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8 Tips for Corporate Event Photography

I have a love/hate relationship with event photography. On one hand, I get access to really cool people and events. On the other hand, I am always rushed and never get images that are good enough to make it into my portfolio. Typically, I will take an event job solely because it pays the bills. In Washington, D.C., corporate event photography is big business.

Here are a few event photography tips I have learned along the way.

An event speaker

1. Decide on the best angles ahead of time

Get to the location early and find out where your best photos are going to happen. Is there a main speaker? Where will he/she be and where will you have a clear shot without blocking the view of attendees? Is there a large window nearby? If people are posing for photos, make sure they face the window for the best lighting scenario. Can you incorporate a company logo into any of the shots? Decide how to position yourself to best do that.

2. Look like you belong

Basically, you should dress to fit in. In most cases in Washington, D.C., events are business attire. I will wear a suit and tie to these events. For one, it shows your client that you take them seriously and respect the purpose of their event. It also allows you to connect with attendees easier, because they assume you belong there.

3. Bring a long zoom lens and a short zoom lens

When there is a main speaker at the event, you want to have a long telephoto lens that you are able to zoom so you can stay as still as possible. Running up and down the center aisle to get the right framing will be distracting. Also bring a short zoom lens for shots of attendees. Many of these shots may be in close quarters.

US Senator Mark Warner at an event

4. Know your settings

At a live event, moments pass quickly. If you are not ready or able to adjust quickly, you will miss the shot. Know about what your settings should be and how to quickly adjust on the fly. For a main speaker, you will be OK with a wide aperture and will want to have a fast shutter speed. Bump up your ISO until you are comfortable with your shutter speed being fast enough—probably 1/200 sec or more. For group shots make sure that your aperture is small enough that the depth of field keeps everyone in focus. This is typically f/5.6 or more.

5. Keep a flash on your camera at all times

Since you never know what is going to happen at a live event, it’s helpful to keep a flash on your camera. You may not need it, but you may turn the corner and see the president coming down a dark hallway. The only way to get the shot is to be ready for it.

6. Ask permission

It can be annoying to have your photo taken without someone asking permission first. If you are wanting to photograph someone or a group of people at an event, tell them who you are, what the photo will be used for, and then ask for permission. About 99 percent of the time, the people will have no problem. However, they get weirded out and will hide their face from you if you try to sneak a photo.

7. Avoid eating shots

At many events, there is a meal served. This is usually a good time to take a break. You will not get any usable shots of people eating and it will just make the attendees uncomfortable.

8. Edit quickly, deliver quickly

In this new world of social media as a news source, speed is the name of the game. Organizations expect a quick turnaround — typically 24 hours. Any longer than that and the images get a little stale. People have moved on to the next event and are no longer interested in yesterday’s news.

Corporate event photography can be very lucrative for photographers who are fast and personable. It takes a certain type of photographer. Do you enjoy shooting events?

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7 Comments

Keith Sheriff

One of my top tips would be to use your ears not just your eyes to find a good photograph. Often the sound of laughter behind you can be worth pointing the camera at.

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Kairi Gainsborough

It is really interesting how event photography differs from other types of jobs. I appreciate you sharing some of the things you have learned from working at D.C. events. I like what you said about how it is best for photographers who are both fast and personable. Unlike a wedding, I’m sure people at corporate functions are quite busy, so you would need to be quick to get the shots you want.

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Larry Weaver

Thanks for the tip of bumping up the ISO until I’m comfortable with the shutter speed, preferably around 1/200 sec or more. My brother has been thinking about how to shoot images like a corporate photographer, and is always looking for tips and ideas on photography in general. Having a good corporate photographer that knows what they are doing is always a good resource to have.

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Roger Middleton

I liked that you had mentioned that it can be very important to ask someone permission before taking a photo at an event. My brother is hosting an event for his close friends and all of us in the family and he’s wanted a photographer there and I didn’t really know what it takes to handle events. I think I’ll recommend he start looking around for an event photographer to help handle the pictures, hopefully, they’ll be respectful and ask permission before taking pictures.

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Kayla

Thanks for these tips. There will be an event in our company this month. We are now planning on having photographers for this corporate event.

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Kyle Wayne

I thought it was interesting that you mentioned asking for permission. My sister is looking to get some corporate photography done but needs tips. I’ll be sure to talk to her about finding a service that will always ask for permission.

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Richie

I do a lot of corporate events and although I’
d ask permission for posed shots I normally wouldn’t for candid photos. As soon as you let them know you’re taking photos the subjects tend to stiffen or even look at the camera losing the natural shot you were going for. Of course if you’re not asking permission be as incognito as possible, don’t get in their faces and don’t use flash.

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