There will be many parties in the next few weeks for many of you, so I would like to give you a few tips and reminders for better event photos.
I shall illustrate with a few pictures of an event I shot the other day.
First, your equipment:
- Use an external flash. Never the popup.
- Aim it behind you – yes, behind you, high so that you bounce off the ceiling, provided there is a ceiling and it is somewhat like white.
- Use a “slightly wide angle” lens. I love the 35mm prime (fixed) lens – on a full frame camera, which means a 24mm lens on a typical crop sensor camera.
- A prime lens is good as it forces a consistency to your compositions, which will pay off since it also means consistency in your settings.
Then, the settings:
- Mode: Camera in manual exposure mode (“M”)
- Flash: in its normal TTL mode
- ISO: Set ISO to 400 for most venues (800 if it is dark, possibly even higher if the venue is pitch black)
- Exposure: Set aperture and shutter speed to a combination of values that gives you an ambient exposure of -2 stops. That is, when you press half way down on the shutter as you aim at an average part of the room, your meter in the viewfinder points at a value around -2. A typical combination at 400 ISO is f/4 at 1/30th of a second.
- White balance: Set your white balance to Flash. That gives you warm backgrounds, but your subjects will look natural, since they are lit primarily by the flash.
- Flash compensation: if your subjects are small in the picture, with a large background, your camera may overexpose the flash portion. In that case, use flash compensation and set it lower: try a value of -1, say.
If you shoot in a very dark venue, you will need to go to a wider aperture, so I recommend fast lenses. I often end up shooting at f/2, or even lower.
And finally, composition:
- Shoot “grip and grins” like the first one above: people like those. Heads together!
- Also shoot “fly on the wall” pictures. “If it smiles, shoot it”.
- Use the rule of thirds – “off-centre composition”)
- Tilt whenever you like.
- And please also shoot the food, the room, the small details.
The above will give you great images. But remember to finish them in Adobe Lightroom: crop, do minor adjustments, and only show your great pictures!
Above all: have fun!