Tips for Taking Event Photos

This is a work in progress. Re-edit from this amazing article:

Here are some tips for the do-it-yourselfers:

1. Always hold your phone Horizontally like an old fashioned Camera.

2. Turn on your camera’s grid.

3. Always shoot the focal point Dead Center. 

Why Dead center? It is easier to crop the picture later for the various sizes that are required to make flyers and to use on social media.

Most professional photographers will say crop the image, in the camera, before you take the shot. I have learned after 15 years of experience, it easier to crop the photo later, then trying to extend and clone the background in photoshop.


Basic Shot list

  • Entrance (Your brand or event title, i.e. a banner or digital display)
  • Crowd Shots (successful event)
  • People having fun (smiling faces)
  • Why you are there (clients, awards)
  • Who you are (You, your booth, table, where your Logo is)
  • What people are doing (Project, lecture, dinner, music, walk, auction)
  • Important people (Sponsors, Key speaker, individual and couple shots)

Think about the story you want to tell with the photos.
You are likely to want to show that the event was a success (with crowd shots), that people had fun (smiling faces), what the event was about (clients, awards), who you are (branding in the background), what people did at the event (dinner, music, walk, auction) and that important people attended (individual and couple shots). In the examples, the story starts at the entrance to the event (right) and make sure you include photos of your brand or event title (i.e. a banner) – NOT by themselves – include people.

Take photos with a purpose

Even when things are happening fast. Take the time to focus, check the background so nothing weird is sticking into the photo.

Photos of individuals, couples, or smaller groups.

Don’t get giant head shots or tiny far away shots

Find the focal point. If the person you want to get is far away (i.e. running by in a marathon), you will need to take a high quality photo and then crop it to get a more close-up photo or use a camera that zooms in – a photo with a tiny runner in the middle of a big street is just lost.

Candid Photos of People

Candid smiling pictures are the best.
If they are eating, wait until their forks and drinks are down when taking candid shots.

Long Shots

To get a sense of the space and how many people attended and the energy that was surrounding the event.

Group shots

Make sure you get lots of group shots

At least one broad overview of the event with the biggest crowd possible and lots of smaller groups of 3 or more people. If the room (or space) isn’t filled yet, wait until it is to get your broad overview shots. If the room or space is just NOT going to fill up, it may be appropriate to ask everyone to fill in seats (or tables) toward the front. This works well for the speaker or presenter and when you take group photos.

Overview group shot
Put yourself at an angle where at least 2 or more people have their faces toward the camera
At least a full side view toward the camera. Backs of people’s heads are just the worst photos imaginable. If you are taking a photo of the speaker at the head of the room, zoom in so you get 3-4 rows of people (to show the room is full) and the backs of heads will be okay because the focal point of the photo is someone’s front – the speaker. In this example, it was not possible to showcase the focal point (the band) and the full room at the same time; get to where you need to go to get a good photo of whatever is your focal point.

Get photos of VIPs

Important donors, board members, community leaders and get specific group and couples photos.

Make a list of your clients, sponsors and keyspeakers that you want to get on camera and keep it in your pocket – check them off as you go. Work to specifically get photos of them.

If you have booths or vendors, make sure you get photos of each of them

(Get photos of the booths AFTER they are set up NOT while they are being set up) – they are your sponsors and supporters and they will appreciate extra exposure on your site in your photo galleries.

Keep the subject matter interesting

Which means making it about the people when you can.
Don’t take photos of the individual auction items or gift baskets.
Do an overall photo of the table and/or think about snapping a photo of the happy winner holding the auction item after the auction is over! Find an angle at which you could get a nice idea of the number of items (lots of guitars) while obtaining a forward facing shot of a person viewing the items.

Make it an action shot (and make sure you can actually see the action).

Instead of taking a photo of the water table being set up at a marathon, wait until the volunteer is actually handing out water to a runner – it’s a much more exciting photo! Get an angle to catch forward faces AND what is being looked at or discussed.

Communicate with staff / volunteers taking photos

Give instructions on how and when to use the photos. Obviously other people will be taking photos, but if someone is responsible for your overall event photos, they need to know what is okay and what is not. i.e. What they can post on their personal Facebook pages, what photos should be deleted or not used, etc.

Before you post and the event is over

Delete weird or inappropriate photos
Hopefully this will not be an issue (although I did have this happen with one client’s event photos) – but if someone is wearing inappropriate clothing, don’t take their photo or try to minimize it by cropping it. Before randomly uploading all your photos, do a check to see what may need cropping first or deleting first. So feel free to delete any fuzzy or blurry photos, or anything else that does not belong on your website.

Name everyone you can in the photos.

See…. Now maybe you’ll think twice about uploading 300 photos. Photos have a lot more meaning if the people in them have names. This is how you supplement your storytelling. You and everyone attending may know who Mary is, receiving an award for something really great, but no one else looking at it has any idea. Plus if you upload your photos to a photo-sharing site like Flickr, the descriptions help you get noticed in the search engines and can actually draw traffic to your site.

Be selective about what photos to use.
It’s about quality not quantity.

Even if staff follow these photo taking tips, you are likely going to select only 25 – 50% of the photos to show the world. Think about the story you want to tell with the photos; you are likely to want to show that the event was a success (with crowd shots), that people had fun (smiling faces), what the event was about (clients, awards), who you are (branding in the background), what people did at the event (dinner, music, walk, auction) and that important people attended (individual and couple shots).

Create a uniform naming process.

And last, but not least, if you are creating a photo gallery of the event, create a uniform naming process. I like to title the gallery the name of the event and the YEAR and then in the description write down the exact date the event took place and where.


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