBQ’s Cinco de Mayo Secret Supper. Secret Location, Secret Menu, and Secret Guest List – basically you purchase a ticket and then you receive an email 24-48 hours before the event with all of the information. I’ve worked with Black Tie BBQ before on two previous occasions and they’ve never disappointed – in fact, as you’ll see from the photos, they do an excellent job of hosting a party, AND providing some really great food.

As with all of our event photography – no matter what – we try to get more than the basic ‘get together and smile’ shots of the attendees. Of course I’ll get those required shots just to make sure I get enough ‘coverage’ – but one of the things that I’m trying to get across to our interns is that they should focus on capturing the atmosphere. Not just the people. Sure they play a central role, but you don’t get atmosphere by photographing people squeezing together, trying to pose for a photo. You get it by photographing people doing things. You get it by putting yourself in a position to get the best shot – not just a good one.

Hey Look – Intern Jenna came along with me to work the event.

One of the noticeable qualities of our photographs has always been the light – or rather, how we handle light. Honestly, part of this is understanding our cameras and a little bit about editing – but the most important part of how we handle light is simply – we’re not afraid to take it on. Granted – this was initially due to the fact that I just didn’t know enough to realize that I shouldn’t be shooting a certain way in certain conditions. So I ended up trying a lot of things and eventually I learned how much leeway I had when it came to certain light conditions.

Speaking about the photo below – it took about 2 exposures and some chimping (looking at the display screen on the back of your camera) before I got to this one – and the subject did her part by looking cool for me. It’s probably one of my favorite among many from that day – because of the light.

Now. We have 9 interns – but obviously they’re more than that to us. Leah and I have really made ourselves accountable and taken on a fair amount of responsibility to teach them a few things. Along with all of the technical stuff ( ha, like using off camera flashes that have two settings – on and off), I especially like bringing them with me on photo shoots. Even better are the shoots where there isn’t much space. Because restrictions force you to be creative, and for us – the more restrictions, the easier it is to be creative – because you have to make up cool stuff OR ELSE. At least that’s how it is in my head.

Of course – sometimes you just need to stop thinking and start shooting. Other times, you need to talk to people so that they feel more comfortable with you and the big camera you’re sticking their face. Other times, you just need to hold your ground and get your shot, even when other people are about to yell at you. Yeah. All of those things.

In the end though – all of this event photography we do is really just practice for the weddings we photograph. It helps to keep our shots fresh from wedding to wedding. Photographers should be photographing – and we photograph everything. Because we’re trying to discover new things with our photos and our own skills – and you don’t discover things by photographing just weddings, or just family portraits, or just models.

Check Out The Photo Gallery HERE.