Event photography is often looked down on as “non-artistic,” or “cheap.” Well, there is a lot of work that goes into photographing events and, more often than not, it’s about getting the photos your client needs more than artistry. That’s a challenge on its own! Here are some things to remember for your next event photography gig.
I think one of the most challenging aspects of event photography is successfully taking pictures of strangers in an uncomfortable atmosphere. When approaching people, lead with a smile. You don’t want to come off as ‘that creeper with the camera.’ You’re there to do a job, so be confident in that and good smiles will follow. Long lenses are useful for capturing candids, but a nice 35 or 50mm will get you close enough to encourage some smiles. Hint: Stay away from the wide angles, they make faces look alien.
2. Settings are not as important.
A solid understanding of camera functions, lighting, and composition is required for any good photographer, but photographing events is much more about your people skills. Most likely you’ll have an on-camera flash (or a strobe in the room, if you’re lucky), so lighting is going to be simple. You’ll only have one chance to get the shot, so composition should be straightforward. Lastly, camera settings will stay consistent the whole time, so focus on your people skills and get the attendees to show their best. At most, take 2-3 shots per person or group.
3. Consider the windows.
My first event was in a rooftop sunroom. I got there in the middle of the afternoon, so since the light was pretty bright and diffused, I didn’t bother setting up flashes. Little did I know, the keynote speaker would go on right at sunset! Leaving my flashes in the bag botched the shoot, and I didn’t get a call back the following year. Consider the time of day throughout the event. Where is the sun? Will the host change any lighting? What will the location look like after sunset? Stop by early and ask questions. It’s usually possible to get the staff to show you the different lighting in the venue. This is especially important under stage lights.
4. Use a flash.
Ambient light can really make an event photo stand out. It’s fairly easy to light subjects with an on-camera flash, but it’s challenging to balance that flash with ambient light. Generally, I shoot around 1/60 sec with f4.0-7 .0, and use a flash to get sharp, crisp images, but those settings should be adjusted to the ambient light. Hint: use your flash’s bounce card to reduce redeye.
5. Turn your event images around quickly.
Events are exciting and memorable, and everyone involved is thinking about them in the following days. Deliver your photos quickly, and they’ll be met with more excitement and enthusiasm, and the promoter will be happy they can get your photos out to attendees right away! An event promoter’s follow-up helps them to maintain successful events—which will get you hired again.
6. Get credit.
No matter what, you should always get credit for your photos. If they’re posted on social media, make sure the event promoter tags you. If they’re printed out, consider adding your (small) logo or watermark to the corner. On larger events, I’ve even had the promoter send a sales sheet with the images (for a slightly reduced fee). When I can pull that off, this almost always earns me another gig.
Since the prestige of event photography is so underestimated, a lot of your competition might not bother getting really great at it. The best event photographers will capitalize on that opportunity by delivering great, practiced event shots to promoters, fast! While clients might not recognize all the nuances I’ve talked about here, the difference in your finished product will stand out—and they’ll be looking forward to working with you again!