How To Best Prepare For Event Photography


Are you an event photographer? Although you may seem to disappear into the crowd at an event, you know your work takes a lot of effort. In photography circles, event photography may not be the most glamorous of gigs, but there’s a lot at stake. It's also an ideal genre of photography for young photographers because it's very dynamic and it requires a lot of energy.

For starters, you have to be precise if you want to nail that perfect shot. Whether it’s a wedding or a concert, time won’t wait for you, and you can never go back to capture a missed moment. In this sense, event photography can get really stressful.

You’ve been hired to satisfy your client’s expectations. It’s essential to have a thorough understanding of what they’re looking for before the day of the event. Luckily, there are a few event photography tips you can use to make the job much easier for yourself and the organizers.

Read on and make sure to take some notes!

Photo by Elena de Soto

Get A Shot List

Once you’re hired to photograph events, organize a pre-event meeting with the client or event organizer. See if you can arrange to visit the venue before the event. Ask many questions to get an idea of the kind of space you’ll be shooting in and what the client expects from you. Some of these questions include:

  • What style do they want the photos in?
  • Is this the event’s official venue?
  • How are they going to use the photos?
  • Who and what’s going to be the main focus of the event?
  • How many guests do they expect and who are the key attendees?
  • Is it okay to use flash or perhaps continuous lighting?

The goal of these questions is to help you come up with a shot list. In most cases, you can get this list verbally, but be sure to write down all the information you gather. Some events have a lot going on at once and it can be easy for details to slip your mind. That won’t be the case if you’ve jotted them down.

Ask the client to send you the day’s program. This way you can schedule your day accordingly and anticipate when you’ll be able to get some of the client’s requested shots. At this stage, you’ll have a good idea of what the event will be like, what’s expected of you, and how to fulfill your client’s wishes.

In case you're shooting a wedding, you need to be even more careful in terms of a shot list. Check out our great tutorial on wedding photography.

Photo by Michael Mongin

Understand The Venue

You need to understand the location well in order to get stunning shots. 

It's crucial to frame your shots well and to be mindful of the lighting.

If you’ve not already visited the venue, ask the client how large the space is and how much lighting there is. With this kind of information, you’ll know whether to carry your lighting equipment and which lenses to carry. Also ask about key facilities, such as the bathroom, stage, and seating area. You don’t want to interrupt guests with your activities. 

You’ll also want to know where you can store your gear to prevent guests from tripping over them. This spot is quite essential, especially if you need to swap lenses throughout the course of the event.

Once you’re on-site on the day of the event, make sure you liaise with other production, video, or audio teams. This can be instrumental in coordinating your activities. You can also ask them any remaining questions you might have about the space or the day’s activities.

Photo by Priscilla du Preez

Gear Up

You don’t necessarily have to go out and buy new equipment for an event photography gig coming up. The steps we’ve gone through above will help you determine what equipment to bring with you.

Photo by Jacob Owens

Here’s a breakdown of what your equipment should include:

  • Camera: This is a must-have. Get the right camera body so that you don’t struggle to keep up with the proceedings. Full-frame camera is welcome but definitely not necessary.
  • Lenses: There are many lenses to choose from for event photographers, but you need to be careful; the action won’t stop for you to switch them. Zoom lenses strike just the right balance since you can quickly adjust your focal length without having to swap the lens. If you like working with prime lenses, that's fine, but be prepared to move a lot!
  • Lighting Equipment: Flash can be a bit distracting, so use it sparingly. You probably won't be allowed to use a flash if you're shooting a concert. Make sure you discuss this with your client.
  • Batteries: These are some of the most underrated and overlooked pieces of essential gear. Charge your batteries beforehand and make sure you bring extra. They may drain quicker than you had planned, depending on the camera you’re using. 
  • Memory Cards: You never know what might happen to the memory card you have on hand. Errors, and even physical breakages are always possible. One could even fill up faster than anticipated, so always carry extra. Also, have a fast memory card so that you can easily preview your shots.

Most importantly, pack your gear the night before the event. Avoid any rushes on the day of the event and be on time.

Camera Settings For Event Photographers

When it comes to camera settings for event photography, shooting in burst mode works best. This helps because you have guests or musicians moving around. When it comes to other settings, they depend mainly on lighting and your personal style.

Camera SettingsFunction
ApertureA wider aperture is great for event photography because it allows more light to hit the sensor. You can use something between f/2.8 and f/5.6 for a single person or a small group of people. Use a narrower aperture if you're capturing wide-angle shots of the entire venue.
ISOYour ISO will be determined by the lighting. Use high ISO for dimly lit settings and vice versa. Try not to increase your ISO too much to avoid grain. Luckily, almost all newer cameras have impressive ISO capabilities.
Shutter SpeedKeep your shutter speed between 1/100 and 1/200 when people are moving around. You can use slow speeds if you want to achieve creative effects with light trails – this works great if you're shooting electronic music events with many lasers and neons.

Be sure to shoot raw files for higher image quality. Raw image files give you more control when using editing software to get your final images.

Photo by

Expect Candid Shots And Posed Photos

Candid photography refers to capturing spontaneous and unposed photos of important moments. A posed photo, on the other hand, is planned and arranged. While a candid shot is a bit difficult to plan for, they’re the most preferred by clients and make for better event photographs. They’re more about capturing people during key moments when they are being themselves.

You’ll have to read the room and pay attention to the mood. Couple this with the event’s agenda. This way, you can anticipate the action shots you don’t want to miss. With experience, capturing candid event photos becomes more instinctive. You’ll be able to intuitively tell where the action will be going down. Candid shots are equally great in concert and wedding photography – people are usually more relaxed when they don't know that you're shooting them!

Some clients will still want to pose for a few photos, especially if you’ve been hired for something memorable like wedding photography. Guests may even approach you themselves and ask for a photo session. Be ready to make a transition from shooting candid photos to group shots, and vice versa. Always offer variety to your clients.

Photo by Product School

Dress Appropriately

We know, we know. Most photographers love shooting dressed in jeans and t-shirts. It’s a comfy choice when you’re going to be moving around all day.

However, this is a common mistake with photographers of all kinds. You don’t want to look out of place due to your clothes during a corporate event with business executives. Dress well, but make sure you blend with the crowd. If you’re not completely sure about the kind of event you’ll be attending or how to dress, play it safe. Smart casual always comes to the rescue. 

Your clothes should not draw too much attention. As such, steer clear of statement jewelry or wildly bright colors. It’s also a good idea to avoid noisy shoes that could distract the crowd as you walk across the room. Candid shots rely on you capturing moments when no one knows there’s a camera around.

Photo by Axville

Arrive Early

As the official photographer for an event, the last thing you want to do is arrive at the same time as the guests. Being late by even one minute can have a drastic effect on the shoot and ruin it.

Plan your trip in advance. If you haven’t already visited the venue, make sure you know the exact address and how long it will take you to get there. This way you won’t be late.

Give yourself enough time before the event starts to set up your equipment and have a look around. Don’t forget to capture the setup and decoration before the guests arrive as well. Being on time will also help you take candid photographs as the key people arrive. 

Photo by Chuttersnap

Do You Want To Become An Event Photographer?

Event photography can be such a lucrative specialization in the photography field. With these event photography tips and a positive attitude, you’re sure to excel. Also, you need to be comfortable around people if you plan to dedicate yourself to this type of photography. It's usually not the best choice for very introverted or shy people.

Photo by Charly Pn

Further Reading:

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