Christian Grattan

Event | Last Updated: April 12, 2021

I am an event photographer and educator out of New York. I have a background in fashion editorial events with WWD as my main client. Other clients include Bergdorf Goodman, Gucci, Jean Paul Gaultier, Lancôme, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Moët et Chandon, Tata, and The Whitney Museum of American Art.

My work has also been in oodles of publications and I have photographed lots of famous and notable people. If you meet me in person ask about the Claire Danes story.

I also teach photographers how to make more money doing what they love, and I created and host The Photo Summit, an online event were top photographers and industry leaders share the tools and tactics that created breakthroughs in their photography and their businesses. Hint: check out The Photo Summit so you can use them for yourself and grow your revenue.

I started focusing on bar mitzvah photography a little over 10 years ago. The gear below is what I take to shoot a bar mitzvah.

Bar Mitzvahs present some interesting challenges. They are a mix of a traditional religious event and a party for a ton of 13 year olds hopped up on sugar. They are a celebration of a family and its history with many generations coming together, as well as an opportunity to dance to Cardi B while wearing blinking LED glasses.

From a gear perspective I have to do tons of formal family portraiture, almost exclusively inside, and remain flexible and portable. I never want to hear “did you get a shot of?” and have the answer be “no.” So I shoot way too much (over 6000 frames per job). In order to do this during portraits I need strobes – speedlights just can’t keep up – and portable power. The vagabonds are great for this, and I can charge my phone from them too!

Mitzvahs are big events generally with over 300 guests and lots of moving parts. They go by very quickly. So understanding the timing, and what you have to get, by when, is vital.

Here are some things in my gear bag that might not seem important, but they are musts! I never see people list them as part of their kit, but they are as crucial as photo equipment when it comes to having the day run smoothly:

A shot list and a run of show. There is little question as to what I expect from my second shooters at any given time because I hand them a list. My view of the event is that I am collecting digital assets that will later be made into a book. I know what I need for this process and am clear about it with my second shooters. I know what lens I am going to be shooting with and what I plan to cover, so my other shooters need to know what they need to cover to round out the story.

Earplugs! A lot of time the best spot to shoot from is right in front of the speaker. Photographing events is a difficult job, that demands a lot of focus. It is so much harder when you can’t hear yourself think, also I want to hear when I am in my 60’s.

A power strip. When I don’t see other photographers or the video crew bring one, honestly, I think less of them. #AmateurHour. My mantra on a job is ABC-Always Be Charging. Events are stressful enough and I never want to worry that I might run out of batteries toward the end of the night.

I also bring a power strip because the back of house always seems to have limited power outlets and there is a scramble for them. If you can take one outlet and make it 6 you are automatically the hero, if you choose to share, it creates a lot of goodwill with the other vendors.

OK, now here’s what you came for – the equipment list:

Equipment List

Nikon D810
Nikon D800

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
Nikon 24-120mm f/4 – This is my bread and butter lens. I am on this lens about 90% of the time.
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

2 Paul C Buff Cyber Commanders – Honestly, these are not the easiest things to use. There is a steep learning curve with them and even when you think you know them they still do wacky things. The menus are not intuitive, so be warned.

3 Paul C Buff Einstein E640s – Neither intuitive nor elegant, but they are solid and they get the job done at a good price. I am not the most gentle with my gear, so I would be scared to have expensive lights. If I break one of these, it’s fine. Also the client has no idea that these are not the super top of the line. They find the whole experience impressive; the brand of light means nothing to them.

2 Paul C Buff Vagabond Minis – LOVE THESE. I have never run out of power with one of them.

2 Nikon SB-900s- NOT the 910s. I shoot quickly and I need to rotate my flashes because they overheat. With the 900s they will still shoot if they are too hot. The 910s just cut out. This is not what I want when I am in the middle of an important moment and can’t swap out flashes.

2 Stroboframe VH 2000 Stroboflips – When I am out at a party and I see a photographer who does not have some kind of bracket for their flash, I think less of them. I am realizing that I am very judgy.

2 Gary Fong Origami Flash Diffusers

Gary Fong LightBlade

Paul C Buff 64-inch Soft Silver PLM with diffusion – Confusing and complicated design but it puts out a lot of light and works well with the Einsteins. It’s also fun to watch a new assistant try to put one together.

Photek 60-inch silver Umbrella with diffusion

Quantum Turbo 2×2 battery– Coming from a press line background I have a heavy finger and shoot a lot in one go. If I don’t have this, the power output on my flash becomes inconsistent and that makes editing terrible.

2 Avenger light stands

2 Manfrotto Super Clamps with Studs – This is to clamp the strobes to the lighting truss around the stage.


Roll of black Duvetyne – in case I am shooting family portraits on the dancefloor and there is a strange bounce from the color or texture of the floor.

MeFOTO tripod

Davis & Sanford Monopod

Smith-Victor BH8 Metal Alloy ball head

Power2000 rechargeable batteries

2 Energizer 4AA Rapid chargers

Power strip

Shot list

Equipment list

Run of show

MicroFiber cloth

1/4, 1/2, full CTO gels, cut to the size of the flash face, with double-stick tape on them
Foam earplugs (for my second shooter)

Etymotic Research ER20 earplugs – These cut down the volume, but don’t distort and muffle the sound. Other photographers say “but how am I going to hear my client, or talk to people?” Honestly, you are in a very loud room, they are screaming at you anyway.

A Hex wrench for the Stroboflip flash bracket, or any IKEA furniture I happen to come across during my shoot day


Lexar and SanDisk CF and SD cards

Leatherman Multi-Tool

Lancôme blotters – Takes shine off the client, saves time in retouching later, and makes you look fancy, cause they are a good brand.

Business cards

A pen (to mark of the shot list)


Vision Quest Sensor Loupe

Giottos Rocket Blaster Dust-Removal Tool

A “Clicker” Lighter­ – I have a rule “no unlit candles!” I refuse to shoot them.

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