Tips on Event Photography

After attending numerous events, I thought of sharing some tips that I accumulated over the years on event photography. Many may think that event photography is an easy task. However, when they go about doing it, it is a totally different story. Here are some tips that I hope to share with everyone.

Event Photography

What is event photography? In simple words, it is capturing the essence of the event. When people refer these pictures, they can actually feel that they have attended the event. For example, the mood, the setup, the people, the flow of the event are clearly displayed and actually tell the “story” of the event.

Equipment

In event photography, things move in real-time. There is no way that you can halt an on-going event. There is schedule to follow. If you miss it, you miss it. There is NO turning back.

Therefore, equipment is very important. For me, I uses Canon EOS 7D for its fast startup and for the fact that it has a superb signal to noise ratio (less noisy pictures).

Here are my equipment list: –

    • Canon EOS 7D
    • EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS
    • EF-S17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM
    • EF50mm f/1.8 II
    • Battery Grip BG-E7
    • Speedlite 580EX II

Many people think that my camera, with the battery grip and Speedlite, is very heavy. In my opinion, yes, it is heavy but it also makes the camera stable.

Tips on Event Photography

There are several reasons that you are doing an event shoot. I can name a few: –

  1. It is a paid job
  2. You are shooting it for free
  3. You are invited to the event as a guest (e.g. blogger, product launch and etc)
  4. You are invited to the event and you choose to shoot although there is already a paid photographer
  5. It is an open event, anyone can shoot.

I will segregate the tips into General Tips, Tips (You are the Official Photographer), Tips (You are NOT the Official Photographer)

General Tips

  • Know your event (e.g. Wedding, Product Launch, Sports, Party, Night Life, Lifestyle)
    • The first thing to know is what is this event about.
    • If it is wedding, know the custom/tradition that they are going through.
    • If it is product launch, read up and try to understand the product first.
    • Sometimes, you may not know anything until you are at location. Arrive early to find out more.
  • Know Your Equipment
    • Prepare enough batteries to last the event for your equipment (i.e. DSLR, Flash and etc).
    • Ensure that the memory card is inside your camera and there are spare cards around.
    • Know your equipment settings well. You will have no time to slowly meddle with your settings. Event is NOT going to wait for you.
    • Read up the manual first and practice before you go for actual event shoot.
    • Do not try a new equipment on an important event. Trust me, you will panic if something is not working when the event starts.
    • For Canon, there is a Q. Menu that you can call up to see the basic setup information. This is very important when the location is very dim.
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  • Know Your Purpose
    • If you are the official photographer, behave like an official photographer (will talk about it later)
    • If you are a guest, try to find out more what you are expecting when the event starts.
  • Know Your Surroundings
    • If it is outdoor, try to know where you will be seated or allocated. A good location can determine if you can capture the subject well or not.
    • If it is indoor, try to know if there are enough ambient light or if there are ceilings that can bounce your flash.
    • Arrive early to do a quick check on the surrounding.
    • Talk to the event organizers, if needed, to understand the flow of the event so that there will be no surprises.
    • Observe locations where you should be able to capture good pictures. Event photography is very dynamic. You may need to move your location when the event starts.
  • The RIGHT Moment
    • This will need some practice. When is the right moment to press the shutter button?
    • You do not want to end up with hundreds of picture for a short event because you press the shutter button as if you are firing a machine gun.
    • Focus on the subject, snap the picture. Here are some examples of the right moment.

    • If it is a product, you may want to zoom in just to take the product.
    • If the subject is a celebrity, focus on the subject as people will be more interest to see this person than any other things.

  • Tell a Story
    • Everyone loves a story. Tell it with your pictures.
    • In simple term, imagine someone who has not attended the event. By looking at your pictures, he/she is able to visualize the event. For example, the decoration of the place, the location, the guests, the host, the crowd and etc.
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    • Use this method to take the event pictures. People will appreciate it.

Tips (You are the Official Photographer)

If you are in number 1 to 3 of what I mentioned earlier, this section should be of interest to you. At many events, you can see many other “unofficial” photographers. This is inevitable (in Singapore). Nowadays, I encounter people taking iPads or other tablets to take pictures or videos. So, here are some tips that might help.

  • Take control of the situation
    • You are the OFFICIAL photographer. People depends on you for the OFFICIAL pictures.
    • You have to know what is going on and direct them when necessary.
    • You have to redirect them if things don’t go your way. In many cases, talk to the person-in-charge and let them address your issue(s).
  • Know your stuff (read the General Tips)
    • Yes, you need to know what you are doing. People depends on you. Read General Tips.
    • At the start of the event, you should roughly know what type of pictures you need to take. If you have communicated with the organizer, he/she should have some request or you might pop that question to them. At the end of the day, they will be the one who will receive the pictures. My opinion is that as long as your client likes your pictures, nothing else matter. So, shoot what they expect to see.
  • Talk to the RIGHT person
    • There will definitely be a person-in-charge in any event (i.e. wedding, party, product, etc).
    • Get this person and talk to him/her to understand the flow. It is very important that the official photographer knows what to expect during the event.
  • Play along
    • Sometimes, situation happens. An over-zealous fan/friend/relative jumps in front of you and insist the subject to look at his/her camera.
    • In this kind of situation, if time permits, let him/her take the picture. In fact, when such things happen, I always take this opportunity to capture that moment of him/her taking that shot.

    • After that, take back your position and instruct the subject to focus on you again.
  • Be polite yet forceful
    • Sometimes, person might just walk in front of you and “station” himself/herself.
    • Be polite to request them to move away. If need to be, be forceful in your tone to show them that you are “in-charge” of the photography.
    • DO NOT pick a quarrel with anyone during an event. It will not benefit you.
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Tips (You are NOT the Official Photographer)

Sometimes, the event already hires an official photographer. You may be an invited guest or just an enthusiast who will not miss a good chance to take pictures of the event. In this case, here are some tips that might help.

  • Understand your role
    • Your role is NOT the official photographer. You have NO obligation to produce those pictures to the host but that does not mean you cannot take good pictures.
    • Try to work out with the official photographer(s). Allow him/her to shoot first. Most probably, based on my experience, if you have a camera ready, he/she will let you shoot before moving on.
    • Do not be a nuisance to the official photographer. Let him/her do his/her job. Here are some pictures of media at work during events. Learn to work with them.

  • Give space
    • Do not crowd around the subject until the official photographer cannot perform the job properly.
    • Watch the situation. Think about it. If you are the official photography, I am sure you do not like others to hinder your job.
    • Out of so many cases that I am the unofficial photographer, I am sure I did not anger the official photographer (except for  some fellow bloggers 🙂 ).
    • A tip is to make friend with the official photographer. It will then be easier for you to talk to him/her and vice versa.

I think I have spoken enough on Event Photography. These tips are things I have learned along the way. Some might not agree to my views. I welcome you to share with everyone here. Cheers!