Updated: Oct 22, 2022
The first time I did an event, I felt so nervous to take pictures of someone's husband's birthday. The day went better than expected, but II'll be the first to admit that the photos were not as impressive as I was expecting. Since then, I've learnt new skills and improved my equipment. So let's answer the question: What do you need to be an events photographer? That will depend on what the event entails and its structure. Let’s start with the essentials and work our way toward specific moments.
Well this is an obvious one, and most cameras provide excellent image quality so it might seem like a non-issue. However, there are some questions worth answering:
Full frame or cropped sensor? Mirrorless or DSLR? Which brand works best for my needs?
Let's start with the first question.
Many photographers aim for lugging around bulky cameras which take pristine full-frame (35mm equivalent sensor format) quality. However, smaller APS-C (a smaller cropped sensor) cameras can also provide excellent pictures.
In fact, many of the newer APS-C cameras may outperform last year's full-frame cameras thanks to advancements in sensor technology. The smaller sensor means that it can be read faster which can result in some blazingly fast burst speeds. In addition, APS-C cameras tend to be more affordable, both in terms of the camera body and lens selection.
Full frame offers some significant advantages though, generally the main camera brands will focus their attention on their full-frame line of cameras for professional lenses. The gmaster range of Sony lenses are reserved for their full-frame cameras, and these offer impressive optical quality.
Having two of the same or similar camera bodies has a few benefits. Swappable batteries in the middle of the action and interchangeable lenses without the need for an adapter.
When I first started out, I used a Fuji X-T3 and a Fuji X-T2. These cameras were chosen because of their beautiful colour reproduction and ample capabilities as video cameras when needed. The classic dials on the top also provide a quick view of my settings without having to use the viewfinder.
More recently I switched to using a Sony A7III as my primary camera, this was mostly due to the benefit of having a full-frame camera in low-light situations.
Though with any of these cameras, you'll be on your way to being an events photographer.
The lens we use on our camera is as important as the camera body. I’ve felt the pain of spending close to £1000 on my lens collection, but these tend to retain their value and are well worth investing in if you intend to become an events photographer.
For most photographers, covering the 24-70mm (16mm-50mm on a cropped sensor) focal range provides the versatility for most situations. This allows you to take wide group shots in tight areas, Alternatively, the nifty-fifty (50mm prime) is a fantastic option for those who want a brilliant all-rounder. These often come with faster apertures of F1.8 or even lower, making them better options in low-light situations.
For events which require you to stay out of the way, you’ll probably need a super zoom lens. These usually come in ranges like 28-130mm, or 70-270mm. Slower lenses will let in less light than more expensive ones, so don’t make the mistake of getting a slower lens with a starting aperture of F4, aim to spend more and grab a faster lens with an aperture of at least F3.5 if you are doing indoor events.
I personally like to use the Fuji XF 18-55mm F2.8 for its versatility, with a prime lens on my secondary camera - usually a 33mm F1.4 (50mm equivalent full-frame) lens made by Viltrox. For wedding events, if there are speeches or a ceremony in a large hall or church, I like to switch to my Fuji XF 55-200mm F3.5 to get all the necessary shots that I need without getting in the way.
For most events, having a flashgun mounted on your camera is going to be enough. These little wonders can drastically change your pictures in low-light situations. There are cheaper flashes out there that provide decent flash capabilities like the Neewer TT560 (https://amzn.to/3O42ESa). This is a cost-effective solution that can be relied upon in most situations.
The reason that you might want to spend more is because of the granular control that more expensive flashes provide, as well as the recycling time. This is the length of time the flash requires to initiate another discharge of light. Cheaper flashes like the Neewer TT560 are good for the occasional flash, but for other moments, you might feel like it’s not able to keep up with the action.
For those needing something more reliable, consider the Godox TT860 III. At £193, it’s not the most wallet-friendly of flashes, but it’s an all-round brilliant flash that uses TTL (through the lens) which is a feature that allows the flash to identify the current lighting situation as well as the settings of your camera and choose the right flash level to provide proper exposure. Manual flash also works well, but you might find it distracting to manage so many settings when you should be paying attention to that best man’s speech, or husband and wife’s first dance.
Other items to consider
Bring extra batteries, loads of them! You never want to be caught without the necessary power to continue through the event. I carry at least 4 additional batteries to make sure that I can last the day. If your camera supports charging via its USB port, then bring a power bank that you can keep close.
Also, consider getting a camera cube. These are sectioned square holders that you can use to put away all your gear with decent cushioning when dealing with any unexpected falls.
Ready to be an event photographer!
So you have the right gear, does that mean you’re ready? Being an events photographer takes more than just having the right gear. There are those who live by their gear and believe that’s what makes a good photo. These people aren’t wrong, but it would also be like saying music is made by instruments alone when in fact it’s the interplay between musician and instrument that produces music.
Be considerate to the event coordinator and those who want their pictures taken. It’s their special day, and being there for them is an important aspect of being an event photographer. Learn how to compose a couple for their wedding, and let them feel at ease. There’s enough stress for the event coordinators to not have the photographer in the right place at the right time. Pay attention to what is needed, and provide it. This is how some of the best photos and memories are formed.
Practicing at smaller events will help build confidence. Ask family members if they'd like to have their parties recorded, people will almost certainly want photos!
Group shots can be difficult to arrange if you don't know everyone, but a simple rule is to form a triangle shape. Place the tallest individuals in the middle and allow the others to taper off from tallest to shortest. Alternatively, you could organise a large group photo into smaller triangles.