How to become an event photographer

With social media growing and events growing in both size and frequency, it’s no wonder the event photography business is growing, too. So, how do you join the fun and become an event photographer?

What is Event Photography

Let’s start by defining what event photography is. Just so we’re clear.

According to Adobe, event photography is:

“Event photography is the professional art of snapping high-quality images during a wide variety of important occasions, from personal events like weddings or birthday parties to large public gatherings like corporate events, galas, award ceremonies, and music festivals.”

That’s a wide range of possible events to photograph. But I think the definition is clear. 

Many different types of events require different types of photography, of course. Whereas at a corporate event, you would focus on the guests and the company logos, you would focus mainly on the couple at a wedding.

There are three main categories of event photography: corporate, private, and public.

Corporate being mostly B2B aimed, like seminars, office openings, sales events, congresses, …

The private events are weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, …

The public events are usually open for the public (though for a fee), like festivals, parties, clubs, and concerts, …

Each principal and subcategory has its specific needs and ways of working. Whereas a wedding usually requires a few weeks turnaround time for the photos, a corporate event usually requires next-day delivery. If not during the event itself.

Improving your event photography skills

Every type of photography has its specific skill set. And that’s no different for event photography.

As usual, it’s necessary to know your gear. Know the buttons and features of your camera and its limitations. The same goes for your lenses. Know every switch and button on them.

Next, it’s also essential to know the photography basics: shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. They are commonly known as the exposure triangle. And perhaps even add the fourth element to it: flash.

Next, you’ll need to learn to be patient and polite, move through crowds, and time your moments. Usually, you can only learn skills on the job.

Improving is a continuing process. Even after my +7 years, I still learn a lot every so often. Read blogs like this, watch YouTube, but most importantly, go out and test it out. Train yourself on public events in the city first. Or start taking your camera to events of your friends.

The right equipment for event photography

Though having the best gear will help, it’s not required. My Nikon D850 was the best when I bought it, but now it’s not anymore. It still does the job perfectly. The same goes for even older models. 

If the camera gives you the features you need and the lenses you use are sharp, you can do event photography.

For a camera, it’s best to look out for a camera with plenty of megapixels (which, honestly, all of them do these days). Twenty-five megapixels is more than acceptable.

A camera that can handle higher ISOs well will also help you out.

It’s good to have a broader range of focal lengths for lenses. You need wide angles for your overviews and tele for your close-ups. My usual setup is two camera bodies with a 35mm and an 85mm. However, for some events, that differs.

In my camera bag on events, I usually carry:

  • 16-35mm f4: if I ever need a very wide angle (small rooms, big venues, …)
  • 35 mm f1.8: My usual wide angle for venues, networking moments, …
  • 50mm f1.8: This was my workhorse, but now I use it less. But I could do everything with it.
  • 60mm macro f2.8: For food and details whenever I need it.
  • 85mm F1.8: My closeup lens for networking and speeches
  • 70-200mm F2.8 for closeups and speakers on bigger stages and events.

Most of these lenses are fast. This means they have a wide aperture, like f1.8 or f2.8.

I was late to the flash party. But it helps to carry at least one. Some venues could be better lit. They’re either dark or have ugly colored lights. Using a flash will counter that and ensure you have the best available light.

I came from having a Godox V1 just for “just in case” to loving it as an almost standard piece of equipment.

How to build your event photography portfolio

Usually, you need photos of events to work at events and take pictures of events—a real catch-22. 

Starting out it can help to focus on smaller events. Local parties might like a free photographer, which you can do twice or thrice and get photos for your portfolio. Also, public events in the city: parades, festivals, markets, …

One of your friends may host events once in a while. Or your local pub does something. Start photographing there and work your way up to paid and more significant events.

The same goes for concerts and festivals. One of your friends probably has a band or is a DJ. Follow them around for a while. Make photos for your portfolio and network.

In this stage, trying out different events and seeing what type you like most can be fun. Or what style of events do you like most?

For your portfolio, select 20 to 30 photos of your best work. Images that look amazing tell a good story and show your style. You can update them after every event you do at first. Then, do an update once every couple of months.

Networking and Building Connections

Getting work is a matter of getting out there. Show people your work online and talk to people in real life. 

Attending networking events can work with that. Smaller events might even need a photographer. This helps you get a portfolio and talk to the people there.

You can also meet other photographers. Sometimes, they need a hand at their events. Second shooting is a great way to learn and build connections and portfolios.

Build an online presence and network offline. Focus on the clients you want to reach and help out.

Set prices for your event photography

After doing some events for free or a small fee to get your portfolio and connections up, you need to start charging for your work.

Setting a price can be complex and daunting. What’s too little, and what’s too much?

Browse the websites of other photographers in your area and see if they mention their rates on their websites.

Perhaps during second shooting for other photographers, you can talk about their rates and find out that way.

There’s no precise formula for pricing. There are many different ways to set a price. Often, it’s experimentation, negotiation, and adjusting.

Marketing yourself as an event photographer

Getting your work out there should be your main activity, second to photographing at events and servicing your clients.

A website helps with that. It doesn’t matter if you use WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, or whatever other hosting platform spams your ads and sponsors your favorite photographer.

Pick one that works for you and get your website. 

Post your work there and explain how you work, who you are, and what work you do.

Posting regular blog posts helps with your SEO, too.

Use social media to promote your website and photos. But target your posts to event organizers, CEOs, and other possible clients. Go where they are and talk their language.

Don’t forget about offline promotion, too. Have business cards you can hand out at network events.

Working with your event photography clients

Part of the job is preparation for the events. This means contacting the client and discussing budgets, timings, and critical moments.

Usually, I get it all done via email. Especially if it’s repeating clients; sometimes, calling a client can be helpful, especially if they aren’t experienced in organizing events yet, for example. Or the event program is busy, and you also want to learn the finer details.

Some essentials to always ask in advance:

  • The program
  • The required time you need to be there
  • The location
  • What shots do they expect
  • What timing do they have for the photo delivery

See where you can overdeliver but also manage their expectations. If they ask you too much, tell them that. Some clients expect you to be at two locations at the same time. I wish I could, but they must pick one spot or budget for a second photographer.

And it’s okay to tell them that in advance. Rather than have them disappointed afterward.

After the fact, you have to deliver on time and in good quality. Process their feedback and ask for their testimonials. Asking for a review is usually the best way to get one; People don’t always automatically write those.

In conclusion, event photography can seem like a daunting niche to get into. But it’s easier and more fun than you might expect. I hope this guide helps you find your way. If you still have any questions, please ask them in the comments!

Disclaimer: In this article are some affiliate links. This means that, if you buy or book something, I get a small percentage of the fee. This comes with no extra cost to you but helps me run this website.

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