How I Photograph Events

Today’s Blog Post by Barry Staver

Event photography lets you rub elbows (literally) with more people than you can imagine. Like it or not, it’s part of the job. Banquet seating arrangements usually crowd tables close together, making it difficult for even the wait staff to move around. Add a gear-carrying photographer to the mix and bedlam can occur. A claustrophobic shooter might not do well in this environment.

I shoot with two camera bodies and carry accessories in a Think Tank Photo Belt Pack system, keeping me as mobile as possible but that’s still extra stuff sticking out on both sides of me. I’ve learned to snake my way through the tight spots, turning this way and that to avoid collisions. But yes, I’ve grazed a head or two of seated guests with the camera hanging from my shoulder as I move around.

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Outdoor events can also present “squeeze play” situations. In both the indoor and outdoor locales the mirrorless camera shines over its bigger relatives. It’s easier to reign in the smaller gear when moving and more importantly much easier to shoot with it. Instead of keeping the camera up to my eye, I extend it away from my face, looking at the image on the articulating LCD screen where I compose, frame, focus, and take the shots. Gaining this freedom lets me capture real moments without disrupting or jostling photo subjects. This technique guarantees successful Hail Mary shots whether overhead, low angle, or right in front of me. The camera can be pushed into the middle of the action, keeping me at arms length.

Photo #1 shows the on site registration area for a nighttime bicycle ride event. Participants crowd up to the tables to check in, leaving little room for a photographer to be up front.

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Photo #2 shows a close-up image of a ride bib handed to a cyclist. It was easy to swivel the LCD towards me, extend my arms and camera into the scene and get the photo without bumping and crowding my entire body to the front line.

Tip: My GH4 is set with the horizon level active. I focus by moving and touching the focus box on the LCD. If this was attempted using an SLR, the focus and framing would be guesswork. My mirrorless system setup produces what I want with each press of the shutter.