How to Photograph an Event Properly

Hey everybody, hope you’ve all had a great week. Today I want to teach you something. I want to talk about event photography, and how you can get the best photos at parties, dinners, galas, and other gatherings, big or small.

Event photography is an area that I have a lot of experience in. I’ve taken photos of parties, dinners, auctions, and showcases. I’ve never been formally taught how to take photos at events, but I have enough first hand experience to give some tips and tricks for taking the best photos at that next party.

Event photography requires a few skills. The first thing I think of when photographing an event is the formality of the event I’m photographing. Is it a formal event like a black-tie or is it a casual house party? Is it a sit down dinner or an afternoon of wine tasting? The formality of the event should affect the mood of your photos. At parties and and other casual events, make your photos look as fun as the party. Go ahead and ask people to group up and be playful for the camera. They will probably be fine with it.

Sunnybrook Tea, December 2016

If it’s a more formal event, your photos might look more serious. Rather than trying to make your compositions more fun and playful, embrace the seriousness and capture the attendees with as much dignity as possible. I wouldn’t try to encourage people at a black tie dinner to smile and wave at the camera, you might get some nasty looks. But if people ask you as a photographer to take a staged picture of a group, go ahead. You are working for them.

Event photography is unique because any kind of equipment at your disposal is fine for any event. There are some areas of event photography that require a telephoto lens (speeches, award ceremonies), others are best suited for a portrait lens (50 mm, 72 mm, etc.), but with most events, an 18-55 mm or other wide angle zoom (or fixed) lens (24-105 mm, 24 mm etc.) Whenever photographing an event, I bring my three lenses that I talked about in “The Setup”. However, most lenses are suitable for at least one area of event photography. My advice is to bring whatever you have to any event.

The next tip is an important one, moving around. Being an event photographer means you know how to move around people, and you know how to judge speed and distances as well. This is crucial, as you will move around a lot as a photographer at an event. You don’t want to be bumping into people and getting in the way while people are just trying to have a good time. Your job as event photographer is to be invisible and capture the attendees at their best.

Photographer K.C. Thomas with a 70-200mm lens at a gala dinner

Even though the night is now over and you have gotten some great shots of that event, your job isn’t finished. You still need to get home and send the photos to whomever they need to be sent to. You should also learn how to use Adobe Lightroom. It is a great program for editing photos and can drastically increase your image quality. This needs to be done in a timely manner. Photos from an event the night before should be sent the next day to the event coordinator or whomever needs them. If this is done late, the person who hired you might not want to hire you again, regardless of the quality of your photos.

Don and Kelley Johnson in March

That pretty much covers it. Take the temperature of the room, use the right equipment for the right situation, learn how to move around, and follow through the next day. I hope you do well at any event you end up photographing!



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