As well as street photography, I shoot a range of events. A lot of the time the opportunities for this come through the place I work for my day job which is a large online retail company that puts on the events. This can be anything from the big company parties to blogger events to help generate social media activity or smaller events like tech meet ups that are attended by staff at the company. I’ve also taken photos at large events like Wimbledon and The Grand National but these are purely because I was there attending the event, I wasn’t asked to.
I really enjoy this type of photography and I think it sits together with street photography very well. The equipment I use is similar, although I may use flash at the event, and the way I try and ‘blend in’ to the event rather than being ‘the bloke over there with the camera’ is the same as the way I try and blend in for street photography too.
I thought it would be good to share my tips for event photography, these are tips have helped me so I hope they help you if you have to tackle an event with your camera, even if it’s just a small family party.
First off, equipment.
I don’t walk about with a big camera bag on my back and constantly change lenses and settings. I do have a second camera, but I don’t walk around with it, it’s there in case the main camera has a problem. So my regular equipment for an event is:
- Fuji X-Pro2. I’m a Fuji fan boy, but I’m not going to say this is the best camera for event photography as I haven’t really used anything else. For me, it’s the camera that I’ve got, it’s got some features which are advantageous like being able to handle high ISO settings, focus quickly and it’s small and light. I saved up to buy it so I’m going to use it.
- Depending on the event I may use my 16-55mm f2.8 lens to give me a bit of flexibility. I bought this lens specifically for events, it’s not a lens I would use for street photography though. Or I might go with a prime, either the 35mm or 27mm. So far, the zoom has been more useful for the blogger type events when I probably don’t want to get too up close and personal and I’m taking a range of people and products. The short primes are much better for parties. I’ll tell you why a bit further through this article.
- Flash and sync cable. For me, the sync cable is the way to go instead of using wireless triggers. I’ve got some decent Pocket Wizard Plus X triggers, very reliable, but they have still given me problems and to have that fail in the middle of an event is a nightmare. I’ve recent bought a second hand Fuji EF-X20 which is nice and small, but I haven’t totally got used it yet so will have to try it a bit more and see how I go.
- Spare batteries and spare memory cards. Very important, just stick a few in your pocket. However, a really important sub tip, when your battery runs out, don’t put it back in the same pocket as all the charged batteries! You need to be able to swap batteries quickly, so avoid any faffing about working out which one is charged or not.
Know what the event is about.
When you are attending an event to take photos, you are there to document the event and capture the atmosphere of the event so do a bit of research before you go. Understand the purpose of the event as it will help you get photos that better show the event in the right light.
For blogger events, the bloggers like to see pictures of themselves with the products, the venue might want to see wider shots of the space it can offer and of course, capturing photos of people there that will get people talking about the event is key. Brands also like to see their products and logos in the photos too, so make sure you get a good mix of products and people at these sort of events.
Know who are the key people at the event.
Some events have celebrities, some events have senior people in companies attending, some events are to support larger events where there might be teams or individuals competing so make sure you know who the key people are and get a good selection of shots with them.
Don’t be shy.
You are there to capture the event, so being shy and hanging around the edges isn’t going to get you photos of any note, you need to get in there and be part of the event. Now, I don’t mean get too involved and go over the top but at a party with a dance floor there are some great opportunities to get some great images, get on it.
Don’t be afraid to chat to the people at the event too. You are there to do your job but by talking to people you reduce the barrier of getting the shot. Just questions like “Are you enjoying the event?”, “Have you been to one of these events before?” or “Have you seen the special guest yet?” can just spark a bit of interaction off. If there is a group of people, then you can ask for a photo of the group. Job done.
Don’t be too worried about getting in the way of other people’s photos either, get your shots then get out the way because if you wait for everyone else to get their shots first, you’ll miss them and if you are being paid to do the event, you won’t be doing your job properly.
Look for the moments.
It’s all too easy to wander round the event taking a few group shots, some shots of the venue and photos that will be forgotten after a few days. Just like street photography, it’s the moments, the spontaneous happenings that you need to look out for and this is where being aware of what’s going on around the event is important.
To do this, you need to keep moving and not settle in one place for too long but as you are moving around, look for individuals that are maybe a bit more lively than others or look for locations that may encourage people to do something a little more entertaining.
Nothing is going to work better than a smile when you try and take a photo of someone.
Keep Learning, Have Fun.
Every event that I shoot is one I try and learn from. Even if it’s making more of the settings on your camera, trying a different technique or just over coming shyness a bit more. I am very much still learning this trade and the only way I learn is to do the practical work so I’m trying to get to a variety of events whenever I can.
Above all of that though, enjoy it. If you aren’t enjoying photography whether it’s your job or a hobby then it will reflect in the images you get.