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Five Tips for Special Event Photography

Often times shooting special events is not the most glamorous gig in photography, but when a client calls you up looking for a photographer to shoot an event, you take the job.  Sometime’s you end up somewhere great like the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, other times you’re in a small, dark, dull event space with only 20 people making the best of the situation.  Regardless of the size or location of the event, your job is to make some great images.  There are a lot of little things that can make diving into special event photography much easier or much harder on yourself, below are a few ideas of how to prepare and execute the photography at your next event.

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#1 Dress Like You Belong There

As a photographer, there are plenty of times when you can go to work in jeans and a t-shirt, after all clients aren’t watching you do post production.  When photographing a special event however, you should dress like you belong there and blend in with the crowd.  This doesn’t necessarily mean a suit and tie every time for men, or that a blazer is necessary for women, but slacks/dressy pants, comfortable, low key, black shoes and a nice shirt/blouse usually are a must.  If it is a higher end event you men should be sure to wear a suit coat and tie while women should wear a blazer if they feel it is necessary.  If you’re unsure of the appropriate attire, always err on the side of safety if you’re over dressed you can always take the coat off and stick the tie in your pocket.

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#2 Take Pre-event Shots

While it may be an afterthought for your client at the event, the event planner responsible for dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s will love that you captured shots of the room prior to the guests arrival. Not only will it be something they can use to sell their services in the future, it will also allow them to catalog the set-up in case they have a very similar type of event in the space again. This will prove invaluable to the client and should be the way you start any event.

#3 Don’t over shoot (but don’t under shoot either)

The divide on over vs under shooting seems like it would be quite blurry, it really isn’t. If you are photographing a special event, you have to remember that even though great photos are key, the attendees having a good time is the top priority. While it is completely acceptable to photograph the attendees, both candidly and posed, be sure to make mental notes of who you have photographed so that you aren’t going to the same groups of people over and over again. Along with posed shots, if the lighting allows for it, bump up your ISO and shoot candids with ambient light. Once you move past a cocktail hour and into a reception, keep your focus to the stage. Candid audience or crowd shots are nice here and there, but a good rule of thumb is that once plates go down and people are eating, keep the camera pointed away from the tables and onto the stage and shoot conservatively.

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#4 Be Quick

Whether it’s a panel discussion or candids at a cocktail hour, no one is at the event to be with you. Accept it. While shooting candids, be ready to go, take a step back, click off three frames and move on, any more than that (unless it’s a VIP or there is a glaring, non-camera related, issue) and you might be intruding on the attendee’s time. When shooting a panel discussion, or anything on a stage, shoot a lot with a long lens. While close, intimate shots from a wide lens look awesome, the people who are paying, or are invited to the event aren’t there to look at the back of their head. If you do have the opportunity to shoot from up close, be quick, quiet and stay as low as possible.

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#5 Edit Hard and Deliver Quickly

I find that no matter how hard I try to not over shoot an event, I still end up trashing about half of what was shot. It usually isn’t because the shots aren’t good, but because there is something very similar and slightly better in the edit. If you shoot three frames each of every group you photograph at an event(which is pretty typical) and have hundreds files, there’s no reason you can’t cut at least one of the frames for each group, if not two. Your client only needs the cream of the crop since there is only be a limited amount of use for event photos. If there are any VIP’s you might want to leave an extra frame or two in if they are also good, but for the general attendees the top frame of three works best every time. The same rule applies to shots of speakers or the panel at a discussion, edit hard and give the client the cream of the crop.

Once you get your edit down to the best images, bring your files into your editing software (I am still a diehard Photoshop guy) and crank out the images. The best thing about corporate events is that for the most part everything should be consistent and can be batch processed out in no time. From here, deliver your files, unless a disc is requested, we deliver everything via our PhotoShelter page online.

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Special Event Photography may not be the most fulfilling form of photography in the world, but when it comes time to pay the bills, you will be glad that you learned how to execute the photography aspect of them.  There are always events going on and opportunities to find work, just remember to dress the part, get photos before the event as well as during it, not over shoot, be in and out of groups and to edit hard with a quick turnaround to keep clients happy.

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Patrick Nugent
Patrick Nugent

is a corporate photographer. Based in New York City Patrick work with Camera One, one of the leading studios specializing in corporate photography and special event photography. When he isn’t shooting special events and corporate portraits, Patrick can be found working away on the files in Adobe Photoshop CC.

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