Most people think documenting an event is as easy as taking a camera and shooting the day away. In most cases, hosts would think it is okay to let an amateur, like Uncle Bob or little 12-year-old Johnny, run around the venue with a point-and-shoot camera to cover the entire event. Well, there might be photos taken of the event’s highlights and attendees but it may not be of high-quality – expect blurry faces, outrageous flash sparks, and even a few important scenes which are missing.
Unlike weddings wherein there are specific shot lists, general event photography is another field of its own. Events deal with gatherings ranging from small family parties to full-blown corporate functions. In each of these events, there are varying elements of highlights, several possible locations, and different times for each event. Each of these factors can affect you capturing quality photos without preparation and the right equipment.
Here are a few basic tips on how to capture high quality event photos like a pro:
Do your homework. As in any other kind of photo shoot, you should first know everything there is to know about the event. Learn the location, the program, the key persons, and the time it begins and ends. It is very handy when packing or choosing your own gear when you know how big the venue is and how long the event will run, as well as knowing how long you will need to prepare for – equipment wise.
Pack the right gear. In terms of bringing your own lenses, the selection greatly depends on the event’s activities and the possible atmosphere at the venue itself. Most professionals recommend bringing wide angle and telephoto lenses. These will allow you to take great establishing photos of the venue and the set up while also enabling you to zoom into the people on stage without minding the long distance. Others may throw in mid range lenses for capturing people’s emotions up close, like a viewer’s surprise or the speaker’s thank-you smile.
Anticipate, anticipate, anticipate. The entire success of your documentation relies on preparation. Even while packing up the camera bag, visualize the venue and the ambiance that you might encounter. Imagine what kind of shots you would want to take at the event. Include in a contingency plan for bad weather, terrible lighting conditions, and even a Plan B when the crowd’s area is too cramped.
Be prepared to get flashy. Yes, external flashes are expected to be used in events that are held indoors, that involve dramatic stage lights, and that are happening during the night. Learn how to operate and trigger the flash, being able to use it without dissolving the entire scene into a blast of white light needs a little practice. Test the camera settings with the flash settings before heading out into the sea of people to take a stage dive capture. Also, understand when to use a flash and when not to use a flash to ruin a moment, like in laser shows and in intimate moments between a speaker and his crowd.
The closer, the better. Being able to take a wide shot of the party is indeed great, you get to show off the venue, the audience, and the action. However, the best shots of the night might be right where the action is. Whenever possible, move close to the key person and snap away at the climax of their emotion. Especially for sporting events, stay close to the sidelines to feel the rush of excitement first hand and then get another head-rush as you get that money shot of the first runner at the finish line.
Get the full story of the day. In fairy tales and stories, there is always a beginning, a middle, and an end. Basically, you, as the photographer, are tasked to bring the entire event’s story together in photos. So get the establishing shots to open the story, using detailed shots of the invites, the preparations that took place, and the full venue without people in it. Slowly build up on the frames as the day progresses, the guests come in and then the party starts. End it up with amazing shots of the different emotions presented for the night, be it happiness, relief, excitement, or simply exhaustion. Who knows, your beautiful personal take on the event’s storyline might just book you for another round of photos for the next year’s event as well.