Tag Archives: Event

Ten reasons not to take pictures for free

You and your camera go beyond your hobby

• You and your camera •
Don’t let your hobby take over your life or put you under undue pressure.

Don’t feel guilty saying no to “photography-for-free”.

Keen photogs will probably be asked to take photos for friends. OK. Don’t be shy. The odd shot is fun. It’s about being friendly. What about when that ‘ask’ is really a ‘job’? Here are the ten reasons you need to think carefully before committing to a job without pay…

1. What is a job?

There’s no clear definition. The line between amateur and professional is blurred. Making good or great images is not the only factor involved. Being a professional photographer involves a whole lot more. A keen amateur can produce great images. But can they do it under the same pressure that professionals work under? This is the key to the issue. When you agree to do a “pictures-for-free-gig” you are doing what a professional will do – and not getting paid for it. Can you perform to professional requirements and provide the goods despite the pressure and no pay?

2. When it does not come out right who is at fault?

You! The person who agreed to do this is you. And, the responsibility is yours to deliver. Can you – deliver? You had better be clear about that; and happy to provide a comeback when it fails. Professionals carry professional indemnity to cover serious disasters and legal proceedings. Do you have cover? Have you thought about the consequences for something priceless – your friendship? A possible law suite and loss of friendship can both be devastating.

3. Unforeseen problems

Your friends have asked you to do a job. Do you know what problems are likely to crop up? They probably do not… and they rely on your expertise. You might be happy to produce the shots but do you really know what else is needed? Jumping in blind can be a minefield. What are the expected shots for this type of shoot? Do you even know to ask that question? Do you know what you will need to do to get that information? If you have not worked out what is needed to cover eventualities when problems arise you are in a difficult situation. If you do not see the problems it will be your fault. Are you sure you have covered everything? Think again. And again. For you it’s about photos. For your friends it is about their memories. You really need to be sure you know it all and what will happen.

4. Your time will not be respected…

Your “friends” will expect you to be on call. You may be happy with that. But you have your life to live too, right? Nevertheless, you are doing the job and you will need to be the one who covers the time. Some events have a lot of meeting time and provision for professional input. Do you have that time? Rehearsals, shoot lists, requirements and principle characters are all important and as the photographer you may have to meet them all. You may be required to meet people both during working hours and at evenings and weekends. You may be involved in planning for months ahead of the event. You will need to be ready to fall in line. If you are not being called to these meetings then you are potentially building up a legacy of problems for the day. When you don’t know the details of the event minute by minute but are required to get all the shots, who is at fault? Your time is important to the event. Or at least that is the way it will be seen by the event organisers. Can you really provide that resource? For free?

5. Professional standards

Sure, you will be told, “We don’t expect professional standards”. Your friends have seen your images. They know you are good. Will they feel so forgiving when you do not produce one hundred top quality images with all the expected and formal variations for their wedding, party, engagement, event etc.? One or two good ones from a shoot is great. For your personal interest it may be what you want. When you are working for someone else their expectations are more exacting. Professional standards are expected for all the shots, not just a few. Be ready to provide for that.

6. Things do go wrong!

You are the ONE! The person for the job. Do you have the eventualities covered? Here are some of the sort of things photographers might encounter…

  • You drop and break your camera on the day;
  • Your memory card is defective;
  • You get sick;
  • On the day you discover you are not allowed to use flash in church;
  • You break a lens;
  • Your daughter breaks an arm the day before the event;
  • You’re asked on the spot for shots you’ve not agreed or were not prepared to do;
  • A passing pedestrian steals your camera bag  External link - opens new tab/page;
  • A drunk guest wants to take “up front pictures” while you are doing the formal shots;
  • Extreme sunlight outside the church will blow out the white on the brides dress;

A professional photographer will have contingencies, strategies and cover for things like these. Things always go wrong in some respect. You need to cover for all these and be prepared for more. And, you need to do it for free.

7. People don’t value things that come free

It is almost a cliché – “the best things in life are the most expensive”. It may not be true. But it is a public perception. If you are doing this “job” for free there can be consequences. Your advice will be devalued because you are free. You will be on the same advice level as Aunt Mavis, the brides father and others. Worse, the chap down the road who is a retired photographer and family friend (who has never used a digital camera) will also be advising out of your earshot. Working in those conditions adds a pressure that is a new dimension beyond friendship (and professionalism). Be aware that doing the job – even if you get it right – may still damage your friendship.

8. Post production

A professional photographer provides an after-shoot service. Within a week the processed images are provided as contact-sheet choices for final prints. There may be a need for a book; a cd; other types of mounted images. Be prepared for about four or five days processing work. Then you will need to provide for the future requirements. You will need to be ready to send out images, keep copies available for updates and reprints for several months. You will also need to retain the images on file indefinitely (securely). You will need to make solid editorial decisions about which images you allow to be seen and which you do not. You may have a thousand images… common for amateur digital photographers. Post production is a big part of a professional shoot. Can you resource it? Can you make the grade in post production? Can you resist when your friends says she wants all the images, not just the ones you chose? Feel good about that?

9. One for free… many more to go

Once people know you do professional work – without the cost – you will be in the front line. All sorts of pressures and unreasonable requests will be made. You will be taken for granted. And, it will be up to you to resource it. Travel, printing, expenses, processing, insurance, time, new equipment – there is more to shooting regularly than simply turning up with your camera. You have to provide resources too. Remember, you will not have the benefit of income for it either. How do you say no to other friends and family when you have done a professional job once already?

10. Photography is fun – right?

Doing the free stuff is fun when you are doing it for you. There is a completely different spin on it when you are doing something under pressure for someone else and not getting anything but hassle in return. Professionals enjoy their job. They are prepared and resourced for the problems and pressures. You need to have the same resources and cope with those pressures too – free. Where is the fun in that? Taking a photography “job” for free takes the fun out of your work. And, it is no fun being taken for granted.

The overview

Despite the opinion of many people, photography is a job. There are professional standards, costs, requirements and pressures. You may want to take up professional photography. That’s fine. However, be prepared. I have pointed out the professional dimensions.

The key point is simple. There are additional pressures on you and your friendships when you let yourself be taken for granted by doing free work. Sometimes they go beyond professional pressure.

Feel free to do family shots, fun activities and enjoyable photography. Even a little charity work and some contributions to local groups are fine – on your terms. Be prepared for something that looks like a “job”. A polite withdrawal will be looked on with respect and friendship once you explain the pressures involved. Failing to make the grade will not be looked on with simple forgiveness.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
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Event photography – tips for getting it right

"The Guitarist". You need to make sure that all aspects of your event are covered.

“The Guitarist”.
Good event photography covers all aspects of the event.

Event photography is a responsibility.

It is an important commitment. There is pressure to get it right. However, it gives you an insight into understanding the needs of the viewer. You have to focus on showing the event in the best light.

At some point most photogs are asked to do some event photography. Family party, Church event, wedding, Christmas lunch, engagement… you name it. If you agree, make sure you know what you is expected of you and your camera. Previously, I looked at what you need to do before an event or special occasion. In this post I look at what to do to make your event photography effective.

Cover the story, include everyone

If you have prepared for the event, you should know what you are to shoot and how long you have to do it. Here are some things you can do while doing your event photography…

  1. Tell a story: A little forward thinking can help you to tell a story of the event. As you go through your shoot look for little activities, actions and happenings that will tell the story. You may pick out, say, ten pictures of the event that most people will recognise tell the story. Keep your eye open for the most important points of the event to capture for this purpose.
  2. Entertainment: Make sure you capture any performers. Preferably make images of them performing. If that is a challenge (lighting can be difficult), capture them in the break. If they are reluctant, get their email address and promise to send them some shots. Most performers love that. They always need photos for publicity.
  3. Food: Always capture pictures of the food. When people eat they usually have the best conversation and meet new people. That is one of the memorable parts of the event. Pictures of food are enduring if done well. Read up on food photography a bit to get some ideas. Find out what sort of food there is in advance. Then you’ll know what to expect. If the host(ess) or close family made the food then go into it in some detail. They will love the attention and you will get good feedback.
  4. Presents: It seems a simple thing but it will be important to the hosts. Make sure you get a few pictures of any present table or special gifts or awards. This is an important record for the hosts. It is also a reminder of the purpose of the event. It is worth asking the hosts if they want to arrange the presents. They often want to show some off some more than others. They may also want to arrange them so they can remember the gifts. Otherwise arrange them artistically yourself.
  5. “Formals”: Event photography often involves formal shots. A lot of amateur photographers hate them. But if you have done your sit-down planning with the organizers you will know what you have to do. You will find it is quickly over. In most family or small events they are usually quick anyway. Maybe just the speeches are needed or even just some formal shots of the birthday cake and the lucky recipient. Make sure you get a few shots that show the formality of the situation if necessary. More than anything make sure you get all the photographs the hosts require (close family, birthday girl/boy, dignitary etc.)
  6. Candids and poses: I love to do this. It’s great fun. Wander around the party/event having a little conversation with everyone. Make sure you introduce yourself. Say you are doing the photography for the event. Ask them if they want to pose or if you can just take candid shots of them. If you are allowed to take candids then remember to capture them later when they are chatting, smiling, enjoying. Taking candids at the table with the people sitting and enjoying conversation is great fun. You really capture people as they are in person – rather than who they want to be in a pose. Make sure you engage with everyone. For good event photography the hosts will want to get a good coverage of all the guests. If this is a public event (church event, sports event) its not so easy. So just do some general crowd shots so the flavour of the activities are encapsulated in your story.
  7. Posed sessions and groups: I usually seek out a place at events where I can use a nice background from the location. Sometimes for more certain results in my event photography I set up my own backdrop. Some people love to have group shots with their friends. Others like specially posed shots on their own. The hosts like these posed sessions too. They have something to send on to friends after the event.
  8. Crowd shots: If you are at an event with crowds they can be fun too. Actually crowds are not as chaotic as they look. Spend some time observing. You will see that crowds tend to have three conditions: observers, movers, and actors.
    • Observers watch the event in progress. You can capture them from the front to get faces. You can capture them from the back to use the event activity as a backdrop.
    • Movers are crowds in transit. They tend to move in streams. You can photograph them in ways that show the movement or direction of travel.
    • Actors This is when the group or crowd in question are a self sustaining and self entertaining group. These tend to be smaller groups in among the larger ones. Again, they provide interest for your event photography. They provide a focus in the crowd.
  9. Dance or action: If there is some sort of physical activity going on you have to capture it. Make sure you know what it is going to be in advance so you are prepared. Dance and other fast physical activity is difficult to capture in darkish conditions like party-type events. Remember – high ISO settings to freeze the action. Longer exposures to get motion blur. Both are great at events and both will show your range of skills at event photography. Artfully capturing dance shots takes time and practice. If you have a chance, try it before the event. You can capture sports or physical activity of other kinds more easily because they are often in brighter light. Any dance or action shots are not the reason you are there. Don’t worry if you don’t get the best shots of the evening from these. Work on capturing the atmosphere and the story of the event.
Make sure you shoot the presents. Event photography should include all the angles.

If you are covering all the angles make sure you shoot the presents. The hosts will thank you.

How many shots?

As a guideline, I would aim to take about three different pictures of everyone at a family event. Get maybe 30 to 50 shots of crowds and groups at a public event. It’s common to take several hundred shots over a two to three hour period when doing event photography. Depending on the activities you may take many more. You won’t use them all. The redundancy is there so you can at least provide a great representation of the event, its story, and one picture of all the participants.

Communicate, talk and chat when doing event photography

You will quickly overcome nervousness once you get talking to people. Event photography is about communication. Start introducing yourself straight away. As soon as people arrive get talking and clicking too. And, since you should be there before it starts, get shots of things like the food and other important items before the crowds get there. The most important aspect of doing event photography is to enjoy yourself and mix with others. Get stuck in as soon as you can.