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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- “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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.