Take Better Event Photos
Living in Downtown Orlando, Betty and I seem to be photography events frequently, mostly the parades and festivals that take place near us at Lake Eola Park. While not our favorite type of photography, event photography does present unique challenges. The best “technique” for shooting these sorts of events is location, location, location! Often the best spots are where everyone else is, so try to work the crowds and find a location with enough space to capture the moment while still being respectful to others. This may mean standing just off the side of the main crowd and using a longer lens to reach the action. The next best tip for event photography is predicting the action. For a parade, this is knowing that the band will stop at certain locations to play and looking for cues such as the baton twirler getting set up to launch her baton high into the air.
Why even talk about event photography? On Tuesday I was the photographer for our All Associate Rally at the hotel. While not a glamorous role it still was a ton of fun and a great learning experience. There is something about walking around with a camera that makes people stop you and ask to have their picture taken. While that was not the primary purpose, it is still a lot of fun interacting with the crowd and getting people together.
My main role was to shoot the formals of the associates receiving an award for their length of service. Marriott prides itself on the longevity of our associates, and these milestone anniversaries are celebrated at 5 year increments. While we did have a few associates gathering on stage to celebrate their 5 year anniversary, it was neat to see the majority up there for the larger 10 and 15 year milestones. We even had a few associates hitting the 25 year Quarter Century Club which entitles them to free stays for the rest of their lives.
More than shooting the formals of people standing together holding their plaques, which was the main reason for shooting that day, I took this chance to practice my overall event photography. The other speakers on the stage were all senior leaders at the hotel, and I wanted to portray them in the best available light as they were giving their speeches to showcase my photography and also for them to use in promotional materials.
Here are my tips for better event photography:
- Bring large memory cards. Trial and error is a big part of any assignment, but even more for event photography. If someone is giving a speech you want to take multiple pictures constantly and capture just the right moment. Nothing is more unflattering than catching someone’s mouth in an awkward position because you were slightly late on pressing the shutter. Set your camera to high speed mode and take 2-3 of every shot – digital film is free after all.
- Read the itinerary or have knowledge of the event. Knowing when things are going to happen will go a long way towards making sure you are in the right spot at the right time to get the shot. If there is going to be a key presentation or moment that the client (or yourself) will surely want to capture, having that working knowledge will let you get into position and have your camera set up correctly in time. Shooting speakers all day is great, but when the Mayor presents the key to the city to the local hero – get that shot! Your other work all day will be helpful to your portfolio and useful for other parts of the story, but the newspaper will most likely be looking for that “money shot” to run on the front page.
- Anticipate everything. Much like the need to take multiple shots as insurance, anticipate speaker’s movement and actions. Try to predict where people are walking to and if changing light conditions will have an effect on this. Walking from one side of the stage to the other may mean a drastic difference in light; make sure you are prepared for this.
- Work the crowd and have fun! As I mentioned in the main article, there is something about walking around with a camera that makes people perk up and want their picture taken. Much like wedding or portrait photography, interact with your subjects and reveal their true personality. These are the shots people will remember, not the rigid “formals” that look overly posed. Use your people skills and relax along with your subject. As Rick Sammon always says: “the camera looks both ways.”
Hope this was helpful, now get out there and have fun!