Angelworx Photography by Angelie » Photographer specializing in wedding photography in boutique style and available to photograph destination weddings.

Tips and tutorials: Photographing an event

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I have a facebook page for those who might not be aware of it and might be interested in getting updates and such from my photography business and coverages.

I got a request there from Haje, a liker of angelworx’s facebook page, asking for a tutorial on photographing an event. And this led of course to this blog post. I do appreciate that type of input and I highly encourage you to come up with requests like this. I love sharing!

General tips

We all know that there are lots of stuff happening in occasions and parties. You go from one acitivity to the other and there are lot of movements, actions and reactions. To handle this photography wise, there are some things to bear in mind:

  1. Be in the know and anticipate – If there is a party planner or someone else who knows the program well, dig for information so that you won´t be caught of guard. Different activities most often require different camera settings, so it is good to be prepared. And since it it fast paced, you don´t want to miss any significant highlights.
  2. Check for both action and reaction –  A typical example is when someone is holding a speech. To be able to tell the story well, take a picture of the one holding the speech, and the reactions of the crowd to the speech.
  3. The most genuine expressions comes from photos taken when we´re now even aware of it. Keep your distance and be unobtrusive to get the candid shots. Zoom in.
  4. Be in the moment – Focus, focus, focus. Pay attention and be patient.
  5. Technically, learn the different program modes of your camera and settings.
  6. Get wide (capture more in a frame, opposite of zoom) – to tell the story, what, who, where and when.
  7. Be creative – try different angles. Crop differently. There are many ways to be creative.
  8. Remember these shots – highlights of an event, key persons, group pictures, portrait of the main subject, reception details, the venue and the candid moments.

Shutter speed effect in party pictures

If you wish to freeze movement, you have to know how available light will affect this on your camera setting. Fast shutter speed is a must to freeze movement. Lighting and exposure (exposure triangle; shutter speed, aperture and ISO) is a huge topic in itself that I will not cover here, but there is plenty of good material out there. I recommend Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure book. I can just share a short illustration that will help you see the basics of exposure:

Imagine, light being the water flowing out of the faucet. Imagine, worker bees holding buckets to catch the water and fill the buckets. Now, shutter speed is how long you keep the faucet open, while aperture is how big the faucet opening is. Obviously, the larger the opening, the more water flows out in a given time. Likewise, the longer the faucet is opening, the more water comes in. Too much water, means too much light which translates to overexposure. Too little water, means too little light and that in turn means underexposure.

What about ISO? Imagine, the worker bees are the components to make an image with the help of light. Obviously the more worker bees, the faster an image gets built. The higher the ISO, the more it assist in getting light available. This is helpful in low light situations and you can be able to have higher shutter speed with high ISO. The downside of high ISO, is that it adds noise/grain to your images. Some images look good with grain, but if you don’t want noise/grain, there are noise reduction software available out there. The newer camera models also are made to tolerate high ISO without the noise/grain being obvious.

Now, if you want to show movement in a picture, try with slower shutter speed. The longer the shutter speed, the more movement is captured in a frame. Also keep in mind, the slower the shutter speed, the more obvious your own movement will be (the steadiness of your camera grip).

Technical tips

  1. Use sports mode (picture of a running man usually), if you don’t have time or desire to try or learn about more automatic setting.
  2. High ISO (Both Digital SLR and point and shoot has this. Check your manual on how to adjust this).
  3. Use flash to add more light source. You can either use the pop up flash built in the camera, or buy an external flash. An external flash offers more flexibility in positioning enabling you to bounce the light and create a softer light. The larger, the light source, the softer. Softer light is more flattering.
  4. Buy a lens with a wide aperture to cope well with low light situation (the 50 mm, f 1.4 is fairly priced for its performance). 2.8 and wider is a good aperture to have available in low light.
  5. Have a zoom lens that covers most of your party photography needs. Wide enough for large group pictures and enough zoom for unobtrusive, candid shot. As a Nikon user, I hear good reviews on the 18-200 with Vibration reduction/VR. This is  a multipurpose lens that will be handy for travelling as well. The vibration reduction feature will help you in keeping steadier shots despite slower shutter speed.
  6. Shoot with auto white balance. This is because a venue might be lit with lights of different hues and colors. As a result, your camera can record too blue images, too yellow or too green depending on the WB setting. So you don’t have to think about changing this back and forth, auto white balance is the setting you should go for. If you still get unwanted color rendition on your image, you still have the chance to post process and edit this afterwards.
  7. Have enough memory. The number of images that your memory card can fill, depends on the image size and quality you choose in your settings (ex. JPEG fine, JPEG normal, RAW/NEF).
  8. For the more enthusiastic, shoot RAW/NEF. White balance is an example of an adjustment that is easier to change with shooting RAW/NEF and having a software that is able to process this type of file.

This article is targeted to newbies and early enthusiasts and I hope that the wording reflects this and that it is understandable. Photography is a wide topic, so some aspect of this article can require some more research on your part. A Google search will reveal that there are tons of resources out there, and photographers nowadays likes to share!

Hope you find this helpful, and if you have any questions, please use the comment box below (either the wordpress or facebook). You can also shoot me an email at angelie(at)angelworx.no.

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