I know that many people, upon hearing the term “event photography,” immediately begin to think of fancy gatherings like award shows, corporate fundraisers, weddings, proms, any manner of so-called black tie affair. But in reality — as far as a photographer should be concerned, at least — as long as you have a gathering of people doing something, loosely speaking, you may very well have an event on your hands.
It could be an elementary school fundraiser, a community bake sale, a family reunion, a photography meet-up. It doesn’t matter how the people are dressed or whether there are any celebrities in attendance; introducing your camera to a crowd of people represents an ocean of interesting possibilities and observations, in terms of both human behavior and photography.
Regardless of whether you're shooting in a very formal atmosphere like a wedding, or a more laid back, casual setting like a birthday party, there are a few universally applicable tips for successfully photographing any event.
- Be Prepared for Anything. Because anything can happen anytime people are freely mingling amongst one another. Unlike a studio portrait shoot where you, as the photographer, exercise quite a bit of control over the situation, shooting an event is not going to afford you such a luxury. Sure, you might get a few posed group shots (especially at a wedding), but generally speaking, you’re going to have to go with the flow; whatever happens…happens. Your job is to be ready to click the shutter.
Goggi, Popplagið by insouciance, on Flickr
- Shoot a Lot. And by “a lot,” I mean a lot. This, however, is not a call to be haphazard with your shooting, hoping that you’ll get lucky and get some great shots. But with so much going on around you, there’s going to be a lot to capture. Given the spontaneous nature of the environment, multiple exposures will be a great asset to you; catching someone mid-yawn or mid-sneeze or in some other unflattering fashion isn’t what you’re going for. There’s no reason you can’t capture people looking their best just because they aren’t posing for you.
American Justice by jurvetson, on Flickr
- Pay Attention. At any event, the range of human behavior on display can be astounding. Observe your fellow human beings closely. Notice the subtleties, focus on the details, and extract stories. By telling a story in pictures you can convey what an event is all about without even having to express explicitly what the event is. It’s pretty easy to look at photos of people of a certain age, dressed a certain way, and conclude that they’re attending Comic-Con or some similar event. Photographed the right way — with context and attention to detail — a family reunion is as easily recognized by any viewer.
Heart aching hug for daddy by Tyler J. Bolken, on Flickr
- Be Properly Equipped. Unless you’re shooting an outdoor daytime event, you should expect the lighting conditions of the location in which you’ll be shooting to be less than ideal, in terms of both quantity and quality of light. Concert venues, school gymnasiums, hotel conference rooms, wedding reception halls — they all present something of a challenge. So use your fastest lens and don’t be afraid to boost the ISO level. Using a flash shouldn’t be your first course of action; some places won’t allow it, but even if flash isn’t prohibited, using it might be more of an adverse distraction than anything else. As they say, don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.
- Be Efficient. Move around and work the room without being intrusive; be polite and don’t ruin anybody’s fun. Don’t stress over individual shots, don’t get hung up on trying to get one particular type of shot. Shoot everyone and everything around you from from different angles. Think as you shoot and you’ll fall into a groove soon enough.
“Can We Pretend That Airplanes in the Night Sky Are Like Shooting Stars” – Stewart Wedding – Skull Valley, AZ 7/10/2010 – 3 by Logan Brumm Photography and Design, on Flickr
Comic Con Girl by Carsten Schertzer, on Flickr
- Have Fun. Pretty self-explanatory.
You Might As Well…. Jump by tarotastic, on Flickr
Event photography can be very difficult. I have photographed several weddings. Often I find myself asking, should I be using flash. Am I interrupting the event. It’s a fine line to walk upon.
Great points. Also, from one who shoots events for a living, ask the host or client what and who their must-have’s are, and make sure to get them.
Nice tips. Event Photography could be fun when time is not an issue. If you know what I mean. So, the last one is muy favourite 🙂
Talk to the event organisers beforehand if you can. They can give you a heads up on what is going to happen so you can be in the right place at the right time. Enjoy the occasion and interact with people rather than just snapping away, you’ll get far more authentic shots when people are prepared to go along with you rather than awkward poses and you’ll get more out of the event personally.
Photography is passion not just a profession.. I would love to learn more on photography. This article is great!
Some people tend to think that Photography is easy as slicing a cake but in reality it’s hard especially for people who don’t have the passion for it.. Every pictures we capture is special. It doesn’t just capture the moments but capture our hearts too.
Well stated, Jessica. Your sentiment is definitely food for thought.
Great article, wedding photography is my passion and work without being intrusive it’s very important for me. When people forget the photographer is there then you capture the most beautiful moments.