Updated: Jul 1, 2020
Shooting an event can be exciting, interesting and testing. Making sure you capture all the important aspects of the event can make you nervous, but with a bit of planning, you can execute the job successfully, by following the brief of the client and ensuring you get exactly what they need.
I will always visit a location of an event to get an idea in my head before I set out, as to how the venue looks, what the lighting is like or what spaces I have to work with. Of course, on the day, the event will have decorations, disco lights etc... to contend with, but with each visit I am at least prepared enough to understand the location better and plan what type of equipment I will need.
I will always dress to the occasion, so wearing smart clothes but comfortable is a winner in most cases. Of course, you are just the photographer, so you need to wear something appropriate to allow you to feel comfortable to perform your job, but you are also a professional and need to respect the client and the guests at the event.
Get clarity from the client about exactly what they would like to use the photos for (social media, website, marketing) and how they intend to use the images. be clear with what main details are needed. For example, if a restaurant has hired you to shoot a launch party and wants to share images from the event on social media, they may not necessarily want images of people eating or the food, but people looking happy and excited at what they are being served.
If you are not clear about what is needed before you shoot the event, it opens up opportunities for the client to turn around and say that they are unhappy with your work because you didn't get the shots they expected.
Here are a few items of equipment I would consider:
35mm & 85mm (Similar to wedding photography focal lengths as they cover the wide and narrow angles essential to capture all aspects of the event.
Off camera flash - this again is always essential as dark situations always come up during events at clubs, bars and restaurants in the evening.
Zoom lens (24-70mm) - If you only have one camera and don't want to miss a wide or narrow shot, then this lens is your saviour. I have always preferred prime lenses as it makes you less static and you create the movement and angles for your shot, not just letting your lens do the work from a static position.
What to shoot and How?
When shooting an event, I use a documentary style of photography throughout the event to capture unplanned moments. Getting clean shots of speakers at a conference or clear facial expressions of audience members at a show are important, but I try to move around and find positions where people are unaware that I am taking pictures of them.
Being compliant with GDPR regulations is paramount and making sure that you capture more than one person in a shot or that guests know that a photographer is present. It makes perfect sense to cover all aspects of the event in order to be compliant with the rules so you can go ahead and be a photographer.
Find out when the key moments of the event will happen and then find time in between to go around and find people with great facial expressions, interesting characters or shots that might be go above and beyond what was requested of the client.
These are just a few pointers to help you at your next event. One of the main attributes to have as a photographer is confidence. Get your camera settings ready at the start of the event and then it's all down to you. The best shots are the ones when you approach people for group shots with a smile on your face and compliment someone on how they look or how the picture will look amazing. Your confidence gives them confidence to be the model for a split second, but makes all the difference to your shots.
You're trying to make the client happy and with a dedicated approach to being confident, friendly and determined to capture the best shots, there's no reason you can't have a successful shoot at every event you are hired for.
The best way to find work at an event is to send out as many emails as you can to businesses via email or group pages on social media, asking if they would consider you for their next event.
Networking is an important part of running a photography business and it never does any harm to look out for up and coming events or meet ups and go and drop off a business card.
Be interested in the event and show examples of where you have helped another business out with your images previously.
You never know, it might just find you an event and a continued relationship with the client.