How to Prep For Event Photography
Event photography is exhilarating and exhausting. We love capturing the energy of a big event and using our skills to highlight the hard work of organisers and the enjoyment of attendees. However, event photography can also be very tricky because of its fast pace, variable lighting and the range of shots needed. It can be very easy to make mistakes that are hard to recover from, particularly the first few times you shoot an event. From our base in Newcastle, we’ve worked as event photographers for large scale events like EMCON and the London FSB Award Nominations, so we want to share some of our experience so that you can avoid some of the most common event photography mistakes.
Top 5 Event Photography Mistakes To Avoid
The Wrong Focus & Camera Settings
One thing that is very hard to change after you’ve taken a photo is your camera settings. No matter how good your editing and post-production software, you’re not going to be able to fix bad camera settings and poor focus enough to produce professional looking photos. And there is nothing worse than working hard all day only to realise that you had your camera on the wrong settings the whole time and the photos are unuseable.
So, if you’re feeling unsure about focus and camera settings before the event, we recommend taking a good amount of time to practice with the camera you’re going to be using so that you are familiar with it and can change settings quickly. Go out and find a busy café, shopping centre, and city street to take photos of so that you can test the different settings in a variety of situations. Ask to take a few portraits as well, so that you have some experience setting your camera up for close shots.
If you’re a more advanced event photographer, then we find that a really good understanding of depth of field and hyperfocal distance can really help to produce more creative, stand out images. Focus and camera settings are ultimately what makes up your style, so it’s worth really getting to grips with the terminology and concepts so that you can then play around and find the style that will make you desirable as an event photographer.
One of the guarantees of event photography is that you are going to need to shoot in low lighting at some point. To prepare for this, make sure that your camera has a good sensor and can produce photos with manageable amounts of noise at higher ISO levels. Also, don’t forget to pack your largest SD card, or several large SD cards ideally, as the higher the ISO setting, the higher the file size for each image.
Where possible, it’s always best to shoot in available light. But, depending on the type of event (outdoors, indoors, nighttime, daytime, winter, summer etc…), you may want to also take some lighting options. We definitely recommend packing a flash, especially if you are going to be shooting at night, indoors or during the winter. Again though, make sure that you have used the flash and camera together before the event. And pack a flash diffuser that allows you to soften the flash in case you can’t bounce it off the ceiling or any walls. Walls are your friend when it comes to using a flash!
Alongside a flash and diffuser, a portable light reflector is also a safe bet, especially for portraits where you have a bit more time to get the light right.
Awkward Posing and Boring Expressions
There are usually two reasons that a company, organisation or individual will hire you to take photos at an event: to record the logistics of the event and to record the atmosphere of the event. For the first, you will want to make sure to take wide angle photos of the place and the attendees, with some closer shots of details. The second, however, is more difficult and requires some practice directing people for portraits and group shots as well as knowing where to stand for candid photos.
When posing people for portraits and group shots, remember that most people go stiff, they’re not sure where to look and they don’t know what to do with their hands. To combat all of these reactions, you will need to direct them gently and firmly, explaining how you’d like them to stand and where they should look. If you are shooting headshots, then we recommend having them turn their head to the left or right slightly as this will give their face more shape. Direct them clearly by asking them to look at a particular point, which gives them something to focus on and is easier to understand than “turn your face 2 cms to the left”.
Next, pay close attention to hands and give some instruction as to what to do with them. Make use of pockets to give your subjects a confident relaxed look. Or, if you want a more formal pose, then try with hands clasped in front of them, which can also look strong. Remember, what feels too posed for them may look natural in the photo so don’t be afraid to try a pose, just reassure them that it looks right in the shot.
Two more tips: when shooting portraits of people at the event or candid shots, don’t be afraid to get up close and fill the frame, this can create interesting, eye catching photos full of detail and expression. And, when cropping photos of people, don’t crop anywhere that bends. For example, don’t cut your portrait photo off at the elbows, waist or knees, which can give your subject a blunt, truncated look. Instead, crop your photos just below the main dividing points in the body.
When you’re working fast at a busy event, you might find that you tend to simply center your subject in every photo. And if centering means you’re able to capture a rare moment then by all means, but, if you use this composition too much your photos can begin to look mundane. Equally you don’t want to include anything in the composition of the image that may pull focus from your main subject. It’s a tricky, fine balance and sometimes you’ll need to trust your instincts. To help you with composition, make sure you know about the rule of thirds and the golden ratio, both of which can help you experiment with more interesting compositions. Once you have some ideas for different compositions, you can always start with a centered image for safety and then try a few alternative compositions. Don’t forget to think about focus, lighting and movement if you’re changing compositions quickly.
Another tip to help you avoid uninteresting composition is don’t stand too far away. Lots of new photographers make this mistake, particularly at events, where they are trying to capture as much of the hustle and bustle as possible. However, while photos taken from further away can look impressive and dramatic, they can also come across as hectic without any clear focus. Instead, move in close to your subject to photograph the details of the event- people’s expressions, details of the place, interactions between people. You can always take a few larger scale photos as well to sit alongside these.
Forgetting About After the Event- Back up!
Your job does not end when the event does! Ideally, you should be backing up regularly throughout the event, whenever the opportunity presents itself, and shooting over several SD cards, to ensure that you have protected your work. Either way, at the end of the event or whenever you finish shooting, set aside half an hour to back up your photos, quickly scan your photos to make sure you have a good selection and check your lenses and batteries. To cut down on editing time later, you can even go through your photos and mark clear winners and clear rejects immediately. If you’re shooting over several days, make sure to get everything cleaned and recharged for the next day, with empty SD cards ready.
Examples of our Event Photography Work
If you’d like to read more about event photography, check out our blog article explaining corporate event photography. And to see examples of our recent event photography and videography for EMCON and the London FSB Award Nominations, visit our portfolio and follow us on Instagram.
If you have questions about event photography or if you’d like to book us to cover your event, send us an email. We’d love to hear from you!