Tips on event photography Part 1

Scene setter–During a Prisoner of War medal presentation ceremony at Riverside’s Mission Inn, this veteran decked out in full military regalia waiting for the ceremony to begin, gave me a good opportunity to set the scene.

Event photography is as straightforward as it sounds.

What your client wants is often straight documentation of the event.

Most events have some components which are predictable so expect you’ll need:

  • the customary keynote speaker at the podium
  • the reaction of the audience (hopefully the speaker is engaging).
  • some award presentations
  • some group pictures

Most of the time, your client will make sure you’re in position and ready.

More than likely too, if it’s a big deal, they will have a schedule that is printed and handed to all guests so they know what to expect.

Speakers at the podium

Expressions–The closer you can get, the tighter your framing. That gives you the best quality image with the least noise. (top)Edward Bush, a college administrator and scholar at UC Riverside has a very distinct style reminiscent of black preachers. The only caveat is when you’re so close, every movement by the speaker is amplified. In the bottom picture of Riverside’s Mayor Ron Loveridge, I stayed back a little to try to accommodate for this gesturing and movement.

If you can get up close, so that your speaker fills the frame, you’re in good shape.

Inside auditoriums and dim interiors, just expect to be shooting at ISO 1600 even with fast lenses.

I don’t own an image stabilized telephoto so, I rely on a monopod.

With my zoom set at the 200 mm end, I know I would be pushing the limits of my ability to handhold at shutter speeds of 1/250 sec.

Bear in mind, even with image stabilization technology, a sharp picture is never guaranteed.

Just because I’m steady, it doesn’t mean my subject isn’t moving when I”m taking pictures.

So speakers who move around a lot or gesture while at the podium in an dimly lit auditorium pose a significant challenge.

If it is indeed so dark, you may have to break out the radio slaves and flash units especially if there are no video cameras about.

In my case, the speech was being streamed live, so they had some continuous tungsten lights which made my life easier.

I only had to adjust my white balance to match the house lights.

White Balance

Evaluate your LCD monitor then photograph a white sheet of paper and do a custom white balance.

If you don’t even bother doing this, you won’t learn how good your camera’s Auto White Balance is.

It doesn’t take you long but boy can it make your post production a whole simpler when it comes to color adjustment.

Yes, you can always shoot RAW.

I didn’t have the luxury of time since my client wanted the images as soon as possible for their website.

Note I use the word color adjustment instead of color correction.

I’m not in a lab setting where I know precisely what the color temperature of the house lights are, so I’m left with my best guess for what is the best skin tone.

Compare the top and bottom pictures.

The top picture was taken with Auto White Balance and the bottom one using Custom White Balance.

The frame in the middle was the one used to set Custom White Balance. While the top photo has color that is acceptable, you wouldn’t notice it until you see how much better the color can be in the bottom picture.

Work the room, move around

Keeping an eye on the audience is always a must.

You want to single out the faces which have interesting expressions as well as body language.

Pictures of ininterested audiences might reflect the truth if a speaker is, how shall I say, less than exciting.

But that might not be what your client is looking for.

It’s a good idea to give the client lots of choices because they often don’t know.

The more options you provide, the more likely you’ll get a call  back to do more work.

2 thoughts on “Tips on event photography Part 1”

  1. Shane,
    I hope the graduation pictures went well. If you have unlimited access, then a good 70% percent of the hard work will be taken care of.

    Evening events that are outdoors can be a good thing because the light at the time of the day is usually very directional and can be dramatic. But it also has it’s share of challenges.

    Post back and share with me what you got.

  2. Peter, This post could not have been posted at a better time. I am shooting a graduation ceremony tomorrow evening and I will try the custom white balance trick.

    The mayor appears to be a very entertaining speaker judging by the hand movement.


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