5 Ways to Improve your Event Photos
Capturing important moments throughout the event are essential to the visual story.
When it comes to event and conference photography, content is king. Capturing important moments throughout the event are essential to the visual story. Whether it’s people on the dance floor or the CEO giving a keynote, the event planners are looking for those special moments. What I’ve learned throughout the years is to diversify the types of images you are creating. I like to mix posed photos in with candids as well as photographs of the space. Each type of photograph serves it’s purpose after the event has finished. Below are my top 5 tips to turn your event photos into great images. Be sure to download our free Event Photography Checklist!
1. DIAL IN WHITE BALANCE IN CAMERA
The all important white balance (WB). Most cameras nowadays have great auto white balance which will work most of the time. If you are photographing an outdoor event then auto WB will work great. However, there are times when it’s best to set the white balance yourself. Indoor events are usually lit by a combination of ambient light, fixed room light, and up lighting. This strange mixture of light makes it difficult for the camera to render the proper WB because one photograph could use the fixed room light and then another can be with up lighting.
When I initially walk into a room or venue I analyze all of the different light sources. Once I figured out what I’m working with, I’ll set the WB using the Kelvin color temp. I’ll set my camera to Live View and start to adjust the temperature until I feel like it accurately represents the scene. With the Live View activated, you can see the adjustments in real time which helps tremendously. You can also set custom WB using a white or grey card but for me it adds unnecessary time. Shooting photographs in RAW (see below) allows you to adjust the temperature in post processing but we will get to that shortly.
2. SET THE RIGHT SHUTTER SPEED
The shutter speed depends on the photograph you are taking. Most of the time your going to want a perfectly sharp image but there are a few occasions when a slower shutter speed might be best. Be sure to use the proper shutter speed if the photograph you are taking is important. Clients are not the biggest fans of blurry CEO photos.
An easy way to avoid camera shake or blurry photos is to set your shutter speed faster then your focal length. The longer the focal length, the faster the shutter speed. This gets tricky sometimes when the room is dark so faster lenses and a higher ISO will help. Here is the simple rule of thumb:
Minimum Shutter Speed = 1/Focal Length
Lets say that your focal length is 200mm then you’ll want your shutter speed to be at least 1/200.
Use slower shutter speeds and get creative. I use slower shutter speeds to help show movement whether it’s crowds moving between breakouts, a golf swing during an outing, or even people dancing. I feel like I strike out more often then not but sometimes you’ll get that great image.
3. DON’T BE AFRAID OF FLASH
Using a flash or strobes can be intimidating at first but there will be times when its absolutely needed. Most indoor events have poor lighting when it comes to photographing people. Lighting your subjects or the room is based on what you can do without interrupting the end goal of making great photographs.
When I photograph events I’m always on the move. There are times when multiple events are happening at the same time so to have a proper lighting setup is nearly impossible for me. Some photographers might disagree but the only effective way for me to be mobile and light my subjects is an on camera flash. I always have a flash and diffuser attached to my camera. There are numerous ways to use an on camera flash whether its bouncing the light, using the flash card, or using a diffuser but for me I always use a Gary Fong Lightsphere. My experience with this diffuser has been great whether its indoors or as a fill outside. This particular diffuser creates a nice soft light that surrounds my subjects and separates them from the background. When shooting with a flash, start off using TTL and then work your way into using manual. TTL works most of the time but if your shooting a meet and greet then manual is the way to go. We will cover shooting meet and greets in a later post so be sure to check in!
The best advice I can give you when using a strobe or flash is to see what works for you and the events you’re shooting. Once you’ve figured out your process, master it.
4. SHOOT IN RAW
In my early days I’ve made this mistake quite a bit but always shoot in RAW. My main reasoning for this is simple, make your post processing as flexible as possible. There will be times when the WB is off or the image is a underexposed and with a JPG file you’re almost out of luck. Being able to properly adjust exposure, colors, and sharpening without damaging the image is essential.
Depending on your camera, the files can be huge and eat up a lot of space so make sure you have plenty of hard drives. I shoot with a Sony A7RIII and occasionally the Canon 5Dsr so I feel your pain but when it comes to delivering quality photos to your client it’s always worth it.
5. TRY DIFFERENT COMPOSITIONS
Composition is what creates your images and how well they tell their story. When I photograph events, I try to mix in different styles of images to complete the story. I use a combination of techniques from different photography fields to help illustrate the story such as documentary, landscape, and portrait photography.
Shot lists I use for different scenarios:
Speakers on Stage:
- Tight shots of the speaker
- Semi wide shots including the first few rows
- Wide shots including most the room with speaker in the frame
- Wide shot with a person in the foreground
- If there is a Q&Q, include the person asking the questions and the speaker in the frame
- Wide shots of the room
- Tight shots of the tables, linens, chairs, centerpieces
- Shot of the stage
- Wide shot of people entering the room
- Wide shot of people seated or mingling
- Tight shot of people have conversations
Posed Photos (mostly wide shots with the room being the background):
- Group photos
- Executives with the attendees
- Tight shot of the entertainer
- Semi tight shot of entertainer with crowd in foreground
- Wide shot of them interacting with the crowd
- Wide shot of them on stage
Composition is where you will excel as an event photographer and capture the story your client is trying to tell.