Top 5 Essentials
For Great Event Photography
This is not an exhaustive list (trust me, you'll need spare batteries too). However, these are the things I recommend most to photographers starting their careers. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.
1. Hot-shoe Flash
I just had this discussion with a budding photographer in town (Hi, Kenny!). The speedlight (aka Hot-Shoe, Mounted Flash) is one of the most important tools in my event photography setup. My flash (Nikon SB-6000) is what allows me to light my subjects when sunlight is not available. This comes in handy considering that most events are held indoors and at night. A powerful feature of most professional speedlights is their ability to change the direction of the flash. I can tilt the flash head 360˚. Thus providing a dynamic lighting situation.
Lens: 24–70mm f/2.8
2. Lens: 24-70mm f/2.8
The lens every event photographer should own... The 24-70mm f/2.8 lens is essential for event photography. 24mm is wide enough to include the context of most events. The wide angle allows you to position your subject in the foreground whilst showcasing the venue, decor, dance floor, signage, etc in the background. At the 70mm end of the lens, you can zoom in for reasonably tight portraits, details, shots across the dance floor, etc. Best of all these lenses are great in low light. The f/2.8 aperture is large enough to let in most dimly lit events. This aperture also allows for low depth of field shots, letting you isolate the subject. If you stick with a name brands (Nikon, Canon, or Sigma Art), you’ll really enjoy the sharpness and constant apertures of the 24-70 f/2.8 lens.
Full Frame DSLR
3. Full Frame DSLR
A full frame DSLR really helps in low-light photography. The sensor of a full frame camera is nearly twice as large as the crop frame counterpart. The larger the sensor, the more surface area available to absorb light. The full-frame sensor greatly improves the camera’s low light performance. The larger surface area also allows the manufacturer to space the pixels farther apart, thus greatly reducing the noise in the image. Example: My Nikon D750 (full frame) can very comfortably shoot at ISO 1250 without any visible noise, whereas my Nikon D7200 (crop frame) can barely shoot at ISO 800 before it starts having noise appear in the image.
4. Manual Settings
Shooting in manual priority mode is key for event photography. It empowers you to make choices as the photographer. It also simplifies the editing process. For most events, I change my settings just a handful of times. I usually change my settings based on the lighting environments of the event. If all the photos are in a large ballroom, I’ll set my ISO, Aperture, Shutter, and Flash output to what works in that scene. Then, I should only really change my settings if I leave the ballroom (into a different lighting environment). Once I get into the editing phase, I can pretty much batch edit my photos, because each photo shot in the same settings and lighting environment should look about the same straight out of the camera.
5. Comfortable Shoes
This one is tricky. I know some events will have dress code (formal vs dress casual), BUT please consider: event photography is an active job. I rarely sit at any event. I have to constantly observe the action and be ready to move to the best vantage at a moment’s notice. Sitting is not part of the event photographer job description. Knowing that, I highly recommend getting a pair of shoes that provides a lot of comfort in a quiet design. Black tennis shoes, dark toned hiking shoes, etc. I wear my Keen hiking shoes for most events. I’ve never had any complaints from clients about my shoes. If a client did complain about my shoes, I would explain to them all of the above. A guest to an event will probably sit for most of their stay, so they can wear a stiletto heel. The photographer on the hand, you want them able to move around to get the best shot. No one will remember the shoes I wore to an event...But they will definitely remember an image I shot.