Photographing live events such as parades, street
parties, demonstrations, or open air concerts
presents many challenges: crowds, moving subjects,
varied lighting conditions, and ever-changing
action that may be over in seconds. This is also true
of weddings, family gatherings, or school sports
days. Fortunately, with today’s marvelous cameras,
you do not need to worry too much about camera
settings: “Sports” mode should cover most of your
needs. However, if you want more control, set
medium ISO of around 400 in good lighting, and
ISO 1000 or more indoors, with shutter priority and
an exposure time of
⁄250 sec or shorter.
Right place, right time
The most important question in event photography,
however, is nothing to do with equipment: where
exactly you should stand to be sure to get the shots?
The answer relies on one part instinct, one part
planning, and a big dose of luck.
Instinct is what might prompt you to walk that bit
further than you intended, or to look around a corner.
It is what tells you to wait a little longer to capture an
unexpected moment. The vital element to improving
your photography at events is taking the time to go
this extra distance.
Combine your instinct with careful planning and
you will ﬁnd that luck favors you. Once you have
explored the location thoroughly, choose the best
vantage points, and have your camera ready at all
times. Then, when the bride unexpectedly turns
around to ﬂash a gorgeous smile, for example, you
have your picture, not only because you were lucky
but also because you were prepared.
Begin covering the event before it starts: images of
preparations, such as set-building or make-up
artists at work, produce a well-balanced view.
During the height of the event, keep the camera
switched on and close to your face, or hold it at arm’s
length above your head to shoot over the crowd.
You need to be quick, so do not record at the
highest resolution or in RAW format if this slows
down your camera’s operations.
There are no medals for bravery in photography.
By all means pursue a picture if you have sufﬁcient
expertise to ensure your safety. But if you are
inexperienced in attending potentially dangerous
events, do not expose yourself to any risks. Ask
for advice from staff if you are unsure, and obey
all safety notices.
When photographing high-speed vehicles, do
not shoot from corners unless there is adequate
protection. Keep your wits about you at all times,
and pay attention to your surroundings, as well
as the viewﬁnder.
All aspects, great and small
Use the full capabilities of your equipment to cover the
different aspects of live events—the main event, the
supporting activities, and the action on the periphery. Use
wide-angle settings and get into the thick of things whenever
possible. Use normal or wide-angle settings when shooting
people to ensure a good level of involvement. Look out for
colorful details, such as souvenirs and merchandising (above).
The reputations of live
events lie not only in the
central attractions but also
in their environments. A full
account of an event records
its context—whether it is a
theater festival in a Greek
amphitheater, a car rally
in the desert; or, as here,
at Glastonbury, in England,
where the music festival
famously turns into a sea
of mud when it rains, as
it usually does.