I spend a bit of time volunteering for my community. It all started when I was 12 years old and our Father put my three brothers and I in the Boy Scouts. Matter of self-preservation on his part, and for us boys a reasonable choice given the alternative of military school (of his choice and country, of course!)
This evening I was invited to photograph local community members being honored for their work in the community as part of the annual National Philanthropy Day. This years event was sponsored by our local Community foundation for San Benito County.
Shooting events such as this is an on-the-go adventure; I follow the presenter around the room and photograph each recipient receiving their award. Lighting is dismal, and on camera flash is the only way to fly. There is no room for an assistant to follow you around the room with a 60″ photek, and, 45 awards are handed out in under 60 minutes.
I use my trusty Nikon D700 set to 800 or 1600 ISO, manual shutter at 1/45 second to allow plenty of ambient, set the lens in the f5.6 range so you have some depth to work with, and shoot an SB900 with the wide area diffuser, TTL sync bounced off a large Rouge Flashbender. Forget slow flash, shutter speeds will be far to slow in this dim light. I prefer to balance the flash to the incandescent lights, but managed to arrive at this event without any gels. So, balance the color for bare flash and accept the warm background. The D700 is a dream camera for low light; I can push to 3200 ISO with minimal noise (as long as you don’t grossly underexpose) with the big fat full frame 12mp sensor.
Best trick is to figure out at what distance the flash is most happy. TTL helps alot, but get to far or close and the lighting will still change quite a bit. I tend to work at around 6 to 10 feet, shooting a 24-70 f2.8 mid-zoom. A prime 50mm f2.8 is also a great choice, but can be tricky when you are asked to shoot a table full of people in the middle of shoot.
I shoot RAW and post in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR inside Photoshop CS5,) mainly because I can post process one photo and quickly sync all the rest, crop and save. I then use Photomechanic to re-size to a standard crop and watermark and then its up to my portfolio where the clients can view and download.