From your baby’s first birthday party to your brother’s Hawaiian-themed wedding day, event photography is all about documenting those life’s most important landmark moments. Whether you’re planning a huge gathering with friends or an intimate family get-together, these beginner-friendly tips will help you document even more with your event photography.

1. Arrive Early

The early bird catches the worm, and so will you if you are prepared and arrive early. Whether you’re photographing your child’s school sports day or your parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, arriving early at the venue will give you a huge advantage. Firstly, you can explore the venue and work out where you’d like to take your shots – have a look for areas with nice natural light or a big window if you’re shooting indoors. And secondly, you can make sure you don’t miss any of the action. This could be the surprise arrival of a special guest you didn’t know was coming, whether it be Aunty Jane who lives in Australia or your sister who has travelled back home from university as a surprise. Finally, arriving early will give you enough time to prepare your camera (or smartphone photography app), so that you’re ready to start shooting as soon as the event gets underway.

2. Be Ready for Key Moments

From the couple’s first kiss to the first glimpse of that extra-special birthday gift, event photography is all about capturing those “once in a lifetime moments”. You often only get one opportunity to capture these, so it’s important to be prepared and ready to shoot when they arise. Make sure your camera is around your neck and ready to shoot, or keep your phone in your hand at all times so it’s ready to go. If you’re photographing an event with an itinerary or programme, such as a wedding or well-organised party, ask whoever is organising it to let you know what time things will be happening. If you know exactly where and when everything’s going to happen, you can make sure you’re positioned in the right place and ready to capture it!

3. Photograph Reactions

When you’re focussed on not missing the key moments, it can be easy to forget about the smaller moments happening around you. For example, if your child is giving a surprise dance performance or poetry recital at a family gathering, you’ll naturally focus on capturing photos of them during their performance. However, it’s also important to capture people’s reactions, whether it be tears of joy and laughter or outright surprise and shock. So don’t forget to look around and see how people are reacting to the “main attraction”.

4. Shoot the Full Story

Event photography is all about telling the story of what’s unfolding before you. And like stories in books or films, all events have supporting actors as well as protagonists. For example, if your partner is playing their instrument in a concert, you’ll want to photograph the audience as well as the people on the stage. Perhaps you’re watching with other friends or family members who you can photograph to tell a more complete story. Maybe you’re photographing your child’s sporting event, in which case you can photograph all of the cheering fans and coaches on the sidelines, as well as their teammates on the pitch. You’re the director and everyone present at the event can play a role in your photographs.

5. Shoot Candid Shots

Don’t be afraid to take un-posed photos, as these natural looking photos will help you capture the reality of what it was like to be at the event. Whether it’s a funny photo of your little angel who’s fallen asleep after eating too much birthday cake or a quick snap of your father with tears in his eyes at your sister’s wedding, candid shots will help you remember the little moments that made the event so special. Sometimes they’ll be even better than your posed photos!

6. Shoot Action Shots

From sporting events to dance parties, music concerts to birthday games, it’s always fun to capture the action. If you’re using a camera, consider using a zoom lens that will let you get up close to your subjects. Shooting with your phone? Try out “Burst” mode so you can shoot multiple shots of the action and then choose the best ones. Get as close to your subjects as possible – on the dance floor or even on the stage – and immerse yourself in the action.

7. Use Your Ears as Well as Your Eyes

When you’re in “photograph mode”, it’s normal that you tune into what you see with your eyes. But when it comes to event photography it’s also important to be aware of what’s going on all around, and sometimes our ears are the most useful for this. Photographing your mum’s 60th birthday party in her house? Keep an ear out for things happening in other rooms of the house, or even outside in the garden. Photographing your little sister’s graduation? Listen for announcements so that you’re ready to start shooting as soon as she steps on the stage.

8. Encourage People to Pose for Photos

Whether it be getting the whole family together for a group shot in the garden or a quick portrait of your partner before they take to the stage with their band, posed shots are perfect for all events. Consider what you show in the background of your shots, so that it’s clear where the photo has been taken. For example, if you’re shooting a portrait of your child before a race at the swimming pool, frame your shot so that you can get the pool in the background. If it’s a music concert, get your subject to hold their instrument and frame your shot so that you can see the stage and/or crowd behind them.

9. Use Natural Light Wherever Possible

Always try to seek out natural light for your posed photo sessions, as this will help you create more flattering images. Find a big window if you’re shooting indoors or look for a sunny spot in the garden if you’re outside. You may also want to shoot in the shade if your subject is squinting too much in bright light. If you’re at a big indoor event, such as an indoor basketball match or tennis tournament, consider looking for lights that you can pose your subject in front of.

10. Get Others Involved

For a different perspective on your event, why not hand out your camera or phone to your friends, partner or family members? This is a really fun way to get other people involved and can often result in fantastic event photos that you’d never have taken yourself. Make sure your camera/phone is set to auto so that all they have to do is point and shoot. Children love this and you might even inspire a loved one to take up photography as a new hobby. Oh, and another big advantage is that you won’t be stuck behind the camera for the whole event, which means you might even get some nice photos of yourself too!

Discover more advice and tips to inspire your photography on the bonusprint blog.