Photographer Angie DeWaard has put together this great article on event photography, over at Digital Photography School.
I highly recommend you take your camera and go to as many events as possible just to practice some of these things, before you take on a paid assignment. Trying all of these things in real life will help take the pressure of you, and soon you’ll notice great improvement in your event photography.
Communication is Key
Before the event, work with the event coordinator in advance. A phone call, or thorough email, is usually sufficient, but you may also want to meet in person. You’ll want to ask some key questions, if they don’t have the information readily available such as:
- “Is there an itinerary for the program? Can I receive a copy in advance?” If you’re anything like me, you’re a planner. You want to know in advance exactly what is going to happen, and ideally, where. That way, you can make sure that you’re lined up to catch the keynote speaker or the moment when an honoree receives their award. This isn’t just a matter of convenience for you, it helps you make sure that you are able to provide the shots that will help the group remember their event (or, if appropriate, to market it for the future!).
Who to photograph
- “Who are the key people I should photograph?” Unless you’re a seasoned veteran of the event you’re photographing, you might not know who the big players are. I recently photographed a big charity gala for the biggest hospital in the area . Some of the attendees were CEOs of companies, coaches of Big 12 sports teams, mayors, and councilpersons. By receiving the names of the key attendees in advance, you can do a Google Image search for them (yeah, I know it sounds super-creepy) so that you can recognize them on-site.
- “Who or what should I avoid photographing, if anything?” Nobody really wants to get into a situation where the person being photographed becomes belligerent or aggressive. You also don’t want to photograph a moment that is supremely personal if that is not desired. There are many events where you don’t need to ask this question, but keep it on the list for more personal events (such as family or religious ones). Don’t be paparazzi!
What to photograph
- “How many/what kind of pictures would you ideally like?” I try to provide as many photos as possible to my clients because everyone’s tastes vary so widely. However, this can be really overwhelming for some people who are under time constraints, or who really only want photos of a certain portion of the event. Figure out their ideal amount and try to stick to it.
- “Is it okay if I use any of these photos in my business advertisements or on my web page in the future?” It can essentially be free advertising if you can use these photos to demonstrate your abilities.
- “When are you setting up for the event? May I stop by early for some test photographs?” Unless you want to take every flash, diffuser, and lens you own, you want to get a feel for the venue in advance. It’s ideal if you can get some test shots using the same lighting (whether it’s natural or artificial) and see how they come out. This will not only help you decide what gear to bring, but it also saves you time on the day of the event. Having to readjust your camera settings to accommodate the environment, get your ISO correct, decide on a lens, etc., all take time. This will make you look more professional and prepared.
Work the Crowd – Tastefully
This next bit may not be appropriate for more solemn and serious occasions. For most, however, your foot is officially in the door. Be friendly and professional, make appropriate jokes or comments to appear personable and fun. Keep the attention off of you, but interact kindly with everyone you meet.
Having a camera in your hand instantly makes people more prone to smile around you, so use that goodwill to make them laugh. This will also allow you to get natural, fun shots that will please both the client and the subject of the photo. This will often lead to people either asking for your business card or asking the event organizer for your information. Make sure to keep a stack of business cards on hand, and give a few to the event organizer if they are comfortable with that.
Make It Artsy… But Not TOO Artsy
One of the biggest mistakes that I see in some candid event photography is that there is little artistic focus or composition to the photos. Yes, there will be times you’re ultimately just getting crowd shots, and those ARE important. In those instances, make sure you’re using the appropriate aperture and focal length to get everyone in focus who needs to be.
Try and catch an interesting moment, or a moment when the crowd is focused on something , when someone is the center of the crowd’s attention. This composes your photo more and draws the viewer’s eye. For shots of smaller groups, couples, or solo shots, use a wider aperture and an appropriate focal length to get more artistic portraits. Attendees like to see more personal, beautiful photos of themselves. People are predisposed to stopping and smiling for the camera, so you will end up with some staged shots. But also get images of people in mid-conversation, or engaging in activities.
Source: Digital Photography School