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Wise before the Event

People often ask me, do I have any tips for taking snaps at an event, and it got me thinking....

How many times do you see the standard format, posed pics with ladies and gents lined up in formation looking stiffer than a Roman statue. It got me thinking about the Event Photography I shoot and why my clients come back to me again and again. After much deliberation with myself, I decided to share some of my secrets to grabbing great pics at an event.

So you’re at an event, let’s suppose it’s a family occasion, plenty of happy people surrounded by loved ones, it should be a piece of (birthday) cake right? You have your camera, let’s assume it’s a phone, and you want to grab those wow shots that everyone will love. We’re not talking about the technical difficulties, I’ll maybe cover that at another time. So let’s assume it’s an outdoor gig, weather is perfect, champagne and soft drinks are flowing and the burgers are sizzling on the BBQ. You get your phone out, so where to begin? I’ll rank the most important things to consider in no particular order...

Remain Alert - This may seem obvious but you’d be amazed how easy it is to zone out as it were and not be paying attention to what’s happening around you. This is something I was guilty of in the early stages of my career, if I was shooting an event that I had no interest in or if it was, say, a wedding which generally followed the same repetitive format time after time, I would find myself getting lazy, switching off, looking at my phone and missing key moments. Stay alert and you’ll find you won’t miss a trick

Develop eyes in the back of your head - how many times have we heard this expression, most notably when your ma caught you doing something you shouldn’t and you wondered how she knew....eyes in the back of her head. Ok it’s a cliche but it’s true, always look behind you as well as in front. Nothing more infuriating than pointing a camera ahead waiting for something to happen, while some guy is falling into a fountain behind you. Be prepared to turn around quickly if something develops

Use your Ears as well as your Eyes - this may not be immediately apparent, surely we only need a good eye to take a good photo right...wrong. When I’m wandering around a venue, I’m listening to what’s happening around me. Where is the craic going on. You’ll maybe have a group of ladies in front of you having a quiet conversation with little or no emotion on their faces but in the distance you hear a group of fellas, laughing and sharing the banter. The key is to wander over discretely and wait until whoever it is who’s holding court is about to deliver his next punchline and be ready.

Candid v Formal - For me, it’s Candid every time. Formal portraits have their place (normally in an album that gathers dust up in the attic) but the Candid shots are the ones that show the real emotion of the occasion. Stroll around the venue, point and shoot discreetly, if someone sees you they’ll look up, then get the formal one of them all posing. If you get the formal one first, you’ll never get them to relax and be natural afterwards.

Be prepared - So in this example, obviously the first thing to remember is to make sure your phone is charged! Trust me, if I had a euro for every time I’d forgotten to.....well let’s just skip over that. Make sure the camera is set up correctly. Don’t go around shooting loads of pics before realising you had it set to panoramic mode or time-lapse mode.

Be respectful - ok, chances are, unlike me when I’m working, you’ll know most of the people there so this may not seem a big deal but nonetheless it’s important to remain respectful and courteous. Not everybody likes having a camera shoved in their face. If they clearly don’t want to be photographed then walk away. Maybe come back later and ask politely for a formal shot. Don’t be pushy and insist they have to have a pic taken. Trust me that won’t go down well.

This isn’t an exclusive list but it’s just a few little things to try and get in to the habit of remembering. Follow these tips and you won’t go far wrong.


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