I have a love/hate relationship with event photography. On one hand, I get access to really cool people and events. On the other hand, I am always rushed and never get images that are good enough to make it into my portfolio. Typically, I will take an event job solely because it pays the bills. In Washington, D.C., corporate event photography is big business.
Here are a few event photography tips I have learned along the way.
1. Decide on the best angles ahead of time
Get to the location early and find out where your best photos are going to happen. Is there a main speaker? Where will he/she be and where will you have a clear shot without blocking the view of attendees? Is there a large window nearby? If people are posing for photos, make sure they face the window for the best lighting scenario. Can you incorporate a company logo into any of the shots? Decide how to position yourself to best do that.
2. Look like you belong
Basically, you should dress to fit in. In most cases in Washington, D.C., events are business attire. I will wear a suit and tie to these events. For one, it shows your client that you take them seriously and respect the purpose of their event. It also allows you to connect with attendees easier, because they assume you belong there.
3. Bring a long zoom lens and a short zoom lens
When there is a main speaker at the event, you want to have a long telephoto lens that you are able to zoom so you can stay as still as possible. Running up and down the center aisle to get the right framing will be distracting. Also bring a short zoom lens for shots of attendees. Many of these shots may be in close quarters.
4. Know your settings
At a live event, moments pass quickly. If you are not ready or able to adjust quickly, you will miss the shot. Know about what your settings should be and how to quickly adjust on the fly. For a main speaker, you will be OK with a wide aperture and will want to have a fast shutter speed. Bump up your ISO until you are comfortable with your shutter speed being fast enough—probably 1/200 sec or more. For group shots make sure that your aperture is small enough that the depth of field keeps everyone in focus. This is typically f/5.6 or more.
5. Keep a flash on your camera at all times
Since you never know what is going to happen at a live event, it’s helpful to keep a flash on your camera. You may not need it, but you may turn the corner and see the president coming down a dark hallway. The only way to get the shot is to be ready for it.
6. Ask permission
It can be annoying to have your photo taken without someone asking permission first. If you are wanting to photograph someone or a group of people at an event, tell them who you are, what the photo will be used for, and then ask for permission. About 99 percent of the time, the people will have no problem. However, they get weirded out and will hide their face from you if you try to sneak a photo.
7. Avoid eating shots
At many events, there is a meal served. This is usually a good time to take a break. You will not get any usable shots of people eating and it will just make the attendees uncomfortable.
8. Edit quickly, deliver quickly
In this new world of social media as a news source, speed is the name of the game. Organizations expect a quick turnaround — typically 24 hours. Any longer than that and the images get a little stale. People have moved on to the next event and are no longer interested in yesterday’s news.
Corporate event photography can be very lucrative for photographers who are fast and personable. It takes a certain type of photographer. Do you enjoy shooting events?
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