Walking into an unfamiliar room, cramped with strangers and dodgy lighting can be a daunting experience. It takes courage to instantly build rapport and to favourably capture the people and the action. With all my years of photography experience, event photography is not for the feint-hearted, but it is also a great opportunity to capture real people with real emotion in real unguarded moments. Great event photography has an authentic and genuine feel to it – it can capture that split moment in time of human interaction and connection – moments that tell a much greater story about why we tribally gather to celebrate, to share, or commiserate. With great event photography, the image enables you to connect with the emotions, feel the atmosphere and almost hear the sounds.
With the greatest respect to my friends, when asked why I do event photography, I will often jokingly reply that event photography is my social life … my friends don’t throw the kinds of lavish parties like the ones I get to photograph! When I started out in event photography, I had to take a leap of faith in my technical photography skills and relied heavily on my intuition to “know when a moment was about to happen”. As with most things, diverse experience in diverse situations is the best way to learn to think quickly on your feet, to be attentive to your surroundings and to be ever present in the moment to capture the moment.
There are no second chances in event photography, but there are plenty of opportunities.
Event photography can be exhausting work. Shooting continuously for 4 to 6 hours is not only physically demanding, but to capture great energy shots, you also need to be constantly engaging with the crowd. When shooting events, I find myself in a personal space where all my antennae are on high alert – scanning the crowd and sensing out where the next piece of action or connection is going to spark, and getting myself into a position to capture that moment without disrupting the flow of events.
However, many event photographers shortchange their skills by sticking to a safe zone of “looking very uncomfortable, posed, now smile kind of shots”. In turn they deliver a boring gallery of images to their client that are quickly forgotten. Smart phones are more than capable of taking those kind of photos for quick social media consumption. I strongly believe that the challenge for today’s event photographer is not replicate the kind of photos attendees are taking with their smart phones, but to compliment those images with a more intimate, engaging and unique perspective of the event.
These days, everyone with a smart phone is an event photographer – cataloguing a moment in space and in time. Therefore, professional event photographers need to deliver something different, something memorable, something that sets them apart from all the i-phone photos already submitted to social media sites during the course of the event. To capture those moments, in my view, an event photographer needs to :
- have immense empathy to readily connect and build rapport with attendees
- have a personal energy that is spontaneous and engaging
- be willing to give something of themselves in order to get a connection between camera lens and the subject
- be ever present in the moment – simultaneously being able to pay attention to the broader vibe of the event as well as quickly focus in on specific interactions
- to be ever ready and attentive, but also patient enough to wait for and anticipate the memorable moments
- to smile and laugh often