Back when I was still a full time freelance tog’, covering corporate networking events were my bread and butter line of work. They didn’t command the best rates but they were in decent supply and would provide much needed funds to cover bills. I have been asked by juniors about the things I looked out for when I covered events, hence this post to document my thoughts for posterity. Below is a list of things I take into account or do, in chronological order or by order of my train of thought at that time.

Before the event:

1. Check the date and time -Duh, but the last thing you want is to get the event time/date wrong. You may lose a valuable regular client or worse, get sued for damages for “missed moments”

2. Check what shots you need – For more complex shoots, ie larger scaled events or those spanning a period of  days or more, do check with your client what they need the photos for. That will determine your positioning and equipment for the actual shoot. This leads to the next two points.

3. Do a survey of the location before the shoot – You might want to know how the lighting will be, where to get the shots you need. Any potential issues you may face during the shoot may discovered during your initial survey of the location. If the place is someplace you are familiar with, you may want to skip this step. Doing this helps alot with pre-visualisation of your shots, equals better shot efficiency, more time saved, less complications, “easier job”. All good things.

4. Check your equipment – While they say that the quality of the photo is determined by the skill of the photographer, it never hurts to have reasonably spec’ed gear. When I started out with paid shoots about 3 years ago, I went straight for a NIkon D7000. The rough equivalent of Canon would have been a 7D Mark I.

There are certain advantages as to my initial equipment choice (briefly touched on, given the wealth of information already on the net):

–> Price – Second hand bodies were relatively easy on the wallet, yet the performance wasn’t being skimped on. No need to go full frame unless you are absolutely sure you need it. Price is an important consideration when you are shooting for a living.

–> High ISO performance – Corporate events are usually held indoors, seldom will people in blazer with tie stand under the hot blazing sun to network. Indoor locations are usually bright enough to see in, but not bright enough for you to use ISO 400 or less with a shutter speed of say 1/200 at f/4 (apologies for the slew of photog jargon). You still need the high ISO photos to look more like photos on your client’s screen than a smudge of colors that vaguely resemble people conversing with one another.

–> Ergonomics – This is subjective, but I would say that an enthusiast grade camera would offer more external controls for the user. Being able to change settings on the fly definitely helps with  increasing your keeper rate.

Olympus OMD EM5
Would you prefer more external controls?
A typical consumer compact camera layout
Or small, simple usage?

If you need to get some fast lenses (primes or reasonably fast zooms will do, pick your poison)

Zoom or prime?

5. Get to know your gear – Nothing would scream unprofessional/unreliable/ “not worth the fee” than seeing you fumble with the equipment that you are bringing to the shoot. The client is PAYING you to do your job, best not to let your equipment get in the way rather than complement your skills.Therefore, practice. Spend some time (30mins thereabouts works for me) skimming the camera menus, testing the functions and letting some muscle memory set in. Trust me on this.

I’ll end the first part here to retain the bite sized nature of the post. Next will be what I focus on during the actual event itself, and some guidelines which i general follow, a sort of a Event Photographer Guideline and Honor Code if you will.