Event Photography Guide


New Member
Jun 29, 2004
Singapore, Singapore
This article is geared towards anyone looking to venture into events photography for the first time. It provides a few tips here and there that first timers might find useful.

Having done my fair share of event photography, I would say it's pretty easy to get into, and would be a good first step into the world of commercial photography after you've grown tired of shooting flowers, buildings and other non-paying subjects. Whether you're looking to make some money doing this on the side, make it a full time job, or just want to give it a try, I hope this guide will give you a few useful pointers on what to do and what not to do on the job.

First things first
Before you even venture into getting paid taking pictures, here's a list of things you should already know.

- Portfolio
You should have built up a solid all-round portfolio of great photos you're proud to show your mom. Every client will want to see what you've done before putting good money and trust into your ability to deliver. So have something good to show at all times.

- Technical Proficiency
You should have a solid grasp of how to handle your equipment as well as solve any technical problems that might occur during a shoot. No one is going to tell you the difference between center weighted and spot metering when you're on the job. Or if you have your white balance all wrong.

- Photographic Proficiency
You should also have a firm understanding on how to achieve certain types of shots, like overexposed high key shots, shallow bokeh shots, panning shots, flash compensated shots, backlit shots, etc.

- Adapt to the light, or change it altogether
You should be able to adapt to all kinds of lighting, in the day, evening, night, indoors and outdoors in different lighting situations. Low light, concerts and nightclubs are particularly challenging.

- Post Processing
You should have basic understanding of Photoshop, processing work flow, file sizes, file types, how to cover up obvious flaws, resizing, cropping, saving images for web and for print. In these days of digital photography, the first half of the job is shooting. The other half happens in Photoshop.

There might be other things more experienced photographers can tell you about, but these are the things I feel everyone should have a good foundation in before going commercial.

There are various ways photographers and agencies charge for event photography, depending on event size and special demands. I'll list the ones I've come across here :

- By the hour
Anywhere from $50 - $300, depending on the number of photographers required.

- By packages
Minimum 2 hour time slots, anywhere from $200-$500, with an additional $50 - $300 per additional hour over.

- Extra value added stuff
Some agencies offer additional value like printing on the spot, projector screens, instant Wi-Fi photo viewing, name taking, video coverage and a host of other stuff. These range from an additional $500 - $2000 on top of hourly rates.

- Post processing
Rare, but some agencies do charge a 'digital fee' for post processing images.
Anywhere from $50 for the entire batch to $50 PER photo.

As you can tell, how much to quote depends on your capabilities as well as the value you offer to clients. Basic things to consider of course are the number of hours you think you will spend on the job, transport fees, camera wear and tear, batteries, studio rent, software costs and any other costs you might incur. Do note that although a shoot might last only an hour, post processing time may take an entire day. So take note of who and what you're shooting, so you can factor in post processing time into your quotation.

I'm only familiar with Canon systems, but the basic things to note still apply to other brands.

Camera Body
To me anything less than a pro-sumer DSLR is a no go. The 30D to 50D series are a good start, then from there the 5Dmark2, and the 1Dmark3. At the moment i feel the 5Dmark2 is the perfect body for doing events, because of the large LCD screen, video ability, size, weight and image output size. 21 megapixels is more than enough for any magazine publication.

Because of the nature of my events, my main lenses are the Canon 24-105mm F4L IS and the Canon 16-35mm F2.8L II. I rent the 70-200 F2.8L IS when I need to cover longer ranges in large dinner/speech type events. Some photographers like to use primes like the 50mm F1.2L as part of their basic kit. But I like the flexibility of zooms when you find you don't have the luxury of moving around a lot.

Basically when choosing lenses it's good to get fast lenses (large aperture), lenses with IS (image stabilizer), and good range (24-70, 24-105). There's always a debate going on between the Canon 24-70 F2.8L and the Canon 24-105 F4L IS. Both are great lenses, but I prefer having a wider range and image stabilizer over having a larger aperture but shorter range. Depends on you really. Note the 24-70 is much heavier.

If you're covering a major event and have the luxury of 2 camera bodies, it's great to have a 1.6 crop sensor body like the 50D paired with a 70-200F2.8L IS for telephoto shots, and a full frame sensor body like the 5Dmark2 paired with a wide lens for the wide shots. Why not just have 2 lenses and 1 body? At most events you usually don't have the time, space or enough light to switch lenses without dropping something or having someone bump into you while you're handling your expensive glass.

The Photographer vs body vs lens argument
There's always people on either side of the fence, saying it's the photographer, not the equipment. And the people saying it's stupid to buy expensive large aperture lenses. I say it's all crap. It all works together. Having better equipment will enable you to shoot in more extreme situations, like very low light or small spaces. This will give you the confidence to charge higher rates and take on a wider variety of projects. It's having the peace of mind that your equipment has the ability to go where you need to go when the moment arises, to be able to deliver the best possible quality photos to your clients. Everything else is irrelevant.

I have 3 Canon Speedlite 580EX II which I alternate between events. If you don't need the additional lighting power, or remote features, it might be wise to go with the smaller and lighter (not to mention cheaper) 480EX II. The extra weight makes a difference during long hours of shooting.

For light diffusion I use the Sto-Fen OMNI-BOUNCE with a hole cut out when pointing up, and a normal one when pointing forward. Sometimes I do without and just go with the bounce card on the 580EX II. I've seen people using the Gary Fong whale tail or light spheres with great results. I've never used them before so i can't comment on those. If you're ballsy enough you can also try using macro lights or a ring light adapter. Guaranteed unique lighting in your photos. ^-^

For batteries i use the quick rechargeable Sanyo 2700 series. GP batteries didn't work well for me. Enelope batteries seem to be a good alternative. Never tried Engergizer ones, so can't comment on those. Always have a lot of spares. Batteries can run out fast or over heat if you shoot at high power all the time.

Remote Flash
I have several portable mini light stands and umbrellas in a kit that I bring along when I know I need the extra lights or when it's crucial to get good photos. I use the 3 580EX II as lights, controlled by Pocket Wizards or Radio Poppers, depending on whichever one works for you. I don't go with studio lights because they require a power source, and they're not as portable as I'd like them to be. Running entirely on small flashes enables me to set up easily and quickly, just about anywhere.

Hand Grips
Some photographers like to use hand straps compared to shoulder straps for holding their camera. It provides a more stable shot, and less tiring in the long run, but i find it a hassle when someone asks for your name card and your hands are tied up, literally.

Battery Grips
I find these unnecessary, they just add bulk and weight to your already heavy lens and flash set-up. But others find it a necessity for prolonged portrait shooting use. Once again this is a personal preference. Note that you've have a hard time fitting a body + battery grip set into a slim camera bag.

Spare Batteries
You should always have 2-3 full charged spare batteries on the day of the event. There was once I forgot to charge my main battery the day before the event, and realized my spares weren't charged either. Terrible day indeed.

Spare Storage
High capacity cards are cheap, I use a 16GB CF card and several 4GB ones as spares.
What's worst than having a dead battery? Not more storage space when a VIP shows up.

Camera Bags
Most of the time you're able to keep your loot with a receptionist, with event staff, or with a bartender. So what you carry TO THE event doesn't matter that much, it's what you keep with you when you shoot. When moving around in small areas I sling my camera, and only have one set of spare CF card, camera and flash battery in my pockets.

On larger areas I bring along a utility belt with pockets for more backup stuff and slots for lens bags if I need to swap. I like the belts because it keeps both your hands free. Sling bags are not recommended in tight areas. You'll be more concerned with not hitting people with your bag, not knocking over wine glasses and trying to not get it stuck in doorways with a zillion people moving in and out.


New Member
Jun 29, 2004
Singapore, Singapore
This is rather self explanatory, but for those that are clueless, if it's a VIP event, dress formal, if it's a club event, dress casual. Always have comfortable shoes, and pants that don't split when you kneel down for a shot. Wearing colors that don't show sweat marks is a plus. Always check with the event organizer before hand on the dress code to avoid showing up looking under dressed or out of place.

Know the Shooting Environment
Always, always arrive early. For various reasons. To know the people running the place, to know how big the area is, to know what's going on where during when, to know where the lights are coming from, to not get in the way of any special performances, and of course to know where all the hidden party poppers are, and not stand near them when they go off. Not a nice experience.

Ceiling height and color
When you first arrive at the place, take note of how high the ceiling is, as well as the color. This affects how much flash power you need to bounce off the surface. I went to a hotel once where the ceiling was tiled with huge mirrors at random places. So when i shot under those area the lighting was super overexposed. That's one thing to note. Same if the ceiling has huge black and white areas, or high and low areas.

If the ceiling is completely black, like in most clubs, please don't go blasting 1/1 power lighting into it hoping to get some nice bounce lighting. You'll blind everyone in the room and still get a crappy shot. Instead point it direct with some diffusion, dial your flash power down, set it to rear sync and drag your shutter to let the ambient light burn in. The rear flash sync will freeze your subject.

The color of the room and ceiling also plays a part if you're bouncing light. A green room with bounced light will give green light. Adjust accordingly with gels or calibrate your white balance in post processing later.

Reflective Surfaces
Take note of where the glass panels or walls are. Avoid directly shooting in front of them, unless you want to get a nasty flash reflection. If you have to shoot, shoot at an angle so the reflection can't be seen. Or use your subject to block the reflection. Or bounce the light elsewhere. Just not directly at the glass.

Existing Light
Take note of where the light sources are, like large windows in the daytime or areas where you know the spotlight is going to hit. Adjust your settings accordingly when moving and shooting in these areas. Some cameras allow you to set predefined settings and just switch around when you need them. Very useful.

Making your own Light
Apart from the flash on top of your camera, another alternative for even greater control is to set up remote flashes around the room before the event, then just go around shooting. For instance, you can set the lights to light up the ceiling for a consistent soft lighting throughout the shoot. Then all you got to have on your camera is the wireless trigger and you're set. If you're worried about the batteries going out, set up 2 identical flashes on different remote frequencies. Once the battery runs out in the first flash, switch over to the other frequency and you're good to go again.

Dialing in the right exposure
After you've noted all the things to be noted, and want to get the right exposure, switch your cam to AV mode, turn off your flash, get a few shots, then work from there. What you want to use are settings that give you a nice background, 1 or 2 stops underexposed, depending on you. Then remember those settings and use it in Manual mode. Only in Manual mode, with your initial exposure dialed do you turn on your flash and start setting the desired flash power. Get in front of a wall, or someone to do a test shoot, remember the distance, remember the settings and you're set.

Shooting the People!
At events there will always be key people you're required to, or want to shoot. The organizers, their bosses, VIP guests, VVIP guests, DJs, performers, models, dogs... Depends on what your client needs and also the nature of the event. It would be helpful to get the organizer to point out to you which are the VIPs when they arrive, and also get the event program so you can get into position before they start their all important speech or when the new car drives in. You can't risk missing an important shot or look like an idiot scrambling to get a shot when whatever highlight starts happening.

Nature of Event
If it's a launch party of some sort, get photos of the people AND the launched product. If it's a car launch, well, get photos of the car, people with the car, people in the car, people with the car in the background, etc.

If it's a launch party for a PLACE, like a bar or restaurant, find an angle where you can show the name, signage, branding or a main focus of the place in the background. Then usher your subjects to that spot and fire away. Clients won't appreciate a photo of a VIP in front of some obscure black wall that looks like it could have been taken anywhere.

If it's a party for a PERSON, like someone giving a speech, or a high profile DJ, then get photos of people WITH the VIP. This is where telephoto shots come in useful. Get tons of photos of the VIP interacting, smiling, talking, eating, digging his nose, etc. Of course you don't have to stalk him all the time. But depending on your client, you might have to. lol.

When he goes up to perform or give his speech, remember to get wide shots of the VIP WITH an audience, or if you can frame it with a telephoto, all the better. The key is to give the viewer some sense of the scale of what was going on, and not make it look like during the whole event, only the VIP was there. If there was a big crowd, SHOW that there was a big crowd.

Asking for photos
Depending on the place, age and status of your subjects, the manner in which you ask for a photo make a difference. In packed clubs with teens you can usually get away with yelling and motioning with your camera. At a high profile wine and dine, please ask politely. At some high profile events the organizers might get someone to go along with you to break the ice and get people to pose for photos as well as take their names. Much better as you don't have to do all the talking and just focus on taking photos.

Taking the shot
Once you've gotten them riled and ready, focus, recompose and make it quick. People absolutely hate it when you pull them out of their conversation or dancing and take 30 minutes to get a photo. Their smile wavers and they lose attention the longer you make them hold a pose. So make sure your settings are dialed and you get it right the first time. For me I just go ONE-TWO-CLICK, in less than 2 seconds. After the shot, take quick glance at your LCD, make sure you don't catch any of them blinking, re-shoot if you have to. Sometimes you catch them accidentally revealing something they don't want to. When such 'unglam' moments occur, it's a good idea to re-shoot before you show them the results.

Framing, Composition and Distance
When shooting a couple of the same height, it's all good. But if one is much taller than the other, rotate your camera to better balance the space above their heads. Or do a half body portrait shot. It'll be less noticeable than a straight on landscape head shot. Similarly if you find one person is larger or more plum, move yourself away from him/her and shoot more from the angle of the smaller person. This will balance out the photo and not make him/her look so large. The same applies to dark skinned and fair skinned subjects standing together. If possible shoot from the angle of the darker person so he/she is closer to the light and get lit more evenly.

If you're on manual flash power, take note of the distance you stand from the subject. And replicate this distance to get the best consistency. If you're using a shallow aperture like F4 or so, note the arrangement of people in the photos. If you get them at an angle, like from the corner of a square table for instance, people closer to you might be sharp, and the ones behind blur, depending on where you focused. It's a lot to keep in mind, but do it long enough and it'll become second nature.

Showing your shots
After the photos it would be good to show them the results. This is where the fancy 3" LCD on the newer DSLRs come in handy. Their reaction of depends mostly on your photo. Most of the time if it's good they'll love you and ask how they can get it. If it's not, you won't get much of a reaction at all. Of course there are some people that absolutely hate photographers and want to you to GET LOST as soon as you've gotten your stupid photos. Yes there are people like that.

Eye contact
Always try to make eye contact with EVERYONE before, during and after taking the photo. It makes a world of difference to the people getting photographed that you acknowledged them, and not just because they were standing with a VIP and you wanted to get the VIP's photo. It also makes a difference to not hide behind the camera so much while shooting. Especially in clubs and high energy situations. Sometimes you don't even have to look in the viewfinder. You'll sometimes get more dynamic shots this way.


New Member
Jun 29, 2004
Singapore, Singapore
Post-processing and Delivery
After you're done for the shoot, ALWAYS remember to back up your files somewhere before you decide to format the CF card. It is NOT FUN trying to explain your own stupidity to your client.

Software and Hardware
I use Adobe Bridge CS4 for batch corrections, and Photoshop for more advanced correction. Some people work with Lightroom, some work with Canon's DDP, pick a software that works for you and learn it inside out. A large color corrected screen will help loads in photo editing. An IPS panel screen with good color reproduction is essential if you plan to do it professionally. Cheap LCD screens are unable to show certain shades of grey, and the final version might look different on your screen compared to your client's screen.

What to correct in photos?
If you've shot in RAW, good work. If you shot in JPEG, good luck!

Basic things to correct in post are:
- Exposure levels
- White balance
- Cropping
- Sharpness
- Noise Removal

More advanced things to do depending how demanding your clients are:
- Blemish removal
- Clone Stamping
- Opening Closed Eyes <-- oh yes why didn't you check your LCD?
- Removing Stray Hairs
- Removing People from shots
- Removing logos and other rival brands from shots
- Combining multiple group shots to get a perfect one with everyone's eyes open

Majority of the advanced retouching revolves around a few tools in Photoshop.
Know these tools inside out and how to use them to get your desired result.
- Clone Stamp
- Levels
- Unsharp mask
- Dodge, Burn
- Layer blending

Most of the time photos are delivered on DVD, portable USB drives or online via file sharing services like yousendit.
When labeling photos and folders, include client, event name, and date for easy reference. Also include different sizes for web and print use if your client requests it. Photo releases and other contracts are a sticky issue and i don't think many event photographers practice it, so i won't comment on those.

Special note on shooting in Clubs
Traditional photography rules don't really apply to nightclubs. And the camera usually get settings wrong with all the crazy colored lights going around. Throw in some smoke, really tight spaces, drunk people, and you'll find your camera screaming help meeeee~!

To begin, the same rules apply when setting exposure:
AV mode with no flash, get settings, apply settings in manual mode, turn on flash, set flash power, remember settings.

My shutter speed hovers around 1/30 to 1/5. Aperture at F4 to F5. ISO at about 1600. With older cameras you might find 1600 ISO much too grainy. So you'll have to adjust accordingly. Lenses with image stabilization helps with the longer shutter speeds. Some photographers like to move around while the shutter is open. This creates the light lines in photos. Depending on how you do it, it can look really good or really bad. So experiment often! When it gets real smokey, either get in closer, reduce flash power or remove it later in Photoshop with Levels or Blacks.

That's really all there is to shooting in clubs. If you go clubbing often, you shouldn't have any problem getting nice pictures of nice people. You'll know that people open up to photos easier when they're a bit drunk, and you'll know that the real crowd only comes in at at about 12am to 1am. All you got to worry about is not getting drinks spilled all over your camera. :D


Senior Member
Oct 1, 2007
New York City
Just to add:

- Know your camera(s) well. What it can/ cant do... Client is not paying for you to make mistakes. (in the film days, we time our film count (36 frames) so that we dont crank the film at the most impt moment. We fire off the last roll so that when the curtain lifts, we have a fresh roll of 36).
- Dont talk to the client's customers too much. Although you may appear friendly, the local mentality when yr hirer sees you, is that you are not doing ur work.
- Dont sit down. Dont drink (water) unless you are offered. (similarly, you wont expect a waiter to sit down in a function).
- Direct your models (especially in a grp shots). If you cant get the people, dont just take the shot. Pause and arrange the crowd. People will listen to you.
- Be at the right place at the right time. (a) If there are 2 important places, i.e your client and yr client's boss, the CEO, Stick to the CEO. Take before and after the scene. Take the sequence of events on how people will 'read' the pictures.
- Move your bloody butt. Squat, jump, stand, stretch if neccessary.
- Always have extra batteries/ CF Card
- Always be early for the event. Be the first one there. Only leave when yr hirer (client) grants you permission.


New Member
Feb 12, 2009
Cool... appreciate the effort airmj! :thumbsup:
Good read...


New Member
Feb 12, 2009
Just to add:

- Know your camera(s) well. What it can/ cant do... Client is not paying for you to make mistakes. (in the film days, we time our film count (36 frames) so that we dont crank the film at the most impt moment. We fire off the last roll so that when the curtain lifts, we have a fresh roll of 36).
- Dont talk to the client's customers too much. Although you may appear friendly, the local mentality when yr hirer sees you, is that you are not doing ur work.
- Dont sit down. Dont drink (water) unless you are offered. (similarly, you wont expect a waiter to sit down in a function).
- Direct your models (especially in a grp shots). If you cant get the people, dont just take the shot. Pause and arrange the crowd. People will listen to you.
- Be at the right place at the right time. (a) If there are 2 important places, i.e your client and yr client's boss, the CEO, Stick to the CEO. Take before and after the scene. Take the sequence of events on how people will 'read' the pictures.
- Move your bloody butt. Squat, jump, stand, stretch if neccessary.
- Always have extra batteries/ CF Card
- Always be early for the event. Be the first one there. Only leave when yr hirer (client) grants you permission.

And you too~ :thumbsup:


New Member
Aug 26, 2007
Thanx a lot for sharing.

This will definitely help for the newbies! :)

Jan 25, 2007
Thanks for the effort to put this together! The guide sure help! lol


New Member
Jul 24, 2009
Totally agreed, these are very good pcs of advise.

I wish I can start of by offering as part-timer photographer's (maybe minimum charge for transportation for a start)

By doing so, than able to save up to buy 5D,1D, L lens etc...etc...(10 years)

Hopefully there are someone consider given newbie a chance. Otherwise, if insist of having above mentioned equipments before you being engage. Then I think better do something others than photographly unless my grand dad and dad left me a millions to purchase.



Apr 15, 2009
He have left the money payment and duration of the money will made by the hirer.........


New Member
Jan 23, 2009
This is legen-wait for it, wait really long for it-dary!

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