Tips on event photography Part 2

Lunchtime entertainment–UC Davis students danced during the talent show  at the recent UC African American Black Coalition Conference on the campus of UC RIverside.

I mentioned in my previous post on event photography, the more important the event, the more likely there will be a printed program.

This program is extremely useful because you can use it to plan your coverage.

Since I work alone, this program can help me decide where to be and with what lens I’m going to shoot the scene before me.

A very tight picture of the program can serve as a very effective  title slide or opening when I author a slideshow.


Printed program–I always grab a printed program because it contains valuable information I can use for captioning and also for planning my coverage. See more of how I covered the unveiling of the National Prisoner of War Missing In Action War Memorial.

Group Shots


If you are planning on doing events for a living, you best get used to this one.

It will be the most requested and  often the one which will frustrate you the most.

Your biggest headaches?

  • Guessing how large a group to plan for
  • You have to guess how tall everyone is when you set up the lights
  • Because you will be working with “hard light sources” , without umbrellas in my case, expect some harsh shadows
  • Expect someone’s eyes to be closed when your flash goes off  (this is where you would want to “chimp” for sure)

If you can get away with it, shooting available light is an option, but that is most likely an impractical solution.

Indoors you won’t  have the depth-of-field you need for group pictures.

If possible, you might consider setting up a designated area for such pictures where you can set up  lights.

It’s a good idea to ask your client these questions ahead of time so that you can plan on how much equipment to bring.

As an example for the conference I covered at UC Riverside, I was told they would want a few group shots.

My liaison had picked out a wall as  background  for this, so I thought it might make things easier.

When I arrived I ,  I set my Speedlites up and  did a few tests so that I could be ready for the principals when they arrived.

But as I found out later, things often change at the last minute.

Out of the blue, during an intermission between speakers, I was told I needed to do a group shot at the podium in the dark auditorium.

My light stands were already set up, so I had to “run and gun” as they say.

This is where the advantage of always using my Speedlites on Manual power  comes in.

  • I know the Guide Number of my Speedlites at 1/8th power
  • I also know my preferred ISO for best results, usually my lowest ISO 100
  • the approximate distance to give me f5.6 by counting the number of paces to the subject

I simply enlisted the help of 2 persons to hold one Speedlite each on either side of the group.

I showed them approximately the height I wanted the Speedlites and where to point them.



Surprised–While on assignment for Claremont College, I spied this character in costume who was promoting a local radio station on campus, so I figured there would be a good picture close by. The trick was how to stay in front of him, yet not tip off the folks he was trying to surprise.

I’ve always enjoyed watching people especially when they’re having a good time.

This fascination made it easy to choose my area of study when I decided to pursue photography in college.

While I can appreciate the niceties of a perfectly executed still life or the majesty of a landscape bathed in magnificent natural light, it is the spontaneity of the human spirit captured that has always been my favorite.

So whenever I am working  I’m always on the lookout for something spontaneous.

It keeps me from dozing off  especially when it’s a boring speech. And I’ve covered my share of those.

Capturing candids in available light require:

  • enough light that you can use long lenses.
  • mastery of setting exposures quickly
  • anticipation of where the focus should be
  • fast lenses,  often ones with large apertures of  f2.8 or larger
  • that your subject is so used to you being there, they’ve ignored your presence
  • a certain amount of tenacity and your ability to concentrate for long periods

UC African Am Conference


That’s it for event coverage. I’m sharing what I’ve picked up from working alone as a newspaper photographer.

Comments or questions are always welcome.