15 Event Photography Tips for Fantastic Shots

Event photography isn’t like other types of photography. Combining light, color, motion and fine detail, it will require you to wear many hats as a photographer, and you’ll only have a finite amount of time to get your desired shots. In that respect, you’ll probably need a little advice before you set off. Here are just 14 event photography tips to help you get the perfect shot while you can!

1. Scope Out the Venue

This absolutely tops the list of outdoor event photography tips. Before the event in question, walk around the venue and make a note of things like lights, shadows, building angles, color schemes and potential staging positions. Keep in mind that you’ll also be dealing with in-the-moment challenges like crowds and the movement of the sun. Plan for photography bottlenecks.

empty baseball statium
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2. Have A Plan

This is especially important if you’re working for a client rather than freelancing at your own event. What kind of photos are they anticipating? Will they want gorgeous, high-quality portraits or goofy, in-the-moment candids? Will they want you to focus on any particular moments or individuals? Make sure that you’ve had a talk about standards and expectations.

3. Shoot Raw

Shooting “raw” photography means that you’ve instructed your camera not to add any color or correction filters to your pictures. Instead of automatically sharpening edges and reducing noise, your camera will give you plain, untouched image files. Though they aren’t the prettiest when viewing them as soon as they’re taken, they’re much easier to beautify in post-processing, and they’ll give you more control over your final product.

4. Bring Multiple Lenses

This is one of the most common event photography tips, but it’s oft-repeated for a reason. You never know what kind of photos you’ll need to take during a big gathering, so it’s important to have both wide and narrow lenses to capture everything from the bride’s walk down the aisle to the glistening tear on her father’s face as he gives her away.

Canon EOS camera and Canon lenses
Featured: Canon EOS 6D body and lenses; Check out our Canon EOS 7D Mark II review here!
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5. Experiment With Aperture

If you’ve ever wondered about the “f/2″s and “f/3.5″s that dominate event photography tips, they have to do with aperture. The lower the f-number, the more light that your lens will allow into the camera, so you’ll need to experiment with different aperture settings to figure out which is right for your event. If you’re shooting a nighttime star party, for example, you’ll want something low like f/1 – f/2. If you’re shooting in broad daylight, you might need to go with f/2 or above.

6. Increase Your Shutter Speed

Also known as “exposure time,” your shutter speed will have a direct impact on the clarity of your photos. Slow shutter speeds like 1/20th can be used to create the illusion of movement through deliberately blurred backgrounds, so they’re great for dramatic shots of cars, athletes, and animals. High shutter speeds like 1/200th are used to “freeze” motion and capture high-quality stills amidst the action, so use them for kids and crowds.

football touchdown
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7. Get Some Height

This is a neat trick that isn’t always covered in event photography tips. If you need to get a wide shot of the action, climb on top of a chair or step stool. You can even bring your own collapsible ladder for extra-high shots. Not only will your increased height give you an unblocked, unrestricted look at the event, but it will also add a unique sense of perspective to your photos.

6. Make A List

Before you head out to your event, make a broad, general list of the moments that you’d like to capture from it. For example, if you’re covering a football game, your list might include:

  • The players entering the stadium
  • Fans cheering after a touchdown
  • A cute kid in team colors
  • The coach yelling from the sidelines
  • The young engaged couple during a unique moment of their party
engaged couple at engagement party
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Having a list like this will keep you focused and give you a fallback during moments of creative fatigue.

9. Consider Auto Versus Manual

There’s an eternal debate in the world of photography about autofocus and manual focus; the simple truth is that each technique has its own pros and cons, and it’s up to you to decide which is suitable for your particular event. Auto mode will allow you to whirl around the dance floor without worrying about your focus. Manual mode will help you capture all of the letters on a protestor’s sign, but it’ll require more set-up. Which do you prefer?

10. Fiddle With Your ISO

Along with aperture and shutter speed, your camera’s ISO setting is one of the most important factors in obtaining high-quality photos. The usual ISO range given in event photography tips is 200 – 1800, but feel free to experiment outside of the box as well. If your instincts are telling you that an ISO of 4000 will deliver an amazing photo, go with your gut.

crowd at concert
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11. Invest in a Remote Trigger

Remote triggers will keep you in the middle of the action rather than stuck behind a camera. They’ll also allow you to check and correct your poses, positions, and portraits in real time, so they’re among the most useful of event photography tips. Just know that they can require a learning curve to use effectively, so get in some practice before the big day.

12. Include Mood Photos

Mood photos are great for portfolios and photo albums. Whether it’s the empty track before the race or the detailed lacework of the bride’s gloves, these photos will bring a real sense of time and place to your image collection. They’ll also serve as nostalgic mementos for your clients as they’re flipping through their scrapbooks in the future.

capturing mood at concert
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13. Review Your Photos in Real Time

One of the most popular tips for event photography is also one of the most important. Check your photo catalogue as you shoot! You won’t get a second chance to capture that record-breaking slam dunk, and you can’t go back in time and ask that child to blow out their candles again. Event photography happens within a closed time frame, so you’ll need to continually check your photos to ensure that they’re coming out right.

14. Blend In With Your Surroundings

You won’t be able to escape all attention, not as someone with a camera in their hand at a public event. But you can lessen the effects of your presence by dressing, moving and behaving like everyone else in the crowd. This is the only way that you’ll get real candids and not staged candids, so practice your chameleon routine along with other event photography tips.

Paris celebrating new year
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15. Check the Weather

You don’t want to ruin a camera because you left your waterproof gear at home! It’s a staple of outdoor event photography tips to check in with the meteorologist before heading out; whether it’s rain, snow, hail or just high winds, preparation is the key to working around bad weather. You never know when a tarp will save the day or when a plastic baggie will be all that stands between you and the ruination of an expensive lens.

These are just a few event photography tips that can make all the difference in your final portfolio. If you are interested in more types of event photography and how to capture vibrant pictures in any environment, you can also check out our articles on wedding photo tips and portrait photo tips.

What do you think? Did we miss anything? Do you have any advice to share with other event photographers? Sound off in the comments!

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