I thoroughly enjoy doing event photography. I like to chronicle people enjoying themselves, being given awards, being entertained and celebrating special occasions.
Almost everything I know about event photography, I learned from a county magazine that my parents had a monthly subscription for and which they would pass on to me. It always painted a very positive picture of the county with good journalism and excellent photography. It made you feel good that you lived in this county.
I would then turn to the social pages at the back of the magazine and that’s where I learned how not to do event photography.
Pink, shiny faces. Middle aged men, saluting the camera with pints of beer like naughty schoolboys. Smudged makeup and poorly posed groups. These galleries of events in the county were not pretty.
Whether you are an event organiser or someone who has been asked to photograph an event, I am going to share how I approach event photography.
But first, I will tell you about the photograph at the beginning of this article.
The Yabba Dabba Doo Charity Party
For the past five years, there has been an annual event in Lathom, Lancashire, which raises tens of thousands of pounds for good causes every time. It’s called “The Yabba Dabba Doo” party and it sells out every year.
I photograph it each year and can honestly say that it has to be one of the most exciting events I ever cover. For the organisers, Having a Ball Events, it’s important that they have a portfolio of photographs from previous years that they can use on social media in the build up to the next party.
Fireworks are provided by a company that is currently the British Musical Fireworks champions and each year, there is entertainment in the shape of acrobats, fire performers, magicians, musicians and conjurers.
This particular year, there were two fire performers. One of them had given me a demonstration earlier in the evening, so I could work out my camera settings for when they performed, later in the evening.
That was a tremendous help, as it gave me the chance to play around with a variety of camera settings until I got the balance I wanted.
I knew that, if I stood behind one of them, I would be able to see the faces of the audience, illuminated by the flame. I also used a flashgun to illuminate the fire performer better.
It was a spectacular show and part of an amazing night that got double page spreads in both the local newspaper, a local “glossy” magazine called Simply Southport and a full page in Lake District Life & Lancashire Life.
We’ve managed to get this level coverage for the event every year, because the organisers, local press and I have worked together as a team. We want to make sure that the event sells out every year and that as much money as possible is raised for good causes.
If you want to see all of my photos from that night, they are here.
If you are the event organiser and you want to get the best results out of your photographer, my tips are:
1. Issue your photographer with a Running Order well in advance. Agree a deadline with him or her for the photos to be available to release. I’m often asked to turn work around in 24 hours.
2. Allow space for a “photography area” that is slightly away from all the tables. Use roller banners or branding in the background for your organisation or the name of the event. If the event is being sponsored, make sure the sponsors’ banners are visible. Make sure this area is well lit.
3. Prepare a list of photographs required – key people / groups. On the day, make sure that there is someone who can round up the key people and take them to the photography area. Ideally, you want to get these photographs taken early on.
4. If you are hoping for coverage in local newspapers, magazines or trade press, you need to liaise with them in advance. These days, local newspapers have very limited journalism resources and even less photographic resources. You need to be in a position to write up the event (or pay for someone who can) and to supply captioned photographs.
5. Agree deadlines with the publications for copy and photographs that you know can be delivered. If the Editor has reserved a double page spread for you and you don’t deliver, you’ll never get a second chance. This is why you always want to hire professionals.
If you have been asked to photograph an event and you haven’t covered an event in the past, my tips are:
1. Try to check out the venue before the guests arrive. Every location has its own quirks which you will have to adapt to. The marquee for the Yabba Dabba Doo party had black walls and ceiling, which meant I had to use a different flash set up to the one I normally use.
2. Never forget that nobody looks good when they are eating.
3. A group of middle-aged men saluting the camera with pints of beer isn’t a classy look and they invariably look like naughty schoolboys. Wine glasses and Prosecco flutes look okay in guests’ hands.
4. Nobody will thank you for taking their photo after 10.00 pm in the evening. Make up may be smudged and clothes are starting to get crumpled. Many faces will be pink and shiny.
5. If you can, use a flash modifier, rather than bare flash, which is rather cruel close up. I use a Gary Fong flash modifier for events.
6. Local press love spectacular photographs and, if there are fireworks planned, make sure you have your kit set up in advance, since firework displays never last very long. I will do another article about firework photography nearer to November.
This photograph is one of the 10 that make up Landing Page of our website
Taken with a Canon Eos 1Dx and a Canon 24mm – 70 mm f2.8L II lens at 55mm and a Canon Speedlite 600 EX II. Exposure 1/125 second at f6.3. ISO 800.