Sunday, May 17, 2015

The best time to photograph local politics is on election night

Posted By on Sun, May 17, 2015 at 6:37 AM

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
Money has been spent. Candidates, their volunteers and voters are all gathered together. Several hours go by as returns are tallied and there’s little for anyone to do except watch and wait and… talk to the press.

Local political drama at its finest.

Last November, I was assigned by the Independent to photograph the election night party for the Pikes Peak Dems. There were a number of candidates and issues on the ballot that night so I knew it would be a good opportunity for pictures.

Election night has its highs and its lows, and emotions, while front and center, are always fleeting. So as a photographer you must be quick.

I like to carry two cameras with me, one that has a wide lens for scene-setting shots or crowded rooms, the other with a longer lens for tight portraits and close-up candids.

I have to be quick on the draw with both. If I'm not, I won’t get the picture – one of the things that makes news photography such a challenge.

Another thing I like to do is arrive early so I can scout the room for angles or areas that might make an interesting picture that help tells the story.

Take this photograph of retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Irv Halter, talking with supporters after losing his bid for congress in 2014. Democrats running for Congress in the Springs have never really been able to compete in District 5 and the sign in the staircase framing him with a supporter makes the point.

click to enlarge SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

Another reason for arriving early is to be in the mix before anyone else arrives. If you’re the first one there, subjects are often more comfortable with your presence and that makes it easier to photograph those fleeting emotions.

That’s what my long lens is for. If I pretend to be a part of the furniture — standing in a corner of the room — I can observe the mood and capture reactions to the latest election results.

If you’re attending an election night party for either of the mayoral candidates, bring your camera and take pictures. It’s not only fun to do, but you’re capturing our democracy in action and history in the making.

Colorado Springs wedding photographer Sean Cayton loves remarkable photographs and the stories behind them. You can see his wedding work at, his personal work at and his editorial work in the Colorado Springs Independent. Connect with Sean via email to

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