Event photography might sound boring, but it can be potentially lucrative for those looking to make money from photography. Ever since I started my photography business in 2012, events have comprised a majority of my paid photo gigs. In this post, I’ll share some tips and advice for getting started as a professional event photographer.
What is Event Photography?
Very basically, an event photographer specializes in capturing pictures of events. How you define an “event” is entirely up to you. Some people would consider weddings, concerts, and sports as part of the event photography definition, and in a broad sense, they’re right. But if you focus on weddings or sports, brand yourself as such as a photographer. In industry terms, a self-described event photographer is generally associated with corporate events.
Examples of [corporate] event photography:
- trade shows
- retirement dinners
- holiday parties
- corporate anniversaries
- office open houses
What is a step and repeat?
A common term in event photography is the step and repeat. Simply put, a step and repeat is a photo backdrop, often used at events. Most times, the backdrop has a bunch of sponsor or event logos on it. There may or may not be a red carpet as well. Guests or celebrities pose for photos in front of the step and repeat, and those resulting photos are a form of event marketing that increases brand awareness.
If you are hired to do take event photos at a step and repeat, you will definitely need to use flash. You may also inquire with the client about bringing your own off-camera lighting setup. More on event photography equipment below. For step and repeat photography, be sure to charge your client for any extra equipment and setup time.
Photography Business Tip
These days, most cameras come with built-in Wi-Fi and ways to transfer photos instantly to mobile phones. Learn to use Wi-Fi on your digital camera. Consider offering to send photos instantly to your client while on-site. Most clients will appreciate getting professional photos to post on social media as the event takes place. And be sure to charge extra for this service.
Why a Shot List is Essential for Event Photography
Event photography rarely allows for much artistic freedom. Most clients, especially if they are corporate, have specific moments or themes that need to be captured. They also tend to have a certain photo style in mind that fits with their company’s aesthetic. Some clients will even have a specific style guide for you to follow. In any case, it’s wise to research what kind of photographs your client has commissioned before, or what kinds of images are typical of that kind of event. Always ask the client for sample images of previous events. In every case, it’s always important to establish client expectations ahead of time so you can act accordingly.
In order to establish your client’s photography expectations, be sure to ask them for a shot list. What’s on the shot list will also determine what kind of photography equipment you will need. Learn more about the shot list and download a sample template here.
Event Photography Equipment
The equipment needed for event photography depends on what the client has outlined in their shot list. As an event photographer, it is important to ask all pertinent questions needed to properly assess your client’s expectations and adjust your equipment list accordingly.
Recommended Event Photography Camera
You don’t need a ton of fancy equipment to do event photography, but most professional event photographers use a DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. Zoom lenses are preferable for capturing a diverse range of images. Also, a camera and lens that shoots well in low lighting conditions are preferred, since flash photography is not always welcome.
- DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses
- A backup camera body in case the first one fails
- Lenses should cover wide-angles (~16-24mm) and telephoto zoom (~200mm)
- Flash unit is recommended for posed photos
Step and Repeat Photography Equipment
Some clients may hire you expecting you will bring extra equipment such as a photo backdrop and lighting for a step and repeat photo booth. Thus, you should be very specific about what the client’s photo needs are before accepting a job. When I accept a photo booth event photography assignment, I expect my client to provide the backdrop. As the photographer, I provide camera and lighting equipment. At the very least, I will shoot step and repeats with a simple Speedlight flash. However, I will ideally get to set up my own off-camera flash mini-studio to produce better-looking photos. That gear would include:
Being an event photographer requires a great deal of flexibility. Most events are held on weekday evenings or on weekends. Event duration can also vary, lasting anywhere from an hour to several days, or even a whole week. Discuss with your client how long they expect you to be covering their event. You may also be eligible to have expenses (accommodations, parking or travel) covered or receive some perks such as a meal. Always check with your client before indulging in a product or billing them for expenses. Work out the details ahead of time and include them in your photography contract.
Can You Make Money as an Event Photographer?
Given the popularity of events held throughout the year and the ease of accessing event photography camera gear, it is very easy to be a full-time professional event photographer. Where you are based out of also factors in. Event photography opportunities in a small town, for example, may be sparse. But in an urban city, event photography gigs should be numerous.
One of the many tricks to being a successful event photographer is to gain a solid reputation. Yes, advertising and marketing certainly help. However, word-of-mouth recommendations are extremely powerful and can earn you stellar photography gigs. Get to know local event coordinators, marketing agencies, and event venues. Find out how they hire event photographers and get your photography portfolio and contact information in front of them. Most importantly, strike up a conversation with all of the behind-the-scenes people you meet while you’re at an event. Sometimes, professional relationships with the production staff or event venue staff can lead to fruitful photography referrals.
Event photography is a potentially lucrative field once you develop a solid portfolio and solid reputation. Do you have any tips for starting out as a professional event photographer? Let me know in the comments below!