Shooting an event can come in 2 different flavors, either you are there in an official capacity - hired or in a photojournalist role, or there as a spectator.
When working within the confines of my VisualOhio site, I tend to go to events of interest to my readers and see if there are opportunities for stories there. If I have enough advanced notice, I contact the organization running the event and see if there are any restrictions to photographing as well as inquire about possibly getting a media pass. If you can do this, by all means do. You'll have less hassle as well as potentially gain access to areas you might not have without it.
The images below were taken to cover a news event about a local school teachers strike.
If you are working as a journalist, there are other things to consider as well. Larger events might require you to have a Letter of Assignment. Briefly, this outlines the intent of the coverage, including but not limited to the staff that sill be in attendance as well as the coverage and access they are requesting. From this, you may or may not be granted access.
When I know that I will be in contact with people and possibly be doing an interview, I'll prepare some questions up front and document them. My tool of choice is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. I like it for its ability to use a stylus for hand writing and paired with n app like Evernote, you can record the interviews as well. The Note 8 is small enough that I can put it in my back pocket or in a small camera bag when I need to get down to shooting.
This is when you are going to a public event but are not part of the media. Make sure to find out if photography is allowed. Sometimes there are no restrictions on what you can bring and sometimes there are. I've been to some events where they will not allow an interchangeable lens camera, but would allow point and shoots. Other venues restrict the zoom or field of view of the camera. Bottom line, due diligence is needed unless you want to haul all your gear with you only to have to leave it in the car.
These images taken at the Arnold Classic in 2014 were taken from the crowd. I paid admission to the event, to get coverage. I did this because one of the prerequisites of getting a press pass is having covered this or a similar event in the past.
How you shoot the event depends if you are hired or a spectator. The spectator role gives you the most freedom on how you shoot the event, but it might limit the type of gear you are able to shoot with. Generally, anything outside on camera flash is probably going to be prohibited to you. If you are hired, you might be locked into the type of shots/style the client is requesting. Some clients hire you because you are a competent professional, others hire you for the previous reason and they like the style you've shown in your portfolio. If they like your portfolio, you might luck out and be able to get shoot the event the way that you want. The other benefit is that you might have authority to use a wider range of gear like remote cameras, off camera flash.
Style will also look into the image style you use. Some people like the photojournalism style, others like things a little more formal. That is definitely something you will want to discuss with a client if you are hired.
ZombieWalk Columbus is an event that has participants parade through the downtown streets of Columbus, OH dressed as the undead. This is a fundraiser, collecting money and food items for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
Sometimes, we get caught up in all the excitement of the event that we just start grabbing images. Remember, that covering an event is about telling a story. Images can tell stories of the immediate scene and they can also tell a story of the whole event as a series. It's our job as photographers to make sure that we tell the story of the events we attend.
Location and Time of Day
Depending on the event, you may not have a lot of control over the time at which you can cover it or where. The importance of this is going to determine what kind of gear you bring with you. Night or indoor events might require you to bring flash, fast glass or a camera with good hi ISO performance. This in contrast to the light available on a bright sunny day, where you can use a moderate zoom lens.
Nighttime scene at the Ohio State Fair, required gear and techniques suitable for low light photography as the time we were there dictated our coverage.
It may also effect the style in which you shoot. Midday sun might give you too much contrast and fill flash is desired, where as you might be able to shoot sunrise or sunset and get that great golden hour light, with beautiful side lit portraits. Indoors, depending on the event could have their own theatrical lighting which you might be able to use to your benefit. It will help to be well versed in the art of combining ambient and flash in some cases. You might not want to lose that cool ambient feel, but your main subject might need an exposure lift with a flash unit. For quick and dirty solution to this, you can have a small flash unit and something like a Lumiquest SBIII or SBLtp.
Ribbon cutting ceremony opening a new wing at the Mott's Military Museum.
Consider the crowd level as well. Some events will have a limited number of attendees, while others may have unlimited or vast amounts of people. The physical location will also need to be taken into consideration. There may be a lot of room to move about or it might be tight quarters. This will affect your choice of focal lengths/field of view.
A local Christmas event showcased young musicians and had treats and crafts for the kids.
Here we are looking to get as much information about the event as possible. Start and end times, entertainment or event schedule. This will help you determine what you want to cover. You want to make sure that the time between events gives you enough leeway to get from one to the other, if you need to leave from one early to get to the beginning of another. Having a schedule really helps and planning out as much in advance as possible will make coverage that much easier.
If it is a smaller event, it might be a good idea to get a point of contact as well. Just in case things change. In larger events, they may have a media area.
You will also want to find out the "big players" at the event. For example, at a wedding reception, you know that the bride and groom are the top billing, but there might be special relatives in from out of town, or a friend that is just like family and is regarded by the client as someone that they want to have your attention.