Event photography – after combing the internet through album after album of image noise and flat color, I’ve come to realized over the course of my travels (and there’s been a lot of traveling) that it nevertheless is an area of the medium that continues to suffer the inclusion of some fairly substandard images to it’s club. While there’s a variety of factors at play in this, there are a few that you can go ahead and square away that will immediately catapult you far ahead of your competition. And it’s competition. Which I guess would be yourself?
1. Your flash
When I say that a sizable portion of event photography is indoors, it’s similar to saying ‘there are a reasonable number of pizza shops in New York.’ A ton of event photography is indoors, and since I wrote this, a pizza shop has opened up in my living room.
As far as indoor settings go, they’re dark. Always. And even if they don’t seem dark to you, you should assume they’re dark anyway, since you should assume that your camera sensor is about a twentieth as sensitive as your eyes. This being said, you should always have a flash on you and never deviate from this practice. Whether you’re shooting outdoors, indoors, indoors under several UV lamps, indoors while a nuclear explosion goes off, or outdoors while a nuclear explosion goes off, you should nevertheless plan to carry a flash.
And now that you’ve committed yourself to always carrying a flash, you should, 95% of the time, probably use it. Point it at the ceiling, raise the fill card, bring up the Exposure Value by about 1 or 2, and let loose. Over time, you’ll figure out whether or not you’ll need the fill card and how much or how little you can go ahead adjusting the Exposure Values to achieve the desired results, but for now, bring your flash.
2. Your lens
Earlier I said that a sizable portion of event photography is indoors. And then I pointed out that it’s similar to saying ‘there are a few pizza shops in New York.’ Because there are a ton of Pizza Shops in New York, and the vast majority of events take place indoors. People want air conditioning, and shade, and a lack of flies, and so on and so forth.
This being said, outside of carrying a flash with you at all times, you should also have a fast lens. I see a boat load of event photographers walking around with variable aperture lenses that start at 3.5 and go up to 5.6 at a higher focal length. This is…well. Insane.
At a 5.6 aperture, you’re going to need quite a bit of light to resolve anything that doesn’t look like a circa 1956 aerial spy photo (you know the type. They’re noisy, contain a lot of grain, have bunkers disguised as barns).
I realize that everyone’s walking around operating under the assumption that they need a 24-70 2.8 and that it’s bust until then, I walked around with a 50mm 1.8, an 85mm 1.8, and a 17-35 2.8 (I picked this up off ebay for $250) for three years before graduating to the 24-70. Even then, I still prefer walking around with my primes, given the difference between 1.8 and something around 3.5