Event photography is an exciting career path. You get to be social and creative at the same time. On top of that, most event photographers work freelance which makes the career even more appealing. What’s not to love about having complete control over your work schedule and projects?
While event photography can be challenging at times, it can also be a very rewarding experience. Event photography captures the essence of important occasions in people’s lives. You are responsible for showcasing the atmosphere and activity of unique celebrations and performances. It can be a very fulfilling main career, or a lucrative and flexible side hustle to support other creative endeavors.
Some people already know that shooting events is a great career path for them. But if you’re starting out, it can be tough to figure out what steps to take to get more bookings.
Whether you’re looking to turn your hobby into a career or want some ideas on how to expand your current freelance business, read on and hold tight. Don’t stress, we have some great event photography tips for you! Your next adventure could be starting right now.
1. Do Your Research
Thorough research is at the forefront of successful event photography. You must be completely organized.
Firstly, you need to have an understanding of the event planning process. You also need to be familiar with the different types of events that take place. The logistics of photographing a high-energy metal gig will be completely different to a classical jazz piece. If you are not prepared for overcoming the experience of the audience, you’re not going to get the right photos. When you’re starting out, try to attend as many events as possible to get a feel for the atmosphere and learn how to best capture the mood in your photos.
Make sure you arrive early to scope out the venue and find the best spots for taking pictures. You will need to be aware of the lighting conditions in different environments. Understanding the environment will aid your ability to make quick decisions and get the best shots.
If it’s a private event such as a birthday, wedding, or bar mitzvah celebration you will also want to build up a rapport and a full understanding of the client’s needs. Some events will require cultural understanding and different etiquette. Taking time to study this beforehand won’t go unnoticed by clients and can earn you more bookings.
2. Prepare a Shot List
Event photography often requires you to capture fast-paced action. It’s important to know what you want to photograph before the event begins or you’ll miss the magic. For beginners, it’s crucial to plan your results in advance by making a shot list.
A shot list is a list of the key shots that you want to capture during the event. You can refer to this list throughout the event.
It can help to break the event down into smaller sections, and then identify the most important moments within each section. For example, if you’re shooting a wedding, you might want to create a shot list that includes key moments. This could include the bride walking down the aisle, the first kiss, and the cake cutting. By taking the time to prepare a shot list, you’ll be able to ensure that you don’t miss any important moments during the event.
If you’re not sure where to start, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the work of other event photographers. This will help you visualize which shots work best for certain events. Decide which events or moments you want to capture, and plan your composition accordingly. Make sure to include a mix of wide shots and close-ups.
Also, be sure to factor in the timing of different events. For example, if there are speeches or presentations, you will want to make sure to get a few shots of these.
And finally, don’t forget to leave some room for spontaneity! Event photography is all about capturing the energy and excitement of the moment. Leave some space in your shot list for those unplanned moments that always seem to happen. Candid shots are often some of the most memorable, so always be on the lookout for those special moments.
3. Provide a Unique Perspective
There are already plenty of photographers who can take standard event photos. To stand out from the rest, offer a unique perspective that will make your work memorable. This could involve playing with different angles or compositions, using creative lighting techniques, or even incorporating props or backdrops that reflect the theme of the event.
Nobody starts off with a developed signature style. There are a few key things you can do to achieve this. First, it is important to be aware of the different photography genres and styles. Experiment with different techniques and looks until you find something that feels natural and authentic. For each scene, make a note of any special angles or compositions that you want to try. When you are starting out, take both a ‘standard shot’ and an artistic experimental version of each scene.
Next, it is important to be confident in your abilities and learn to trust your instincts. If you are constantly second-guessing yourself, it will be difficult to produce original work. Always be on the lookout for new opportunities and never be afraid to experiment. The best way to find your voice is to keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.
Finally, make sure to showcase the best work in your portfolio, and don’t be afraid to include your experimental shots. The more variety you have, the more likely you are to attract new clients.
4. Invest in the Right Gear
It goes without saying that one of the most important aspects of better photography is having the right equipment.
This goes back to the first commandment of event photography – research. This doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive gear, but you do have to be prepared. The type of event photography equipment you use will depend on the type of event you are photographing. You will also refer back to your shot list. What do you actually need to achieve those shots?
For example, if you are photographing a sports event, you will need a DSLR or mirrorless camera body with a fast lens for capturing action shots. If you are photographing a concert, you will need a camera with a good low-light performance.
A good zoom lens is a must for shooting corporate events or wedding photography. Owning more lenses allows you to capture the indoor reception venue shots, as well as beautiful wide shots outside the venue.
You may already have a nice camera you are comfortable with and some great lenses. But for freelance event photography, I recommended investing in a good backup camera body. Some photographers I know invest in two of the same cameras they are comfortable with such as the Nikon D850 or Sony a1.
If you cannot afford top-of-the-line equipment, consider renting or borrowing gear from a friend or fellow photographer until you can save up enough to buy your own. This will give you a chance to understand what works best for you until you have a chance to buy a camera.
When you are ready to invest, make sure to research what’s best for your niche. Compare camera specs and features until you find the right deal for you!
In addition to your cameras and lenses, you will also need a few other pieces of equipment, such as a tripod, flash, and extra batteries. Be sure to bring extra memory cards so that you don’t run out of space on your camera mid-event. Additionally, a remote shutter release can be used to take photos without disturbing the camera, which can be especially useful for candid shots.
Of course, not all of this equipment is essential, and many photographers prefer to travel light. Ultimately, the best way to figure out what you need is to experiment and see what works best for you.
5. Study Your Camera Settings
Of course, it’s important for every serious photographer to get to know the ins and outs of your camera. There are a few settings that are particularly important for event photography. It’s crucial to know how to optimize exposure settings for low-light conditions. You also need to be able to capture fast-moving action without blurring the image.
Here are four essential camera settings that every beginner event photographer should learn first:
The aperture is the opening in the lens through which light passes. By adjusting the aperture, you can control the amount of light that enters the camera. For event photography, it is often best to use a large aperture so that you can capture as much light as possible. This will help to ensure that your photos are well-lit and clear.
2. Shutter Speed
The shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter is open while taking a photo. A fast shutter speed will allow you to freeze action, while a slow shutter speed can be used to create blurred effects. For event photography, it is often best to use a fast shutter speed so that you can capture sharp, clear images.
The ISO setting determines how sensitive the camera sensor is to light. A higher ISO setting will result in brighter photos, but it can also lead to grainy images. For event photography, it is often best to use a lower ISO setting so that your photos are clear and free of noise.
4. White Balance
By adjusting the white balance, you can ensure that your event photos are accurately colored. For beginners, it’s best to use auto white balance so that your camera can adjust for different lighting conditions.
By learning these four essential camera settings, you can be prepared to capture the best of any event.
6. Network, network, network!
As a freelance event photographer, it is important to build a strong network of contacts who can provide you with potential clients. There are many ways to go about this, and the most important thing is to be proactive.
It’s never too soon to identify yourself as a freelance photographer. Get involved with as many event planning committees and groups as possible.
Attend industry events and meet-ups to connect with as many people as you can. This is a great way to meet other freelance event photographers as well as potential clients.
Attend trade shows, conventions, and other events that would be relevant to your business. Make sure to have business cards on hand to exchange with people you meet. The more connections you make, the more likely you are to get freelance event photography work.
You should also be active on social media, joining relevant online communities and sharing your work. There are many online groups and forums dedicated to freelance event photography. Join these groups and take part in discussions. By offering helpful advice and insights, you will be able to build trust and credibility within the community. This can lead to potential clients seeking you out when they need photography services.
Make sure to keep your social media accounts updated with additions to your portfolio.
Post images from your event shoots. Write blog posts about your experiences and share helpful tips for other photographers. Include relevant hashtags so that people can easily find your content.
When it comes to finding clients in the early days, word-of-mouth is often the best form of advertising. Be sure to let your friends and family know that you’re available for event photography, and ask them to spread the word.
Stay up to date on the latest trends in event planning and photography. Read industry magazines and blogs, and follow influential people in the field on social media. This will help you stay current on what is popular and in demand, so you can adjust your freelance event photography business accordingly.
7. Enjoy Yourself
Events can also be unpredictable, and it can be difficult to get the perfect shot. While event photography can be hectic, it’s always important to take a step back and enjoy the moments you are capturing.
If you’re having fun, your performance will reflect that and your photos will be better as a result. Your clients will also appreciate your positive attitude and be more likely to recommend you to others.
With any type of photography, passion is key. If you are not passionate about photography and events, it will be difficult to succeed in this field. Hone your desire to capture special moments and create lasting memories for your clients.
Of course, there will always be challenging events to photograph. If you approach them with a sense of excitement and adventure, you’ll find that they’re much more productive than if you’re dreading them. So next time you’re gearing up for a freelance event photography gig, remember to have fun with it – your work will thank you for it!
8. Brush Up on Your Post Processing
The event itself is only half the job. For many, the post-processing stage is just as important as the actual event itself. To be a successful event photographer, you need to develop your editing skills too.
In particular, they need to be able to quickly identify the best shots and make minor adjustments to improve the composition. Additionally, a competent event photographer should be skilled in color correction and image retouching.
Photoshop or Lightroom are usually the go-to editing software for photographers. If you are just starting out, we recommend you try free software such as Gimp to improve your skills before you decide to invest. It can achieve many of the same effects, and there are great online tutorials to help you learn how to get the results you desire.
The more you practice, the more you’ll figure out your own editing style. Here are some things to consider to help you get the best results:
- If the event was not well-lit, your photos may look dull. Try correcting the white balance and exposure to compensate for any ambient lighting
- Take advantage of post-processing features like cropping and filters to further improve the composition of each photo. This includes things like centering the subject or removing obstacles in the background.
- Use editing software to retouch any blemishes or imperfections in the photos. This includes things like removing unwanted people from the background, fixing red-eye, and whitening teeth. make sure not to go overboard when retouching portraits though!
- Pay attention to the overall aesthetic of the photos. This means ensuring that all of the photos have a consistent style, and choosing colors and filters that complement each other well.
- Last but not least, make sure to save each photo in a high-quality format so that it looks its best when printed out or shared online
It may feel a bit overwhelming at first, but after a while, it becomes second nature. By honing their editing skills, event photographers can ensure that they always deliver the best possible results.
Capturing the energy and emotion of a live event is a true test of a photographer’s skill. That’s why one of the most challenging and rewarding genres of photography is event photography.
Don’t let the challenge scare you! The best photographers are the ones who are persistent and never give up. If you miss a shot, there will always be another opportunity.
If you’re passionate and prepared, shooting events may be the perfect career for you. By following these event photography tips, you’ll be on your way to taking better photos and impressing potential clients with your work.
Author Bio: Emma Murphy is a visual artist and freelance content creator from Ireland, currently based in Eastern Europe. A passionate photographer, Emma has been producing and managing blog content for photography websites such as CameraReviews and ExpertPhotography since 2018.