Event photography is a great way to earn money with your camera, and it can be very lucrative. When taking photos at events you need to be on your toes and alert, ready to take a picture in a spilt second and mobile so you can work the room. Consequently, event photography needs to comprise the absolute minimum but you need to make sure you have everything you need – if that makes sense. What event photography equipment do I take with me? Well, all will be revealed......
Event photography equipment - Camera
Arguably, you can use any camera for event photography, and in the past I have used a top end point and shoot (my Canon G1X from Warehouse Express), a mirrorless CSC (Olympus EP) and a few dslr cameras.
I would never usually use a point and shoot camera for event photography but I was set a challenge by my local camera club member, and since the event was a small summer fete in the sticks of Norfolk (that I wasn’t being paid for) I thought what better opportunity? I did manage to capture some okay photos, and even managed to sell a few to the organisers, but I would never use a point and shoot camera for event photography in the future. Not a planned shoot anyway. Mirrorless cameras are pretty good, and more than capable to take a few event photography snaps, but dslr cameras still have the upper hand.
I typically use a dslr camera and the model I use for event photography is the Canon 7d (bought from Warehouse Express). I do own a full frame Canon 6d, and whilst it is an awesome camera I prefer to use the 7d. The Canon 7d is tough, durable and stronger than the Canon 6d, and it can take a lot of abuse. Events are (obviously) bust places and when I am taking event photos I (and the camera) frequently get knocked around and banged about. Both me and my camera takes a lot of stick and I am more than confident the Canon 7d will take all this and come out unscathed the other side.
Event photography is one of those scenarios when the superior image quality of the Canon 6d is not needed. The image quality of the Canon 7d is exceptionally good and more than capable of capturing photos that are good enough for what the event organisers want. Whilst the image quality of the Canon 6d is better than that of the Canon 7d the difference is negligible and you have to go pixel peeping to see it, and no one does this in the real world. I have no issues with the Canon 7d’s image quality for event photography whatsoever.
In addition to being tough and durable, and having great image quality the Canon 7d has fast processors (for a high burst rate), lightening quick autofocus, and a crop sensor (giving a little extra reach) making it ideal for photographing events. The only real criticism I have with the 7d is that it is bigger than the 6d, especially when I add the Canon battery grip (one of the most useful camera accessories I have ever bought from Warehouse Express), which makes discreet candid shots a little tricky. Al things considered the Canon 7d is a great camera for event photography.
"The Canon 7d is my event camera of choice"
Event photography equipment - lenses
If you are the sort of person who likes to stand in the shadows with a long reach tele lens you shouldn’t be taking event photos. Event photography is about capturing the buzz and the vibe, and also the mood of the people attending the event – you cannot do this with tele lens.
If you want to capture great event shots you need to get up close and personal to the action, which requires shorter focal length lenses. When taking event photos it is often necessary to shoot wide, to make sure you can get everything in the frame, which once again requires lenses with shorter focal lengths. If there’s one lens you should have in your event photography equipment bag it is a 16mm – 35mm zoom lens.
The 16mm short end is wide enough to get a lot in to the frame (groups of people, couples and a bit of background etc.) but not so wide distortion is an issue. 16mm is the widest you can use before you have to think about distortion and also think about how to sort it out/deal with it in the digital darkroom, i.e. editing the images. The 35mm long end is a useful (and very popular) length for single portraits and is a favourite focal length with many photographers.
A zoom lens is ideal for event photography because it is versatile, allows for many different framing opportunities and can also use the zoom facility to change the composition. Prime lenses do have slightly better image quality than zoom lenses, but the difference is negligible and you have to go pixel peeping to notice it. The 16mm – 35mm lens loses out to prime lenses when it comes to size and weight (the 16mm – 35mm lens is bigger and heavier).
The 16mm – 35mm lens I use for event photography is the Canon EF-S 10mm – 22mm f3.5 – 4.5 USM. Okay, this lens says 10mm – 22mm but the 35mm equivalent (taking the crop sensor in to account) is 16mm – 35.2mm on my Canon 7d. This lens isn’t as tough and durable as the L series 16mm – 35mm lens (the 16 – 35 f4L IS (which I bought from Warehouse Express and use for landscapes on my 6d) or the 16 – 35 f2.8L) but it is still a sturdy lens. The image quality of this lens is exceptionally good, and whilst it may only open as wide as f3.5 (at the short end) to f4.5 (at the long end) I have never found the need to go any wider. When taking event photos I like a depth of field that has a level of sharpness throughout the image rather than intentionally blurring the background out of all recognition. The Canon E-S 10mm – 22mm f3.5 – 4.5 is an excellent event photography lens and one I highly recommend.
"The Canon 10 - 22 is my event photography lens of choice"
Event photography equipment – Speed light
Since you never know what lighting is available at a venue until you actually get there a speed light is essential for event photography, and I make sure I always carry three (one to use and two spare) in my event photography equipment bag.
ETTL (automatic) flash is the only way to get consistently good event photos using a speed light because the flash to subject distance constantly changes, making manual flash virtually impossible. You may strike it lucky setting the flash power manually, and grab a couple of correctly exposed shots, but I guarantee you will miss way more shots than you actually hit.
There is a lot of skill involved in using a flash in ETTL mode correctly so you will need to practice. You need to know about flash exposure compensation, know when flash exposure compensation is needed, know whether you need positive or negative flash exposure compensation, and also how much flash exposure compensation to apply. It isn’t as easy as turning on the flash, setting it to ETTL mode and then start snapping away.
The speed light I use for event photography is the Godox Ving, which is a budget speed light that is powerful, packed full of features (it has ETTL mode, manual mode and HSS mode), user friendly and intuitive to use (I didn’t need to look at the user guide at all) and has a single cell battery (which means no AA batteries laying around all over the place). I bought the Ving on a whim when I needed a speed light for a shoot but broke my Canon 600EX and didn’t have much spare cash laying around. I was sceptical ordering the Ving, I mean it seemed too cheap to be true, so when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised. Okay, the Ving wasn’t as well built as the Canon 600EX but it wasn’t too bad. This was kind of expected, especially since the Godox Ving is a fraction of the price of the 600EX. If you’re interested here’s a review of the Godox Ving speed light you may want to check out.
"The Godox Ving is my speedlight of choice for event photography"
Event photography equipment - Flash triggers
There are times when I take the flash off camera during an event shoot, although I do try and keep this to a minimum because of the hustle and bustle of events. I only take the flash so far as my left arm allows (I hand hold the flash to direct the light) but I don’t use an off camera flash cord for this. I have tried with off camera flash cords in the past but I found them cumbersome, awkward and they got in the way.
Whenever I take my flash off camera at an event I use wireless flash triggers. Wireless flash triggers are a little bigger and bulkier than an off camera flash cord, but the additional weight is negligible and it is something I am more than happy to live with since I can move the flash wherever I want to (providing it is no more than arm’s length away of course) and not have a coiled up springy cord getting the way. Off camera flash cords are super cheap but, once again, I am more than happy to pay the extra for some wireless flash triggers.
The flash triggers I use for my event photography shoots are the Yongnuo 622s and the accompanying transmitter (master controller that sits in the camera’s hot shoe). When I was on the search for some flash triggers it seemed there were either the mega expensive top end Pocket Wizards (the cost of which horrified me) or the stupidly cheap unbranded Chinese made generic flash triggers (I found many forum posts warning people not to buy these) and little in between.
After a bit of research I found the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers and the reviews and articles I read about them seemed pretty positive. There were good comments about the reliability (i.e. no misfires), how easy they were to set up and use, how good the off camera ETTL modes was, and also how affordable they were. On the flipside there were negative comments about the build quality. After weighing everything up I decided to take a punt and ordered a pair to test out.
When I received the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers I was impressed – I was expecting a very poorly made product, but it actually wasn’t too bad. Sure, they didn’t feel as sturdy as the Pocket Wizards but considering I could buy five Yongnuo flash triggers for the cost of a single Pocket Wizard this is no big surprise. After testing the Yongnuo 622 flash triggers I found them to be very easy to set up and use, very reliable (they fired every time I pressed the shutter) and perfect for what I wanted. If you want are looking for some affordable flash triggers I highly recommend the Yongnuo 622 triggers, and if you are interested you may want to check out this review.
"The Yongnuo 622 flash triggers - awesome not only for event photography but all flash photography"
Event photography equipment - Other equipment
Event photography equals loads of photos, most of which will end up being binned. Even though the keeper rate is low (the organizer only want a specific amount and it is pointless spending hours editing photos that are not wanted) it is important to take plenty of photos to make sure there are some stonkers in there.
Taking loads of photos requires lots of memory and also power, therefore it is important to make sure you plenty of memory available and spare batteries. I don’t use the huge capacity memory cards because I don’t like the thought of losing an entire shoot if the card becomes corrupt. I know modern day memory cards are exceptionally reliable, but there is always that small chance the card could become unreadable, and I don’t want to leave myself open to that.
Rather than using a single high capacity memory card I use several smaller memory cards, typically 8GB, to make sure that I always have some photos of the event should the sticky stuff hit the fan and a memory card (or two) becomes corrupt.
You should always carry plenty of spare batteries (for both the camera and the flash) to make sure you can keep shooting during the entire event. I keep an eye on the battery power I have left and if it appears I am unlikely to make the end of the event (because I have gone too wild at the start of the event) I will slow down, take fewer photos and conserve the power so I can get photos right up to the end of the event. In my experience it is better to have fewer photos throughout the entire event than loads of photos to, let’s say for arguments sake, halfway through the event.
"You can't beat Scandisk or Kingston memory cards"
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.