Whether you’re a seasoned event photographer or you’re just getting started, it’s important to be familiar with the basic etiquette for event photography. After many years working in this field, I learned minor details make a tremendous difference to the client other than the final images. In this article, we’ll go over some of the do’s and don’ts of event photography, so you can be sure that you’re prepared for your next gig.
Be prepared, plan and have a clear idea of what you want to achieve with your photos.
Research the company that is hiring you
- Look at their website and social media accounts.
- Try to find out what is the company’s culture.
- If you’re shooting a corporate event, you’ll want to show off the atmosphere and feel of the company rather than just show the attendees having fun.
- Know what types of images are expected from you.
- Focus on the shot list. If you don’t have one, remember the talk you had with the event organizer. More on this below.
- Get to know the attendees. If possible, spend a few minutes talking with them and getting a sense of what they are celebrating.
- Start a conversation and build rapport, then you will get better shots of them when they see you shooting them.
Find out what the event is about
- Sometimes the company that hires you is not the same event host.
- Find out what reason is for the event so you can dress for the occasion
- Look for images of past events to have a better idea of the vibe.
- A pro tip, get to know the event host will help you make a better connection for future work.
Scout the Location
Scout out the location well before the event so you know how to move around in order to capture the shots you need and want without disturbing the event’s natural flow.
The main reason to scout the location before the event starts is to see which options you have to shoot unobtrusively.
If there is space, use a telephoto lens, and you will get the best candid shots.
If the event is in a tight space, use a wide to medium lens. I know you can be in the middle of the action, but that is the only way to get the shot.
I know that sometimes you don’t have the option to scout the location days before the shoot due to budget or if you live far from the event location.
One thing you can do and I think it’s a must, is GET EARLY to the location. Not only to scout the location but to get ready for the action. Anything could go wrong and it will, the weather, parking, gear issues, and so.
One great tip to shoot at a crowded event is to be friendly with the attendees, and engage with them so you can get great candid shots when the time comes.
Get a Shot List
90% of the time, the event host has a good idea of what they want you to capture. If they don’t even mention it, you must ask for it. If they don’t have one, they will guide you at least on what they’re looking for.
If you follow the shot list religiously, it will make it easier for you to understand what your client needs.
It’s better to have a shot list and not need it than to need one and not have it.
The shot list is also proof. Your client cannot claim you missed a shot you did not disclose to them.
Remember, you’re there for them and for the people who hired you.
Get a Photography Contract
Many people get scared when you say the word “contract” but it’s the best way to cover your back in any scenario. When I say “contract” I’m not talking about something that’s going to take up a lot of your time, I’m talking about an easy one or two-page document with the following items:
- The date of the shoot, location, and duration of the shoot
- What you will provide (for example, 4-hour event coverage with edited high res images)
- What you need from the client (for example, 4 hours of access to the venue, date and time for editing)
- How much you will be paid and when you will be paid
- How many prints will be provided and what kind, size, and resolution if that service be required? These days the need is for digital copies.
- Order of events (example: Bridal prep, ceremony, reception)
- Any other information that you feel applies to the shoot (for example, the client must provide a hard drive if they want a hard copy)
- How to Get Paid. I’ve heard many people having problems getting paid by their clients and I know that I’ve had my share of this as well. I’ve found that a lot of clients get nervous about paying you and sometimes they’ll hold off until the images are complete or they see the proofs.
- Get a deposit before the event and, if possible, request the last payment on the day of the event or at least request your payment processing that day.I don’t want to go on in this article about how you should get paid, this is enough subject to talk about in one article. The bottom line is that you need to make sure that your contracts cover this topic and that you have an invoice sent out with every job.
Take advantage of technology
In the world of event photography, technology can be your best friend. From cameras to software to printing and every little gadget, there are many ways to take advantage of the latest and greatest technologies to improve your event photography.
Here are a few tips on how to make the most of technology in your event.
Use a quality camera.
A good camera will help you capture better photos.
Look for features like resolution, around 20Mpx, good low-light performance, and decent autofocus when choosing a camera for event photography. A neat feature I appreciate on my Nikon Z9 is the ability to shoot in silent mode. Being a ninja pays well.
Use photo editing software.
A good photo editor can help you touch up your photos and make them look their best before printing or sharing them online. A photo editor will help you do a quick edit to deliver right on-site. This trend is becoming very popular.
Event planners want to have photos displayed right away on TVs or to share on social media the same day of the event and you need to be prepared. Popular editors like Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, Luminar, and Capture One are powerful.
Use photo apps.
- If you want to be quick, you will want to use an app that connects to your camera so you can share the photos instantly. I use Snap Bridge from Nikon.
- If the event is outdoor, there are a handful of apps that allow you to track the sun’s trajectory so you can choose the best spot to shoot.
- On-camera flash is my best tool when you may use it. Just bounce it up. Usually, ceilings are white or greyish.
- Occasionally, having a light portable laptop where you can edit and deliver on the fly, some highlights photos of the event are getting more popular these days.
- Carry a power bank. It’s always handy.
Use payment apps to allow you to collect a deposit or full payment on the day of the event. I highly recommend Wave Apps. I even use it for my general invoicing.
What not to do when Photographing an Event
I like to focus more on positive things than negative ones, but unfortunately, I have to mention these ones to avoid getting you in an uncomfortable situation when shooting an event.
Do not photograph people when eating.
It can also be difficult for people who are already uncomfortable around cameras because of anxiety and other issues.
Being photographed while trying to eat can add additional pressure and stress on these individuals; so respect their wishes if they’d rather you didn’t take any photos of them just then.
Do not drink alcohol while working
Being an event photographer, there is no room for any kind of substance use. It is important that photographers remain alert and focused throughout events in order to capture the most special moments of the day. This means that drinking alcohol is prohibited during these events as it can impair judgment and reaction time.
Alcohol also has a negative effect on creativity and concentration, both of which are essential for capturing great photos. It can cause photographers to miss important shots or take poor-quality photos due to low concentration levels and lack of focus.
Alcohol has made people more aggressive or reckless when behind the camera, which may lead to issues with other attendees or guests at the event.
Event photography requires a clear head in order to be successful; therefore, abstaining from alcohol while working is mandatory for all photographers who want their work to shine.
Do not promote yourself
When photographing an event, it is important to remember that you are there primarily to capture the moment and not to promote yourself.
Before attending the event, make sure you understand your role as a photographer. Keep in mind that your primary focus should be on capturing images of people enjoying themselves and expressing emotions.
Your job is to remain unobtrusive and take pictures that represent the spirit of the occasion. A professional photographer can blend into any situation and will take great photos without drawing attention to themselves.
Do not forget that you are there for a purpose: document the event for everyone’s pleasure, not yours! Be respectful of other guests at all times, avoid getting in their way, don’t talk too loudly or disrupt conversations.
Do not be intrusive
When taking photos at an event, it is important to be respectful and not intrude on the moment. Photographers need to remember that they are capturing a special moment for the people involved and should make sure not to disrupt it.
It’s also important that photographers ask permission before taking pictures of attendees depending on the event. Usually, guests are aware they are being photographed that day.
The goal is to capture candid moments making no one uncomfortable or aware of your presence.
The best lenses for shooting events I use are the 70-200mm Nikon telephoto to be further away, this helps people to be themself and capture better candid photos. The other go-to lens for me is the 24-70mm when space is tight and for group shots.
When attending an event as a photographer, it is important to blend into the background in order to capture natural moments without drawing attention away from what is happening.
Being courteous and understanding of people’s personal space can help ensure that everyone feels comfortable while being Photographed. Photographers should try their best not to move around too much during a shoot so as not to distract anyone from enjoying the occasion.
In conclusion, event photography etiquette involves a combination of professionalism, respect, and collaboration. Photographers should be sure to communicate their intentions with event organizers prior to the event and maintain a sense of professionalism throughout. They should also respect the wishes of event organizers, attendees, presenters, and vendors.
Finally, photographers must strive for collaboration with all parties involved to ensure everyone’s needs are met in capturing the moment.