At some point in your photography career, you may be invited to shoot an event. Weddings, corporate events or music festivals – regardless of the type of event you’re shooting – there are a set of universal tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of your shoot and ensure your client is happy with your work. We’ve put together this guide to event photography to help you tick off all the fundamentals for a successful shoot and a happy client.
As with any shoot you take on, preparation is key. Before you start planning, set up an appointment with your client and one with the venue. This will help you understand precisely what’s expected and what you need to do to ensure a smooth shoot.
When you meet your client, find out:
- What are the key moments they want to capture?
- Who are the important people at the event?
- What is the event program / agenda?
- Where will they be using the photos?
- How many photos do they want?
- What style of photography do they want?
- How do they want the photos delivered?
Questions like these will guide the rest of the shoot project through to delivery and ensure both you and your client have clear, defined expectations of one another.
If you’re able to visit the venue beforehand, try to visit it at the time you’ll be expected to do the shoot on the day. If you’re unable to, do a thorough online reccie and look at previous photos taken of the space. Scouting the venue in this way will help give you an idea of the best angles, locations, lighting conditions and as such, what gear you need to take with you.
The Packing List
Next up in the process is your gear list. Events are non-stop once they get going, so your gear selection needs to be suited to a fast-paced environment where fast reflexes and a camera that’s ready to go are key.
Regardless of the camera body you’re using, lens selection is vital. Prime lenses are amazing in their ability to produce bokeh-rich images with rich depth of field and low-light sharpness. Unfortunately they only offer a fixed focal length, which would mean you’re swapping out lenses constantly – costly for an event shoot. Rather, go with a good zoom lens; one with a low enough aperture for night-time shoots and a wide range of focal lengths (wide, medium or close-up) so you can capture moments without being right in front of attendees.
For nighttime shoots, you may need to opt for a flash. Whenever you use a flash, consider the comfort of the people you’re shooting. It’s always better to bounce flash rather than shoot directly at your subject. Bouncing your flash requires that you direct your flash at a reflective surface; thus diffusing the flash and creating more uniform lighting in the environment. Alternatively, use a flash diffuser to achieve a similar, more directed effect.
Importantly, though, always check how your client feels about flash photography and if there are any attendees that may suffer from light-sensitive conditions.
Batteries & Storage
Always carry a couple of extra batteries and a battery charger. The extra batteries will ensure you can swap out drained ones for fresh ones, and the battery charger allows you to charge drained batteries for an (almost) unlimited supply.
Other than the empty SD Card in your camera at the start of the shoot, a couple more SD Cards will let you keep taking photos without worrying about having to dump photos on your laptop and possibly missing out on important shots.
Keeping extra batteries and SD Cards on hand will ensure you have an uninterrupted shoot and that you never miss a shot.
Make Your Shot List
Using your client requirements as a guide, write down a list of shots on your phone or on a piece of paper you can quickly reference as you go through the event. If it’s a wedding, this could be shots like the bride/groom’s preparations, the wedding vows, the father/daughter dance, etc. A corporate event could include group activities, a specific presentation, audience reactions and others.
Outside of the set shot list you’ve settled on with your client, other photos that help provide a better feel for what the event was like include candid photos of attendants, group photos, close-up details, wide-angle shots of the space and aerial photos of the venue.
Show Up Early
It’s always better to be early than to be on time for a photo shoot. Getting to the venue early gives you time to set up a charging station, get your gear together and organise yourself for the event. You’re also able to speak to the event planner if need be, get a better feel for the venue setup and layout, figure out how to shoot in certain areas and possibly get ‘before’ shots for the client.
Be Mindful, Polite and Inconspicuous
It’s quite easy to get into the groove of things once you get shooting at an event. This is important and essential if you’re going to enjoy the shoot, however, you should always be mindful of the people you are shooting. If someone seems uncomfortable or doesn’t want to be in the shot, it’s better to ask or better yet, don’t take their photo.
As the event photographer, your role is to capture the event without disrupting it. It’s always a good idea to wear black and move around the room as quietly as possible. Of course, getting the shot list done is important, but do so without blocking views or getting in the way.
Shooting in RAW format means your camera captures the widest range of colours, depth and information as possible; opening up possibilities for the creative process and reducing the risk of unsalvageable photos during your post-production phase.
Shoot in Burst Mode
By simply holding the shutter release button, you’re able to capture a moment frame-by-frame. Shooting in Burst Mode is a great way to capture action or emotions and gives you a wider range of options to choose from when selecting your final set of photos for processing or delivery.
Consider a presenter handing an award over, or a bride and groom sharing their first kiss as a married couple. Having multiple frames of these moments in the editing phase gives you much greater flexibility.
People Make The Event
With your shot list as priority, tour the venue and look for opportunities to capture the emotions of the people attending the event. Candid photos are a great way to convey the experience of the event and are always a pleasant surprise for the client and guests. Group photos help everyone feel involved and taken care of, so these are just as important.
Event photography can be exciting, fast-paced and challenging, although a great reward awaits when you see your client’s face light up. Follow our guide to event photography and you’re sure to have a successful, enjoyable event shoot every time.