How to photograph events

How to photograph events

Event photography has special requirements on both you and your equipment. I’ll walk you through a typical event with the following evening party and what to consider in each situation.

You must not only satisfy the customer, when shooting events. It is equally important that speakers and visitors alike are pleased with the photos as well as your presence at the event.

Otherwise you’ll probably not work for the same customer nest time they arrange something.

Some general guidelines for event photography:

  • Dress right. At en event where most people are wearing suits I prefer to keep appearance stylish. I often wear a smart suite, but without the tie. After all, I’m the photographer. The reason for this is respect for the customer and the fact that I am an advertisement for myself.
  • Be discreet. The visitors have not come to be photographed. Disturb speakers and visitors as little as possible.
  • Pay attention to your motives. If you are shooting the visitors, make sure they see you and are comfortable with being photographed. If the don’t want to be, don’t take the picture and if you already did, delete it. When you have taken an image, show it to make sure they like it.
  • Editing in raw is necessary. Three are too many light sources, such as tungsten, daylight and projector lights and speakers will often move between them. You’ll always need to adjust colour temperature afterwards.
  • Avoid flash unless you really must use it. It is much more disturbing and on-camera flashes often gives ugly images with hard shadows.
  • Remember that the final result usually is an online slideshow. For that reason it’s important that the final images have the same style. I usually set the ISO to between 800 and 1600, since the light may vary through the different situation and with the camera on auto, the result may vary too much during the day. The same goes for sharpness and other setting that can be applied afterwards.
  • Avoid taking too many images. It only leads to more work afterwards. Avoid having to many images on the same speakers and visitors. At the end of the day you should have no more than maximum 100 images. Most people will find your slideshow boring if there are too many images.
Try to position yourself so the microphone is on the outside, rather than on the face. (Not like this image). Look for a calm background and try to shoot when the speaker is expressing something.

Try to position yourself so the microphone is on the outside, rather than on the face. (Not like this image). Look for a calm background and try to shoot when the speaker is expressing something.

Start the day easy

In the morning people are gathering and drinking Coffey. Many are still a bit tired. I recommend you give people a chance to wake up before you come to close with the camera. Often the day starts with a key speaker with all visitors in one big room. This is the golden opportunity to get all the visitors on image. Use your wide-angle lens and take the photo from the scene, in order to capture the whole audience. The employers usually like to show that many came to the event, so this is an important boasting image for them.

Shooting the speakers

After this it is of course important with good images of the speakers. Choose your favourite positions depending on how the light falls on the stage, where the speakers most likely will stand. Also think about the background. Most often it is preferable if the background is calm, white or black, or not to disturbing.

Most speakers will have a microphone on the right side of the face. Try to position yourself so the microphone is on the outside, rather than on the face. This most often means that you’ll prefer to shoot from the left.

Remember that it is also good if not all speakers are photographed from the exact same spot, with the exactly the same background. It may make the final slideshow a bit boring. But it is often best to change position only between speakers.

When the event has many parallel lectures you’ll find good use for a telephoto zoom. It will save you time and from having to work yourself through overfilled rooms, to position yourself for shooting the speaker. All you have to doo is to enter the room, concentrate on getting a good image of the speaker and then exit discreetly, with a minim of disturbance for speakers as well as visitors.

Be early at the breakes, lunch and dinner. Nobody likes empty plates.

Be early at the breaks, lunch and dinner. Nobody likes empty plates.

Try to get a mix of close ups and full figure images for the final slideshow. And try capturing the speakers when they are acting out and showing emotions. It gets much more interesting if the images shows that the speakers are passionate about their subjects.

A very good tip is to go the exact same round between lecturing rooms. That way it is much easier afterwards to check the names and subjects from the event programme. It is also a good idea to take a first image for reference, where the nametag or an introduction slide shows. It will help a lot if you become confused about who you photographed when editing.

 

Shooting at the brakes

Often plenty of goodies, fruit and cakes are served between speaker sessions. Then, as well as at lunch and dinner it is important to take your food images before or as the visitors arrives. It is so much nicer to shoot when it is still beautifully served and the plates are full.

Look for laughter. If people is not happy enough, tell them. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to obey.

Look for laughter. If people is not happy enough, tell them. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to obey.

Remember that most people don’t like to be photographed when eating. It is much better to shoot visitors while mingling and talking to each other. Networking is an important part of events. Look especially for happy and smiling people.

The party – laughter hunting

The object of parties is to have a good time so now it’s time to find the laughing people. If people are not looking happy enough, let them now that you are taking an image and make them smile when you shoot. Everybody have their own tricks for this, but if you don’t know how – tell them to smile; to be happy, it’s party time! You’ll be surprised how willing people are to obey the photographer.

Check the image and don’t hesitate to show it. If someone is not pleased, ask to take another one.

Respect everyone’s right to decline participating. Immediately erase such images so you will not publish the wrong one by mistake.

Don’t forget the exhibitors. The employer often wants to show that their partners got good value for their contributions. Shoot their stands or like here, let everyone know who sponsored the party.

Don’t forget the exhibitors. The employer often wants to show that their partners got good value for their contributions. Shoot their stands or like here, let everyone know who sponsored the party.

It’s all right if people are drinking and you may also do your job with a beer in your hand, if you can manage to work at the same time. I often find it makes people more relaxed. But never photograph people in less flattering situation or when not sober. I usually call it a day between 8 and 9 in the evening. It seldom gets any better after that.

Editing

One good tip is to make the images in the right chronological order when editing and saving to jpg. In order to save some time and get the slideshow order right I name the images accordingly. For example Eventname month year 001 (three digit number series) and after that possible additional information such as names or similar.

When you deliver the images, remember to take local laws and regulations into consideration. And always respects peoples right to integrity. Never publish a photo with someone who don’t want to participate.

I usually publish the slideshows at my home page, but I will later go through all the services for this such as Flickr, Google Picasa and others.

My gear

I have a Canon 5D Mk II with 16-35, 24-105 and 100-400 zoom lenses. I addition I carry two flashes, in case someone wants portraits for other purposes.