A sunny Saturday evening in July found me at the wonderful LSO St Luke’s near Old Street in London to shoot event photography at the Collins family’s joint 30th wedding anniversary and 21st birthday party. It was my first time at the venue but I hope not my last as it’s simply wonderful, a church-like building that houses a stunning high ceilinged hall flanked by beautiful tall windows. By day it plays host to the London Symphony Orchestra’s rehearsals, and by night can be transformed into a stunning venue with full lighting, projection displays, and a stage for musical entertainment, with ample space downstairs to house a catering team.

Fiona got in touch because they wanted informal documentary-style photography of the rest of the night as it happened – drinks, dinner, speeches, more drinks, music and dancing – which is exactly the sort of thing I specialise in, and with so many happy people to photograph in such a wonderful venue I was in my element. But of course we also popped outside for half an hour before everything kicked off to get some formal portraits of the family together, not something that happens all that often these days!

And what an evening it was! After the main course had time to digest Mr and Mrs Collins took the stage to celebrate their twin sons 21st birthdays with entertaining memories and a comprehensively embarrassing slideshow, after which their sons took the stage to celebrate their parents 30th wedding anniversary with an unexpected game of Mr And Mrs, which revealed some fun family secrets! Then there was the delicious single-serving help-yourself desserts, incredible cocktails being served throughout the night, and two different bands performing: it was a night I was very happy to help the Collins remember.

Here’s a selection of my favourite shots from the evening, tap or click on any to see them larger.

london event photographer lso st lukes birthday party - A Wedding Anniversary & 21st Birthday at LSO St Luke's

Technical notes

This was my second event shot with the fantastic Fujifilm X-T1 along with my Nikon D700 and boy did the X-T1 shine! Every single ‘wide’ shot you see above was shot on the X-T1, with the D700 and 70-200 zoom for the long-lens shots.

Usually for an event like this I would stick with Nikon, swapping between a 24-70 and 70-200, with a Nikon flash bounced up to add extra light when necessary. However, the venue was so beautifully and atmospherically lit that I was able to shoot almost entirely without flash. This allowed me to make much more use of the X-T1 which, unfortunately, still has utterly lousy bounce-able TTL flash support, pretty much limited to an old, weak rebranded Sunpak flash that I’m unwilling to buy in the hope that a better solution is in development… Maybe… hopefully…

So, I shot using available light almost all night and the X-T1 performed incredibly well. In fact it produced one of my favourite images, a multi-shot panorama created using the in-camera panorama mode. And it’s just so light! I long to switch over from heavy DSLRs to just these Fuji cameras..

As mentioned I was using the kit lens, something I’d never normally attempt for dark event photography as kit lens apertures are usually too tight for decent shutter speeds indoors. However the X-T1 kit lens is brighter than any I’ve ever seen, and built a lot better with a great metallic feel and weight. It offers f/2.8 at 18mm (27mm equivalent), to f/4 at 55mm (82.5mm equivalent). I’d prefer 2.8 all the way through but the Fuji X-Trans sensor handles noise incredibly well, so I was able to shoot up to 6400ISO without issue and get shutter speeds and colours I could work with.

The incredible large bright viewfinder was a joy to work with all night, and the fold-out screen allowed me to shoot without having to bring the camera to my eye all the time, an action that guests can often sense out of the corner of their eye and react to, something I generally try to avoid as a documentary-style photographer!

Overall, then, this event marked the start of my genuine love-affair with the Fujifilm X-T1 for event photography. If anyone at Fuji happens to be reading, all it needs (aside from the forthcoming f/2.8 pro zooms) is a decent bounceable, pro-quality TTL flash solution.

And then it really might be goodbye Nikon.

(UPDATE: by the end of 2014 I’d stopped using Nikon altogether for most events!)