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The 'Rat Pack' photography challenge

Bernadette McDonald

What A Challenge!

Ever wanted the ultimate photography challenge? Each year, members of Alba are invited along to the 'Rat Pack' Christmas Show at Motherwell Civic Centre to take photographs.

The brief is to photograph the show , getting everyone on stage in the shot (including the band) and take 'Paparazzi' shots of the audience receiving signed copies of the programme afterwards.

This year 3 members from Alba bravely accepted the invitation- Bernadette McDonald, Alan Pollock and Roy Preston. The following account is Bernadette's experience of that challenge.

I read the brief - OK - get everyone into the shot, including the band. I need to be in front of the stage. No, security don't allow photographers or tripods blocking the isles as it's a health & safety issue. No standing in front of doors either as that's a health & safety issue too.


OK, maybe I can stand below the stage and get some shots? No, the brief says no shots from below. All shots have to be stage height.


I position my tripod to the right of the stage on a tripod where I'm not blocking anyone's path (although I hope security don't notice I'm standing in front of the fire extinguishers) and I raise my camera to stage height. Unfortunately, this means I won't get the band in any of my shots as they are hidden from view by a set of lights.


Raising the camera to stage height may be fine for certain members of the club (who are at least 7ft tall), but I'm only 5 ft and now I can't see the settings on the top of my camera! According to the brief, the use of LCD screens is not permitted either! I turn the LCD screen off, adjust the camera settings, and hope for the best!

Lights to the left of the stage are shining right into my camera lens. I know these lights are going to ruin some shots but if I take enough pictures I'm sure to get a few that will be worthwhile. The lights on stage are changing constantly and some of them are very bright. I know this will play havoc and some of my pictures are going to be overexposed but I'm not allowed to use the LCD screen to check them. Too bad, I'll try to salvage some of the overexposed shots in Lightroom.

The brief asks photographers to get some shots of the audience standing up and waving arms etc, so when this happens I turn my camera towards the audience. Even though I am using a tripod I know these shots are going to be useless, as it is dark, we're not allowed the use of flash, there is a lot of movement.... but I take them anyway. On reviewing the shots my fears turn out to be correct and I bin every one of the audience shots.

The 'Paparazzi' shots after the show allow me to try out the new flash I got for my birthday and I am very pleased with the opportunity to do that, and I am happy with the shots.
On the night I take around 1200 photographs, knowing I won't be able to use them all. This proves to be correct! After removing all that are blurry/ out of focus/ overexposed/ underexposed/ performers' faces blocked out by others/ performers were not in a good position / the shot is unflattering to the performer etc, I have whittled them down to less than 400. Out of these I may work on 20-30 shots.

Despite the challenges, this was a highly enjoyable night. The challenge is part of the fun of photography, it's all about stretching yourself, and doing the best you can with the conditions you've got. I did this show last year as well, and I have definitely come away with more 'useable' shots this year. One thing I did learn from last year is that I definitely need to use a tripod. Last year I tried hand holding the camera for part of the show and ended up throwing all of those shots away. I would definitely say my photography this year has improved as a result of that experience.

I would encourage anyone in the club who has not yet taken up this particular challenge to give it a go. For anyone who's not tried it yet, there's always next year. You just need to be willing to do the best you can and provide your best shots to the organisers in JPEG form at 300 dots per inch.

Happy Christmas!

Congratulations to Bernadette on a splendid achievement and sharing her experience with us all at Alba!

Some of Bernadette's photographs from the show:

Rat Pack 1
Rat Pack 2
Rat Pack 3

Rat Pack 4

Rat Pack 5

Rat Pack 6

Rat Pack 7

Rat Pack 8

Rat Pack 9

Rat Pack 10