Shooting events can be glamorous work. You're out there, mingling with people who are (hopefully!) having fun, your mission to capture the drama, color and buzz with your camera.
So yes, it's exciting. But it's challenging too, as many pros will be very quick to point out.
British photographer Laurence Norah has covered his fair share of events, like Austin's South by Southwest, and he's picked up some wisdom along the way. Whether you're shooting your BF's wedding or a hockey game , you'll want to pay attention to these tips.
You need the right gear
You can't get the perfect shot without the right equipment.
By far the most important piece of equipment is a lens with a fast aperture — ideally, f/2.8 and faster.
Be aware that the faster the lens, the more expensive it will be. This is especially true for telephoto lenses at these aperture ranges. Dependable options from both Canon and Nikon are the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 70-200 f/2.8. These beasts offer excellent sharpness, magnificent low-light performance and fast focusing.
Norah uses the 70-200 for candid shots and a wide angle 17-40 with a flash to get a slightly different look. The wide angle is a bit slow (f/4), but with the high ISO capability of his full-frame Canon, it's not a deal-breaker.
You don't have to blow the budget on telephoto lenses, though. You actually can pick up some fantastic prime lenses for a fraction of the price. Some choices (from Canon) include the 50mm prime (f/1.8, f/1.4 or f/1.2) and the 85mm prime (also in f/1.8 - f/1.2 configurations).
You might also find that a fisheye lens adds an interesting twist. For weddings, a macro lets you capture intimate closeups that other lenses would miss.
If you're shooting events in dim light, like concerts, you're going to want a camera that performs well at high ISO settings, in the range of 1600-12800 or higher.
A full-frame camera works well for this. The larger sensor size captures more light, and the newer models from Canon, Sony and Nikon offer excellent performance at high ISOs, producing perfectly usable images with little noise even at 6400 ISO and above.
While most photographers prefer to shoot in available light, flash can offer some creative possibilities. Besides, sometimes you just need a flash to get the right shot.
Along with a flash, invest in a softbox or similar setup to avoid creating that shiny, caught-in-the-headlights look. Walls will become your friend, as you'll want to bounce the light off them. Also explore what second curtain sync offers you with a slow shutter speed.
If you're shooting a fancy event, like a wedding where the bride and groom are counting on you for all the photos, it pays to have a second body camera. That will save you from having to switch lenses regularly. Also get a second copy of everything you own if humanly possible, from memory cards to lenses.
Pick smart camera settings
First, shoot in RAW. Event lighting can cause people to turn weird shades of green or pink. But if you shoot in RAW you can fix that afterward.
If you are covering an event where you need to get your photos up as fast as possible, then RAW+JPEG is a good option. Again, shooting in RAW lets you fix your colors after the fact.
Next, shoot in either manual or aperture-priority mode. If the light levels are low, then open up that aperture and dial up the ISO. Keep the shutter speed faster than 1/60th of a second to avoid the movement of people causing blur (unless that's something you are trying to capture), which might mean having to shoot at f /2.8 and ISO 6400, or even more. You can fix noise afterward — but you can't fix blurry images because your shutter speed was too slow.
If you're shooting something like a sporting event where the action is fast, then you might want to shoot in shutter-priority mode, allowing you to freeze time at high shutter speeds. Just remember, you need plenty of light for that to work well!
Mind your manners
Always keep in mind that the event isn't about you. You certainly don't want to get in the way of anyone's fun.
Some events have strict rules about photographers. At music festivals, for example, there's normally a "three and out" rule — meaning you get to stand between the audience and the performers for the first three songs, and then you have to scram. Those die-hard fans have probably waited a long while to get their seats, and they certainly don't want to be staring at the back of your head for the whole show.
At weddings, there are pics you have to get, but you'll have a better shot (yeah, pun intended) by being polite and calm. If there are no rules, just go with your instinct. Work with the crowd and see what you can get.
Look for memorable moments
Event photography is all about capturing the moment. It could be the group of friends sharing a joke. Or the guitar player at the concert mugging during a solo.
Catching these scenes is what makes for great photos. You need to be on the lookout, constantly aware of what's going on around you. And it goes without saying you need to have everything set up so you don't miss the shot when it happens.
Practicing how to use the light, how to get the most out of people and how to post-process efficiently will really help you shine as an event photographer. Then get out there...and good luck!