How to Make your Virtual Special Event a Success - My Experience Photographing a Zoom Bar Mitzvah
To Zoom or Not to Zoom Your Special Event?
If you have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Wedding, or other special event scheduled this year, you may be asking yourself,
"Should I pivot to a virtual event or postpone?"
While at first it may seem disappointing to "settle" for a virtual event, the idea of postponing until next year brings a whole other set of questions:
For Bar & Bat Mitzvahs:
As a San Francisco Bay Area Event Photographer, I've had numerous conversations about this with my own Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Wedding clients. To be honest, at first I had mixed feelings about pivoting to virtual events. But it wasn't until I actually got to photograph my first Zoom Mitzvah that I realized what a great choice virtual events can be!
Max's Zoom Bar Mitzvah!
I photographed Max's Zoom Bar Mitzvah in June 2020 - and it was AMAZING!
In fact, it was intimate, emotional, and every bit as meaningful as the 100's of traditional Mitzvahs I've photographed.
I documented his special day in my usual storytelling style. The story may have been different than originally planned, but the feelings were exactly the same.
And now I get to share my experience and helpful tips with all of you! Here's how our day went:
Photography Timeline for the Day:
Before the Service - Zoom Test with Clergy, Lighting/Sound Check, Photograph Decor/Details, Candid Getting Ready Shots
The Service - Very much like a synagogue service with all the same candid moments of Max and his family
After the Service - Zoom guests "unmuted" to say Mazel Tov, candids, great reaction shots!
Family Portraits - In a shaded area of the front yard! (Could also be done before the service for better light.)
Themed Photo Shoot - Max's theme was basketball, so of course, we had to create some cool street photography of him doing his thing in his favorite hoodie and Jordans! Made his day even more special!
Tips for a Successful Zoom Event
Creating "All the Feels"
Create a paper or electronic invitation announcing the change to a virtual event with date, time, and instructions on how to join. Send reminder the day before. Here are some great examples: https://www.mitzvahmarket.com/mitzvah-ideas/how-to-word-bar-bat-mitzvah-postponement-cards/
Use decor inside and outside your home with a theme just like you would for a traditional event. If you don't have time, an event planner can help you.
A Few Live Guests
Invite just a few close family members to be there live - SAFELY- if you're comfortable. Personal choice.
*** Prep your virtual guests in the invite with anything special you'd like them to do.
The Candy Throw and Mazel Tov Signs
Zoom Guest Congrats
At the end of the service, unmute virtual guests so everyone can say congrats!
Themed Photo Shoot
Max's favorite part of the day was changing into his hoodie and Jordans, and doing a basketball-themed photo shoot!
Lunch or Dinner
Order your favorite Take-Out, make a favorite homemade dessert, and do NOT forget this... It's my favorite challah in the San Francisco Bay Area from Woodside Bakery and Cafe in Menlo Park.
Movie Night, Game Night, Dessert-Making Contest, and if you're comfortable, outdoor Socially Distanced Get-Together with a small group of family or friends.
The Techie Side
Designate a Zoom Manager
The last thing you want is to accidentally hear a Zoom guest's private conversation, or worse yet, see them doing something inappropriate! Appoint a friend or family member to manage your Zoom experience from their own laptop. Your synagogue, church, or DJ may do this for you. The Zoom Manager should:
This is a two-light setup with extra fill from a window. I recommend turning OFF overhead lighting.
Position your laptop so the camera is at eye level or higher for the most flattering angle. You can see in the above photo how the laptop is on a few upside-down baskets.
Lighting... is EVERYTHING
Adequate lighting is the key to looking good on the other end of a Zoom event.
Here are some great light sources:
Key Features to Look for in LED Ring Lights:
Here are some Ring Light options with great reviews:
Neewer 18-inch SMD LED Ring Light Dimmable Lighting Kit with 78.7-inch Light Stand, Filter and Hot Shoe Adapter for Camera Photo Studio LED Lighting Portrait YouTube Video Shooting - Neewer is a well-known reliable brand and offers a whole line of ring lights.
Less Expensive, but Still Great Features
The goal is to make sure everyone in front of the Zoom camera is evenly lit. Experiment with different setups to see what works best in your environment at the exact same time of day as your event. Here are some examples of One-Light and Two-Light Setups.
Set up one light ~45° to the left and the other ~45° to the right of where you will be standing.
Pro Lighting Tips:
Laptop Built-in Microphone vs. External Microphone
While your laptop has a built-in microphone, and Zoom does a decent job adjusting that sound, the quality is not nearly as good as an external microphone. Zoom gives you the option to use an external mic.
The easiest to use are USB microphones that connect directly to your laptop. You can attach what's called a "Microphone Windscreen" or "Pop Filter" to eliminate or reduce that annoying noise "P' sounds make in the microphone (called "plosives").
Popular USB External Microphones:
Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB Cardioid Dynamic Microphone (ATR Series) - I use this one for my own Zoom meetings, currently less expensive than the Blue Yeti
Do a Test Run!
Just like a traditional Mitzvah, it's important to take time either before or after the service for professional family portraits, even if it's just your immediate family. We kept it simple by finding the best spot in the front yard for all of Max's portraits.
Is a Virtual Event Right for You?
If you decide a Virtual Event is for you, I hope you now feel reassured that your event will still be just as special, and you find this Blog helpful as you plan all the details. If you know anyone who's planning a virtual event, please feel free to share this Blog with them.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out in the comments. And if you have any experience planning or attending a virtual event, please share with the rest of us!
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Keywords: Bar & Bat Mitzvahs, bar mitzvah photographer, bar mitzvah photography, cheryl bigman photography, hosting a zoom event, photography blog, recommended external microphones for zoom, recommended ring lights for zoom, san francisco bay area bar mitzvah photographer, san francisco bay area photographer, virtual bar mitzvah, virtual bat mitzvah, virtual event tips, virtual wedding, zoom bar mitzvah, zoom bat mitzvah, zoom lighting tips, zoom sound tips, zoom tips, zoom wedding
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