Top tips for perfect event photography

Top tips for perfect event photography

Event photographer Maria Zhytnikova provides CMW with some top tips for shooting the perfect event photographs.


1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. People are beautiful, and the photos should show the best of each person. Be excited about the people, love them – it will make a huge difference.

2. Empathy is the key. Events are all about people and their emotions. See through their eyes, feel their joy and their excitement about their event and preserve their emotions for the future in your photos.

3. Smile and be positive. A photo is taken by a person, a camera is just a tool. A genuine smile can perform a miracle, it relaxes people, helps them to feel comfortable, and makes them shine.

4. Connection to the event. This is like being on a flight on a timeline, and pressing the button at the right moment. It requires full 360-degree attention and speed. The right shot may present itself at any moment in any place absolutely spontaneously, so quick reactions and a quick camera and lenses are essential.

5. Curiosity and openness are essential. It’s like travelling. The map is one thing, the real territory another. The photographer may know the schedule, the venue and all the organisational information, but at a live event things may go in an unexpected direction. Quick adjustment to the real situation is important.

6. Rich visual experience is fundamental. It will build the sense of colour and composition inside your mind, and will help you to feel the right moment and press the button at the right time. Colour and composition theory can be helpful as well. It’s absolutely necessary to look at great classical and modern art and photography, visit museums and exhibitions regularly and to watch movies by great film directors. My personal favourites are the movies by Federico Fellini and Giuseppe Tornatore, movies of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Italian art of the Renaissance and French Impressionism. Select what speaks directly to your heart.

7. Paint with light. The lighting situation at an event is almost always difficult, so the flash is your best friend. But it’s critically important to be able to use it gently, lightening up faces and keeping the atmosphere intact at the same time, to blend the flash with the atmosphere.

8. Keep the end result in mind. Be a storyteller. Show a clear storyline. The start, the development of the action, the main moment, the end, the main hero, the atmosphere, food, etc. This is like a photo movie or a photo novel. These photos have to make a good and inspiring impression, and this impression is designed by the photographer. So, from a particular point of view the event photographer is like a film director or a writer. Your client should be able to say proudly when looking at the pictures and showing them to others: “What a great celebration we had!” And the job is well done if other people who are looking at these photos can say: “We would love to have been there!”

Stuart Wood is a news reporter across the Mash Media editorial portfolio. He writes for CMW alongside sister publications Conference News, Exhibition News, Access All Areas and Exhibition World.

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