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Event Photography Tips: Capture the Memories

10 min read

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Quick summary

Event photography may take you to weddings, corporate conventions, sporting events, and other occasions that bring people together, creating opportunities to capture compelling images that tell a story.

Event photography requires technical skills, creativity, and an eye for detail to capture fleeting moments that are meant to be remembered. Whether it’s a wedding, business conference, or birthday party, professional event photographers play a major role in documenting these singular occasions.

Special events bring people together, create memories, and mark significant milestones. Event photography captures these moments, allowing people to relive the experience and share it with others. Whether it’s a bride walking down the aisle, a keynote speaker captivating an audience, or an athlete making a play, event photographers capture moments in time that can be appreciated at a later time.

We published an earlier article on wedding photography, and many of the ideas and techniques in that post apply to event photography in general.

In this article, we’ll delve into this exciting photography niche and reveal some things you need to know. Also, we’ll offer some techniques and tips to help you catch the moments and come away with outstanding shots.

event photography image of concert.
Event photography offers opportunities to capture stunning images.

Essential Equipment for Photographing Events

To excel as a professional event photographer, having the right camera gear is essential. Here are the must-have tools for any event photographer:

A high-quality camera is crucial. Whether you choose a DSLR or mirrorless camera, it should offer excellent image quality and low-light capabilities. Many events are indoors with artificial light that is far from ideal, so the right camera body that balances high ISO with low noise performance is important.

If resources permit, pack two camera bodies. This not only provides backup in case of equipment failure but also gives you the opportunity to work with two different lenses and not have to take a timeout to change lenses at the event.

Two lenses chosen carefully can cover a lot of territory. A wide-angle lens captures the overall scene, while a zoom lens or a telephoto lens takes you into the activity for close-ups. We mentioned lighting at indoor events, so a fast prime lens is a plus for event photography.

If you’re working with one camera body and one lens, a 24-100 mm zoom offers a good range of focal lengths. Also, you may have to move around more.

Pack Gear That You May or May Not Need

A speedlight or on-camera flash helps illuminate subjects in low-light situations and provides more control over lighting conditions. However, be mindful of situations where a flash is a distraction, such as a wedding ceremony. Check with the event organizer and know what is expected.

A sturdy tripod is useful for group shots and long exposures, helping to ensure sharp images. But again, be aware of the type of event, and don’t let your equipment get in the way of attendees or guests.

Always carry extra memory cards and batteries: Avoid running out of camera storage or battery power during an event, which often lasts long hours.

event photographer with camera.
Quality gear prepares you for success in event photography.

Prepare for Successful Event Photographs

Prior to the event, familiarize yourself with the event schedule, venue, and lighting conditions. This will help you anticipate key moments and plan your shots accordingly. Talk with your client or event organizer to get a clear understanding of the proceedings. Ask questions: how many attendees, who are the key players, and what will the space look like?

Know the event schedule so you can anticipate where you need to be at certain times. Once an event is over, you can’t recreate key moments. So be prepared to shoot important items on the schedule, but also look for candid moments that help you convey the essence of the event. It’s not unusual to end up with thousands of photos from a single event, which you can edit down later.

Know What the Client Expects

Make sure you’re on the same page as the person who hired you to photograph the event. If you face unique difficulties in taking photos in the available space, voice your concerns.

Establish rapport with the client. Make sure you understand their needs. Get a feel for what they like and don’t like.

Let the client know how many final images you expect to create. Do not over-promise. Decide on a reasonable number of images. If it’s an hour-long event, 75 images may be about right. In client negotiations, many professional photographers choose to under-sell and over-deliver. Exceeding expectations is always a good thing.

image of the audience at a business meeting.
Indoor lighting presents unique challenges for event photographers.

Do Your Homework

Do some research. Find out what the event is about, who will be there, and what specific activities are scheduled so you don’t miss important moments.

Whatever the event, a shot list helps you and the client organize the shoot. You manage the client’s expectations, and you know what you need to provide. A shot list assures that you don’t miss critical moments. Be diligent about the key moments of the event, which only happen once.

If the event prints an itinerary, it can be a great help in planning your shots. Also, it’s helpful to have a method to identify the key people, whether it is a featured speaker or family members of the bride and groom. Also, if you have the opportunity, check out the venue in advance. Get an idea of the lighting and the layout of the room or hall.

graduation ceremony.
Students at a ceremony waiting to receive their graduation degrees.

When you’re involved in any form of paid work, take some time to understand the legalities. A client taking you to court may lead you to reconsider your career choice. But this is the world we live in, so be prepared.

Hire a lawyer whose specialty is contracts. The lawyer can create a standard contract to use with most event photography jobs. As a lower-cost alternative, she or he can review a contract you create from templates you can find online.

In your contract, include price and payment terms, rates for additional hours, dates and times of the event, specifics on how to deliver the images, model releases, and copyright details.

You should also consider insurance that covers liability for property damage, injury to a third party, and damage to your equipment. Be prepared.

contract photography.
A contract provides legal protection for event photographers.

Access to Sporting Event Venues

With almost any type of sports photography, you need to have press credentials. If you’re working for a print or broadcast outlet, this may be handled by your employer. If not, or if you’re working as a freelancer, contact the director of media relations and request press credentials.

The media relations person will also inform you of areas you can and cannot access, along with what is expected of you during the event. For example, do not block the spectators’ view, wait for a break in the action to move around, and respect the space of other photographers.

Also, ask for preferred parking. This is normally part of the process, but ask anyway.

image of baseball player about to deliver a pitch.
Photography at athletic events requires skill and an eye for the action.

What is Event Photography Etiquette?

Event photography is more than just pointing a camera and clicking the shutter. Maintain a level of professionalism and courtesy toward event organizers and attendees. It’s good for business and may lead to your next opportunity. Event photography etiquette encompasses a set of guidelines and practices that ensure photographers capture the perfect moments while respecting the privacy and comfort of those involved.

Dress Appropriately for the Occasion

Experienced event photographers understand that dressing appropriately demonstrates professionalism and respect for the client. Consider the formality of the event and dress accordingly. Wedding photography calls for more dressy attire. At corporate events or award ceremonies, opt for business casual. Birthday parties or family reunions allow for more relaxed dress. Avoid bright colors and bold patterns. Be unobtrusive.

Your appearance shows respect for the event planner or client, their event, and the attendees. Also, you never know who you may meet working at an event. Always remember that you are representing yourself and your brand with your appearance and behavior.

Mind Your Gear

When you photograph an event, consider the space and the people around you. Keep your camera equipment organized and out of the way to avoid accidents or distractions. This can get tricky if you’re working with a tripod. Be careful not to block the view of attendees or disrupt the flow of the event.

Seek Permission and Respect Privacy

Respect people’s privacy by seeking their consent before snapping close-ups. If you are unsure about someone’s comfort level with being photographed, it’s always better to ask first. Moreover, be respectful if someone declines your request. Not everyone wants to be in posed shots, and it’s essential to honor their wishes.

wedding photography of bride and bouquet.
A bride holds a bouquet at a wedding event.

Avoid Becoming a Distraction

While capturing those special moments is crucial, it’s equally important to be restrained. Avoid getting in the way of attendees, blocking their views, or disrupting conversation. Don’t interrupt guests. Blend into the background, be patient, and wait for the perfect opportunity to capture candid shots without intruding.

Engage with Attendees

Interacting with attendees can enhance the overall experience and help you capture more authentic moments. Engage with people, show genuine interest in their experience, and make them feel comfortable in front of the camera. But don’t overdo it. Remember why you’re there. This not only results in better photographs but also creates a positive atmosphere at the event.

Remember, event photography etiquette is about creating a positive experience for everyone involved. By adhering to these guidelines, you will not only capture memorable moments but also build strong relationships with your clients and attendees.

Event Photography Pricing

A common myth is to start by researching what event photographers in your area are charging. Get an idea of the going rates; however, you don’t know what their expenses are. So, going rates give you only half of the picture. This is a difficult area, especially for beginners.

Keep in mind that you’ll not only be shooting the event, but you’ll be investing time in planning and photo editing. Add that to your photography pricing.

A set of event photography packages is one option. This could include a fixed number of hours at the event, the number of photos to be delivered, along with planning sessions and client meetings.

Package plans could also be based on a portion of the day: a half, quarter, or full day shoot. This may be more appealing than an hourly rate. Work in some flexibility for add-ons like extra hours at the event or additional event photos to be delivered.

Two Critical Issues in Pricing

Event photography pricing centers on two factors: generating enough revenue to sustain your business and pricing within what potential clients are willing to pay.

Addressing both of these issues is critical to setting your prices, according to a report by Professional Photographers of America. Working out the math of sustainability and what the market will bear clarifies the issue of pricing.

man giving speech at a business event.
A keynote speaker addresses the audience at a business event.

Event Photography Tips for Success

1. Arrive Early: Getting to the event venue ahead of time allows you to scout the location, set up your equipment, dial in some initial camera settings, and mentally prepare for the shoot.

2. Be Mindful of Composition: Pay attention to the background, framing, and leading lines to create visually appealing event photos. Consider using the rule of thirds and experiment with different angles for unique perspectives.

3. Master Low-Light Photography: Indoor event photography often must overcome dimly lit environments. Find an ideal shutter speed and experiment with a flash unit to overcome challenging lighting situations.

4. Shoot in Burst Mode: Capture multiple images of each scene. You’ll have more choices when it comes to eliminating shots with someone’s eyes in mid-blink or with an odd facial expression.

5. Shoot in RAW: When shooting events, remember that RAW files retain more image information, providing greater flexibility during post-processing.

Capture the Essence of the Event

Pay attention to the details that make the event unique – the decorations, table settings, the interactions, and the ambiance. By capturing people within these elements, you will create a comprehensive visual story that truly reflects the essence of the event.

table setting at event
A photo of the table setting at a dinner event contributes to the overall story.

6. Engage with Your Subjects: As an event photographer, make an effort to connect with the people you are photographing. Building rapport and making them feel comfortable results in more natural and authentic images.

7. Take a Variety of Shots: Capture a mix of wide-angle, close-up, and detail shots to provide a comprehensive visual story of the event.

8. Shoot a B-Roll: Get some pre-event shots of the venue, such as table settings, decorations, and banners.

9. Backup Your Files: Create backups of your images as soon as possible to ensure their safety and prevent any loss due to technical failures.

10. Edit with Care: When post-processing your raw image files, aim for a natural and timeless look. The best photos avoid over-editing or using editing software gimmicks that may quickly become outdated.

11. Deliver high quality images in a timely manner: After the event, ensure that you deliver the final product within the agreed-upon timeframe. Take the time to select and edit the best photos, showcasing the highlights of the event. Providing high-quality photographs promptly will not only impress your clients but also help create a positive reputation for your business.

music band on stage.
An event photographer captures the excitement of a concert.

Conclusion

Great event photography requires technical expertise, creative vision, and people skills. From catching corporate event photos to capturing the excitement of a concert, it’s a challenging niche.

By understanding the importance of capturing memorable moments, having the right equipment, mastering techniques, and following key tips, you can excel in event photography. So, next time you’re behind the lens at an event, remember to embrace the moment, tell a compelling story, and create images that will be valued by the client.

I hope these event photography tips help you appreciate what makes event photography unique. From candid photographs to posed photos to post production, look for the right moment and be prepared to start shooting. Capturing the best shots means repeat business.

If you have any questions or comments, please submit them in the space below

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Daniel has been providing photographic and written content to websites since 1995. He maintains a photo gallery on Pictorem.com, showcasing his most recent work. In addition, Daniel is active in stock photography, with portfolios on Adobe, Getty/iStock, and Shutterstock.
Daniel has been providing photographic and written content to websites since 1995. He maintains a photo gallery on Pictorem.com, showcasing his most recent work. In addition, Daniel is active in stock photography, with portfolios on Adobe, Getty/iStock, and Shutterstock.
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