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7 Tips For Better Photos at Events

Image: Tony Dowson

It might sound like turning up to an event with your camera, and snapping away some photos will be easy. But that is no reason to avoid spending a few minutes thinking about how to improve your yield. By “your yield” I mean the number of photos from your day’s shooting that are usable, and potentially sellable. Increasing your yield is one of the best ways to improve the profit you make from a days shooting.

While it is very nerdy to think about percentages, the fact is if you want to sell more photos, you have to. Let me illustrate with an example. Snappy Steve, and Thoughtful Tara both go to a JetSki competition, and shoot 1000 photos. Snappy Steve has a low yield, and gets 50 good photos, Thoughtful Tara on the other hand, got 300 good photos. Which one do you think is going to be able to sell more photos?

So now my (admittedly contrived) example has convinced you that you should be aiming for a higher yield, here are my top 7 tips:

1 Work out the best angels at the venue

No matter what sort of event it is, there will be good and bad places to photograph from. Get to the venue early, and walk about for 20 minutes with your camera, looking for the spots where you can see the action, and have a good background too. It can be a nice background, a good viewpoint where you can see the best action or somewhere where you won’t get people wondering back and forth in front or your shot. If you are in a rush to start taking photos you won’t be able to think about it, so get there early, and claim the perfect location.

2 Look for the spots with good lighting

Every event will have a variety of lighting conditions. It could be lit by daylight, normal indoor lighting, or even special event lighting. The trick here is to remember that the lights won’t have been set up with photographers in mind. Most photographers don’t think much about this when at an event, so you can give yourself an advantage. Look for a nice spotlight, or pool of light and set yourself up so that you can take photos of anything interesting happening in that light. As photographers we all know that good lighting is one of the key elements of a great photo, so don’t leave it to chance, and know where the good light is.

3 Know the important moments throughout the day

Some moments at the event will be more important, and more memorable than others. The exact moments to look out for will depend on what sort of event it is, so you need to know about your event and you need to have done your research. Whatever the key moments are, when they approach you need to make sure you have had your tea break, have the right lens on your camera, and have it already pointed at the spot where the action will take place.

4 Check your camera is on the right settings

This sounds really simple, and really obvious, but seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I checked my photos in a break and realised I have been shooting on the wrong ISO, or on the shutter priority setting for the practice photos I was taking the day before. So decide in advance when you are going to set up your camera, either when you get to the venue, or after you find your perfect shooting location, and then make sure you take that moment to look at your settings, and get them right.

5 Wait for the photo to happen

Don’t keep moving your camera about, looking for the magic photo, and trying to grab it. What will happen is you will end up with lots of misses, and only a few hits. That translates to more time in front of the computer trying to make your selection. Instead it’s better to get into the perfect spot (tip 1) and then point the camera at the spot with good lighting (tip 2) make sure your camera is on the right setting (tip 4) and then wait for something interesting to happen in one of your magic lighting spots. You will be ready and waiting for it, so it will be easy to press the shutter and *click*, you will have a keeper in the bag. Easy!

6 Keep your gear arranged in your bag

I use a variety of different lenses and accessories (but only the ones I know how to use – I practice with my gear beforehand). In order to do get the best advantage from my kit, I need to make sure that I can reach into my bag and grab exactly what I’m looking for. Otherwise I’m going to miss the good shots while I’m fumbling about in my bag. So I simply make sure I know exactly what section each bit of kit is in, and what bit of kit should be in each section. That makes it really fast to put away one toy and grab another. It also makes it really easy to make sure I pack everything away again at the end of the day. Because I know what should be in each section, a quick look to see if there are any empty sections in my bag is enough to check that everything is back in the bag, and what’s missing (if anything).

7 Food and drink

Once you get into the flow of taking photos it’s really easy to forget about eating, or drinking. For short events that doesn’t matter too much, but if you are in it for the long haul, it can really affect the quality of photos you take by the end of the day. So pack some bottles of water, and some snacks into your bag. I think this is one of the few times when snacking on chocolate bars is not only acceptable, but essential! :-)