A couple of weeks ago, I was hired to photograph a Mardi Gras party that was raising funds for Rosie’s House, an organization that offers music lessons to disadvantaged children. The festive event was a huge success, and it was pretty clear that everyone was having a great time. One of the young students from Rosie’s House performed a very difficult piano piece that received a resounding applause from the audience.
Even though event photography can be exhausting, I truly enjoy it. I always meet such incredible people, and there’s something very satisfying about contributing (even if it’s a small part) to events that benefit such organizations. Over the years, I have done many different types of photography ranging from concerts, fashion, portraiture, and weddings. Event photography can be fairly easy or really difficult depending on how well the photographer prepares. Before this event, I practiced with a mannequin to make sure that I knew how I would handle different lighting situations.
The important thing to remember about event photography is that very little is in your control. Chances are you haven’t seen the venue, you can’t change the lighting, and the attendees are busy, which means you have to be assertive and get the shots you need to do your job. In order to be a successful event photographer, it’s important to be adaptable, aware of your surroundings, and assertive. Below, I have listed some tips that have helped me.
1.) Dress Accordingly: It’s important not to stand out. As an event photographer, you’re there to document the party or event. If I’m unsure, I check the dress code and always wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be on your feet for several hours, so treat your feet well.
2.) Bring extra flash and camera batteries: Even if the event is a couple hours, always bring extra batteries. Life doesn’t always go as planned, and you don’t want to be held back because of a bad or dead battery.
3.) Use TTL Mode & Aperture Priority: While it’s possible to use manual mode on your flash, I highly recommend using TTL mode. You’re constantly on the move at a party, and you don’t always have time to make adjustments on your camera. TTL makes the adjustments for you. Additionally, change your camera setting to Aperture Priority. When you use TTL you have the option of Shutter, Aperture, or ISO priority. The reason I suggest Aperture Priority is that you generally take photos of groups of people at a party. In order for everyone to be in focus, you need to increase your F stop. When I had tested my gear, I saw that my camera adjusted to 1/60 shutter speed. This allowed me to keep my aperture at F14 and not have to worry about a tripod for stability. Since everyone’s gear is different, it’s important to test your equipment before an event. This leads me to tip #4.
4.) Practice Practice Practice!: Don’t wait until you get to the party to test your gear. Practice taking photos with on-camera flash. Try moving the angle of the flash to see how it affects your images. Also, try not to point your flash at people’s faces. Usually you can bounce the light off a wall (unless that wall is a bright shade of orange) or a ceiling if the ceiling is between 8 to 12 feet high.
5.) Asking Permission and Being Assertive: Every event is different, so it’s best to use your judgement. I generally ask if I can photograph someone because some people are really uncomfortable being photographed and the last thing I want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable. Also, if there are musicians, I will ask if the flash will be a problem. Most of the time, the musicians won’t have a problem because they know you were hired to document the event. However, I do try to keep it to a minimum so it’s not too distracting for the players.
6.) Bring Business Cards: I have actually met additional clients while on the job, so event photography can certainly lead to more opportunities.