I spend a fair amount of my photography hours taking pictures at events / conferences, so the post “how to photograph a conference – 10 tips” on digital Photography School obviously piqued my interested when I saw it in my RSS feed. Here are the 10 tips, and my own comments:
1. Bring extra batteries, memory cards, your cables, and chargers
A definite must. Once, to my shame, in the rush to get from one event to another, I forgot to put the memory card back into my camera after I uploaded the shots. Easily solved by having a few space memory cards. I have also had a (high-end) memory card fail on my. Given the price of memory these days, it is very wise to have a good few spaces. Likewise, extra USB cables can earn you a beer (I’ve rescued many a BlackBerry user who had a flat battery). Extra batteries are a little more pricey, but always worth having at least one set if you can.
2. Get out of auto mode.
Not much to add to this one. Even with a great camera, the lighting at most venues means that you won’t get a good shot on auto mode. It will just pop up the flash, blind everyone, and leave you with a flatten shot and a cross audience. Even with a camera phone, you’ll get better shots my playing with the manual settings, once you know what you are doing.
3. Be unobtrusive. Casual shots are better.
See above. Getting good pictures, but ruining the event for everyone else isn’t a win. I like the advice Tris gives in his post: “Be the wall.”
4. Pay attention to the background.
The number of good shots I’ve lost to some clown in the background, or a chair/chart/whatever sticking out of someone’s head! Stop. Look. Then shoot. Easier said than done though ;).
5. Try not to use the flash.
Actually, my rule is don’t use the flash. I have top quality flash equipment, but I use it in the studio for product and portrait shots. Not for events. That said, sometimes I do have some fun with the internal flash for the occasional special effect shot, but not during the main event.
6. Pay attention to the lighting.
Use what there is. Some organizers put spots with gels around the place. Sometimes the venue has a nice window. Perhaps the presenter walks in front of the projector. All good opportunities.
7. Set the white balance.
Personally I shoot in RAW mode then fix this afterwards, but observe any pro videographer – you’ll see the grey card come out and the white balance adjusted. If you are not sure, just play with the white balance and some test shots and adjust until it looks right (white).
8. More is better.
9. Zoom less, walk more.
I like this tip. I need to live it more. As Tris points out “They say that zoom lenses have made photographers lazy. I don’t know about that, but if you move around, get closer, bend, twist (it’s only your body, come on) you often find you get a better shot.”
Prime lenses are always going to let in more light (bigger aperture), give a shallowed depth of field and get you more shots. Jut get used to moving around.
10. Have fun.
Bonus 11. It isn’t the camera or the lens, it’s the photographer that counts.
One of the nicest complements I have had was during an attack of the green eyed monster – I was observing another photographer who had a VERY nice rig. “Ah yes,” said my friend, “but you’ll probably get the nicer shots.” Ah, the artist’s ego – easily soothed. In support of point 11 though, some of my nicest shots have actually been taken with my Nokia N95’s camera phone.