A Brief Guide to Event Videography/Photography

Back when I first started to film & photograph events, I searched YouTube and Google for a helpful guide to put me at ease and prepare me in the best possible way. Despite watching a few of the videos and reading some articles, I remember feeling lost and leaving it partially to trial and error in order to find the ropes. A few years later & we have filmed music events on stages in front of more than 40,000 people, weddings & more commonly, much smaller events where in some cases along the way it was much tougher to make it look like there was actually anybody attending! This is a short guide that I hope will help you to prepare for events, mainly focusing on the filming aspect but a lot of the tips also apply for photographers alike, based on things I have learnt from being on music tours, at various commercial events and weddings, having made mistakes in the past that I'd never want to make again.
Image of a video camera screen filming something.

Firstly – although this goes for all jobs in our field – I cannot stress enough how important it is to prepare and have a system of organisation that works for you, spending the time to ensure everything you may need is with you in your camera bag. For example, after every job I clean and return all of my equipment to its place on the shelf and make sure all of my batteries are on charge, with SD cards & hard drives transferred, backed up and cleared for the next job. On the other hand, although it is easy to play it safe and bring everything with you, it is important to not overpack – bring only what you need with you to a job to ensure you’re not carrying extra, heavy baggage or having to look out for more equipment than necessary.

This can be ironed out by doing some research into the venue you will be attending, perhaps doing a recci (visiting the venue in advance) and knowing the schedule of the day can be a huge foot up. For example, the venue may be dark and you need to bring a light source(s) – making sure it is safe to do so – you may need to know where the power supplies are, where any possible vantage points are and getting a grip for the scale of the building may influence what lenses you bring with you on the day. Bringing a schedule is also important so that you are clear of the task, knowing that the wedding starts at 12pm, it is clear that you will need to be at the service slightly before in order to capture the bride/groom arriving.

Following on from the importance of knowing the schedule, being in the right place at the right time is a very important part of event work, which again… stems from prep and your sense for it will improve with time. For example, when documenting a bands performance, you want to be able to tell as much of the story through visuals as possible, this may include the band walking on stage, sound checking, the finale of the show, crowd reactions that reflect the performance in the best way. Unlike a lot of other types of video work, events are time precious and require you to be in the right place in the right time, there are no do-overs or second takes, it is real life and therefore the pressure to perform is much higher. At first, it is easy to get lost in the excitement of the day, but with time the queues are all there and you know when and how to move, it can be a very exhausting job at times as you are on alert at all times. It is also important to make life a lot easier for yourself in post by not capturing the entire day, be selective and harsh over what you decide to film and you will take more care and make life easier for yourself in the edit.

If you’d like to photograph/video music events, make sure you attend them as a spectator, understanding the schedule and having the ability to read the room are all important aspects of the job. Bring a camera along, take a few pictures or gather footage from various events, try to edit them in a way that is exciting and reflects best on the event. Put together a show reel and pitch it to bands, labels, managers and venues. Although weddings are a much more difficult type of event to practice for, there are a ton of examples out there, you must understand the order of the day and apply your own style and flair which will in turn, appeal to a specific audience. If you have friends or family that are getting married and aren’t planning on getting it filmed, volunteer to do it & have a practice, you have nothing to lose and the pressure isn’t there, make mistakes and learn from them.

Being polite and watching yourself and your equipment: Occasionally, depending on the type of event, its possible to get yourself into bother when filming/photographing people at events. It can become hostile if you’re not very self aware and are sticking your camera in peoples faces without any form of interaction or consent beforehand. Try to interact with people, as an introvert myself, I know that it can be difficult to deal with large groups of people but it is a big part of the job, so try to be courteous and respectful of event attendees, at most events alcohol is involved and people can act irrationally when you are simply trying to do a job. On the same note, I tend to carry a lot of equipment, always try to find the safest spot for your gear, ask venue owners/staff if there is anywhere accessible to you where you can either lock it away or keep it away from the general public.

It is personal preference that I tend to avoid the current editing trends that circulate on the internet in order to keep videos more timeless – this is besides from the trend that has become all of our short attention spans. When it comes to event videography, it is absolutely about quality over quantity, try to keep in mind that you should tell your story in the shortest way possible. It is a difficult skill to be able to give off an emotion and a general feeling in a clip that is just a matter of seconds but you must look for queues that will help you to do this. For example, I was filming a gig at a music festival recently for a female singer songwriter, and amongst a crowd of around 200/300, a teenage girl stood at the front in complete awe, as if she was truly inspired that it could and should be her singing, playing guitar and leading a band. Actively looking out for this type of emotion is important as you otherwise might miss important clips that add the feeling you need to portray in the edit.

I hope this short guide proves useful to budding event filmmakers, as for anything in this field, practice makes perfect & always remember that the more preparation you do, the more time and ease of mind you give yourself on the day of the event, it will be game changing!

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