Today’s topic is ‘event photography,’ and I’ll tell you all about this photography genre, how to photograph an event, and equipment selection, as well as some essential tips on event photography.
Being a photographer at any event is not easy. One day you have to shoot at a concert with bright lighting and incredible energy, another day at an insurance business conference in a dimly lit hotel hall, waiting for the speaker to joke and people finally smile.
Your job is to be prepared for the worst lighting, awkward people, dull performances, and still get interesting photos. Here are some tips for shooting under challenging conditions.
The Purpose of Photographing the Event
In my photography career, I have had to deal with the filming of many hundreds of different events. World forums, parliamentary assemblies, city government meetings, conferences, exhibition openings, film premieres, etc.
Photography for the organizers of the event and for the press have some differences, which stem from the difference in the ultimate goal. If you are photographing an event commissioned by its organizers, then you need to clearly understand that the photographs you have taken should please the customer.
In commercial event photography, the highest priority is not any, even the most correct, considerations of photographic aesthetics, but the specific requirements of who is going to pay you money for your work. It is he and not the wise jury of ‘World Press Photo‘, who will pass the verdict on your efforts.
Therefore, check with the customer before photographing the order of the event, the key points that he/she necessarily get into the frame. Who will make speeches and where? Will there be any awards or ribbon cutting?
Find out how far you can move around the room to not interfere with the normal course of the event. It is essential to decide what kind of light will be in the room and whether it will change in action. It would also be nice to immediately discuss how many photos and what time frame are expected from you. This will help avoid all kinds of claims related to the difference in the understanding of the tasks of photography in the future.
Customers often want to receive a photo chronology of the event with the fixation of the most important events. Close-ups of essential guests and superiors. General view showing the scale of what is happening, viewers’ reactions, etc.
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Event Photography Equipment
Event photography is very often associated with the need to take pictures in low light. Therefore, you need a camera that can provide acceptable quality at high ISOs.
A full-frame camera from Canon or Nikon is most suitable for these purposes. The number of megapixels does not play any special role. But lenses are preferable to have from the professional series with an aperture of f/2.8 or in extreme cases f/4. Budget lenses with high matrix noise caused by high sensitivity values give an unenviable result.
Most business events take place in poorly lit areas, so it is imperative to have suitable photography equipment. You will need a fast lens (f/2.8 or faster), flash, and a camera that can shoot well at high ISOs, at least ISO 3200. For example, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 and Canon 70-200mm f/2.8.
If you’re on a tight budget, the 50mm f/1.8 is a good and affordable lens for shooting events (however, its primary focal length has some significant limitations).
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When photographing business events in a darkened room, raise the ISO to 1600, or even 3200. If the camera can handle this ISO level, it will allow shooting with f/2.8 lenses. Even though you need to shoot at f/2.8 when the lighting demands it, that doesn’t mean you always have to do that. Often a greater depth of field is required to show the clarity of an entire subject or a few.
In particular, when photographing groups of people, try to use an f/4 aperture at least when possible. When shooting a group at f/2.8, the person in the center will often be sharp in the photo, while the people at the edges will be pretty blurry.
The optimal set will be two zooms: 24-70 (24-105), which are most often used in sequential shooting, and 70-200 for close-ups and shooting from long distances. Plus, some kind of fixed lens for shooting portraits. For example, 85mm f/1.8 or 100mm f/2.
Finally, you need a reliable flash. This flash will make objects stand out against the background and illuminate them well. But when shooting presentations, you should avoid using flash and stick to high ISOs instead to not annoy the people present who are trying to focus. You can already use the flash for indoor cocktails and other informal gatherings.
A sufficiently powerful external flash is also vital. For example, the Speedlite 430EX or the Speedlite 600EX if we’re talking about Canon. Or similar from third-party manufacturers. Sometimes, when shooting in dark rooms, you may need a monopod. But this is already an optional device, which is easy to do without.
How to Photograph Events?
Since shooting indoor events is the most difficult for novice photographers, we will consider this particular case.
The better prepared you are before starting work, the calmer the day of the photo session will be. It all starts with communicating with the customer. Make sure you understand all the details of the event and what is required of you. Explain what kind of outcome you will deliver to the client. The better the preliminary communication when filming business events, the fewer surprises there can be during that day.
Provide the customer with an official price quote in PDF format on letterhead (this is a nice touch) and be sure to use the contract. Create a standard contract that can be easily modified for each order, and the step will be very quick and not onerous.
Appreciate your work worthwhile. Do a little research on the services of event photographers in your city and put together your list of services. Consider your overhead, travel time, shooting time, and editing time. Also, consider the time you spend marketing to get the job and other business expenses. If you underestimate the price, you can make a little money but quickly go out of business. Remember to value your work.
Be sure to bring extra spare photographic equipment with you when shooting. Don’t forget an additional camera, lens, flash, batteries, and flashcards with a good supply. The more prepared you are, the fewer mistakes will be made.
Finally, consider your appearance and clothing. This tip moves on to the next topic on how to make photographing people more comfortable for them. People will look at you because the person with the camera stands out from everyone else.
And no matter how much you want to photograph candid moments, the photographer will still be in sight and attract the attention of the event participants.
It is important to make the right impression. While this advice may sound like a shame, the better you dress, the more people will think that you are doing your job well. Indeed, most often they do not talk to you, they just see you in front of them. The advice is simple, but it works.
A Few Words about Camera Settings:
It is better to shoot in RAW format. If after the event you immediately need to give away some of the images, then together with RAW you can also record jpg in a lower resolution.
When the light in the room is more or less uniform, I set the exposure mode to “M”. I choose the shutter speed in the range of 1/50 -1/200 depending on the light conditions and the focal length of the lens. ISO 800-3200. The diaphragm is almost always fully open.
However, at a shutter speed of 1/50, you need to shoot carefully. Here it is already possible to blur people if they move at the moment the shutter is triggered. If there is not enough light for a normal exposure, you have to use a flash. It is better to direct it to the ceiling and only if necessary, directly to the subject. I don’t like flash because it brings the light of a different color temperature into the picture, which creates additional problems when processing images.
What to Shoot at The Event?
To ultimately get the full story of the event, start filming the guests who come to the event. How they shake hands, hug, communicate.
While there are no people, you can film the decoration of the hall or site. Posters, company logos. If celebrities are present at an event or corporate party, pay special attention to them. The organizers are especially fond of the pictures in which the VIP guests are shown surrounded by the participants of the event.
When the main action begins, do not forget to take pictures from different angles and different sizes. It is desirable to have several frames of different sizes and expressions for each speaker. So that there were both strictly semi-official pictures and photos with some emotions (if, of course, these emotions were present).
Pro Tips for Event Photographers
When shooting group portraits, remember to take a few takes. People tend to blink, especially when a flash is used. And then you will have the opportunity to choose the best shot. If there are blinkers on all the takes, then you will have to rearrange the eyes of these characters in Photoshop.
- Open mouth of a protruding person or lips distorted by articulation. When you photograph a person speaking, almost half of the frames go to merge for this very reason. Mercilessly delete photos in which the speaker looks ugly. And when shooting, try to press the shutter release during speech pauses or at the end of spoken sentences.
- Microphone overlay on the face. Try to choose a point of view so that the microphone is projected anywhere, just not on the person’s face.
- Parts of bodies lubricated in motion. When there is not enough light in the room, and you have chosen a not too fast shutter speed, then very often a blur is obtained in the photo. If the face is blurred, then this is unconditionally need photo processing. If, for example, a hand making a gesture is blurred, then you need to look at the degree of blur. But try not to show such shots to the customer.
- Red eyes. When using a direct flash “on the forehead” very often the pupils of people are colored red. In no case should you give a photo in this form to the customer? It is necessary to correct this defect in graphic editors at the stage of processing the footage.
- Blinking people in the frame. When a minor character in the background blinks, it’s not so bad. If everything is in order with the main persons in the frame, then such a picture cannot be deleted. But when the person in the foreground has closed his eyes, such a photo should be sent to processing.
- People with inappropriate emotions. Sometimes our camera captures some vivid emotions or states of people that do not fit, so to speak, into the glamorous picture of the event. For example, on the podium, a big boss reports on the success of the team in the past year, and some listeners in the front row yawns. It is better to keep such pictures too.
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I hope my advice will help budding photographers successfully shoot their first event and get a decent fee for it.