Event Photography – 11 Tips

I thought as one of my first posts back it might make sense to circle back to where I left off…talking a little about event photography.  Over the last couple of years I have had the good fortune to cover a wide array of events throughout the Pittsburgh area.  These have ranged from robotics competitions, student presentations, banquets, charity events, the Ben Roethlisberger Youth Football camp, fashion shows, a bocce tournament and bodybuilding/fitness competitions.  While by no means an expert on event photography,  In my last post I spoke a little about the gear side of event photography.  I thought I would share some tips I have learned over the last couple of years that have really helped with events that I thought I would share.  These are not in order by priority but more of how they have come out of my head…

1.  Events are fun.  Well most of them anyway.  Events are fun because people love having their photos taken at events.  They like the possibility of being captured at a swanky party or having a good time for the charity they are supporting.  All of that makes your job as the hired photographer a little easier.  But it also requires that you are having fun as well.  People are not going to react to you positively if you are all stuffy and boring and don’t know how to entice them to smile and have fun in front of your camera.

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Loving the attention of the camera pointed at him during History Uncorked at the Heinz History Center.

2.  Know what is expected of you.  Know what you are getting yourself into by asking as many questions up front.  Key things I like to know about an event are:  length of the event, location, indoor or outdoor, intended use of the photos, attire required, and key types of photos the client will be seeking. This is all part of the up front information gathering to know if it is an event I want to cover based on the demands but also being able to meet the expectations of the client.

Knowing before this event for Jefferson Hospital that they were going to want a group shot of all of the awardees was import for scouting out a location when I arrive but also bringing along two Alien Bee lights and umbrellas with a battery pack.

Knowing before this event for Jefferson Hospital that they were going to want a group shot of all of the awardees was import for scouting out a location when I arrive but also bringing along two Alien Bee lights and umbrellas with a battery pack.

3.  Know the desired outcome of the client.  The first thing I do when I arrive at an event is to find the point of contact and double check on the images they want captured.  Do they want wide shots of the event?  Specific details like table settings or the silent auction items?  Candid shots of groups of people?  Staged shots of groups?  Photo of the volunteer?  Key people in attendance to make sure to capture?

It is good to know the key people in attendance at an event you need to capture images of…like in this case, Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald.

It is good to know the key people in attendance at an event you need to capture images of…like in this case, Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald.

4.  Capture the wide shots.  Show the number of people in attendance, the venue, the variety of activities available at the event.  Also wide shots of the venue before people arrive is always a nice additional photo to provide to the client.

Wide shot of a picnic for Jefferson Hospital.

Wide shot of a picnic for Jefferson Hospital.

The Heinz History Center before guests arrive where you can see the lighting and general room setup.

The Heinz History Center before guests arrive where you can see the lighting and general room setup.

5.  Capture the details.  Similar to what wedding photographers tend to do, I like to try to capture some of the small details of the event.

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6.  Small groups.  Practically every event I have ever covered, the event coordinator wants photos of as many people in attendance as possible.  This drives more people to their Facebook page or other social media as they search for photos of themselves and hopefully tag themselves or share the images.  Plus the event coordinator wants to show the type of people they attract to their event, the fashion, and people having fun.

Small groups are a big part of event photography.  So a wide angle lens and a flash are important tools especially since you typically need to be at f/5.6 or so to get everyone in focus.

Small groups are a big part of event photography. So a wide angle lens and a flash are important tools especially since you typically need to be at f/5.6 or so to get everyone in focus.

7.  Kids.  Whenever I can capture kids in shots I love doing so.  Not only do they show the diversity of those in attendance at the event, but kids tend to have great expressions and are having fun.  In the case of this photo, it shows the kids interacting at a health table for Jefferson Hospital where they hired a balloon artist (something they also mentioned they wanted photos of when I arrived).

Munhall Community Days for Jefferson Hospital.

Munhall Community Days for Jefferson Hospital.

8.  Staff.  Staff interacting with attendees is always good for the company newsletter, website and social media.

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9.  Volunteers.  Make sure to capture a group shot of the volunteers if possible or the planning committee.  A lot of work goes into events and having the memory of the committee that made it all happen is important for the organization and the committee members.

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2012 History Uncorked planning committee for the Heinz History Center.

10.  Know what the potential customers want.  I have covered several body building and fitness competitions.  In most of those I was doing it because I enjoyed it, because I was hired but was only going to be paid if people bought images (not a preferred way of doing events by the way!), or because I had friends involved. So in this case, it was important to know the bodybuilders not only liked shots of them individually capturing a variety of different poses, but also comparisons with other competitors.

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11.  Stay professional.  If you are paid to cover an event, then you are there to do a job.  You’re not there to eat or network or flirt, you are there to take photos.  I have seen it with others when I was attending an event that were drinking most of the night, hanging out at the food table, or acting inappropriately at the event.  I know for me at least, I usually don’t eat at an event until every one else already has or only when the host insists that I get something to eat.  For longer event coverage I might build into my contract with the client specific break times.

Most events have GREAT food at them, but I am there to work not eat.

Most events have GREAT food at them, but I am there to work not eat.

I hope that these tips are helpful to you shooting events!  What did I leave out?  Other tips to share?  Questions?  By the way…all of the photos in the post were taken by me at events.

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