Capturing Candid Moments and Genuine Emotions in Event Photography

I think to be a good event photographer, you have to have a bit of a sixth sense. You need to be able to sense if someone’s going to have a laugh or something’s going to happen. Someone’s telling a joke, or there are three lads having a drinking competition at the bar – in a minute, someone’s going to do something funny. It’s about knowing what to look for, anticipating it, and just waiting. It’s all about capturing emotions in event photography. But then I think that comes with experience

Woman MC at a wedding laughing into microphone as a male guest fake proposes to her.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s easy. I work very hard. I do class myself as having a bit of a sixth sense, but I don’t have it all the time, like when it comes to staging a room, for example. You know, some people can walk into a blank room and say, “Oh, I can put the wardrobe there and the bed there” and this and that. I don’t naturally see that. What I do see is people. That’s what event photography is about – seeing people and seeing emotions in genuine moments. Here are a few of my tips to capture those special, candid moments.

Be on the Lookout for Genuine Moments

No matter what event you’re shooting, you want to have a good look at the crowd beforehand. Scan the room. You can tell if someone’s up for a good time and a party. You can tell if someone’s going to be a bit of a pain when they’ve had a drink. Some of it is luck and catching the right exact moment, but there’s skill involved too – a few tricks of the trade.

There’s one photo that I took, going back a few years, where I was second shooting for someone. Literally, I turned around, and I shot this bride and her great-grandmother. And the great-grandmother’s tiny, she’s looking up at the bride, her eyes are pin-sharp and there’s just this look of “How beautiful does my great-granddaughter look!” 

That’s my favorite photo because it’s a beautiful, beautiful photo. Not because I took it. It was just a lovely moment. Her eyes were glistening and shining and I shot around the bride, who looked beautiful. The light just hit them and I thought, let’s zoom in a little bit. Look at her eyes, how they’re glistening, how they’re smiling. That’s what I look for.

Great-grandmother with white hair in a light blue outfit at her great-granddaughter's wedding, looking deeply into the bride-to-be's eyes.

Read the Room and Build Trust

You have to build trust when you go in there. It’s about your personality that comes through. They know you’re harmless, they know you’re there to do a job. And you know the ones that are up for it – the people who want you to take photos of them, the people who would like you to take photos of them. 

If I had a pound for every time someone came up to me and said, “Oh, you feel like one of the family!” A lot of these people become friends, acquaintances. We get on well and they recommend me. I can go on Facebook now and see an event going on that’s been posted, and from seven or eight people in the comments, I see Paul Fox, Paul Fox, Event Capture, Event Capture, which is great. Even if it’s a type of photography I don’t do, like newborn photography, it’s nice that they’re thinking of me and I’m at the forefront of their mind!

You gain that trust and respect by understanding the people that you’re shooting. By being personable and by respecting them, too.

Create a Funny Moment

Sometimes, you have to work harder than others. Sometimes, you have to make a picture as well as take a picture. Your photos need to be telling a story, but that doesn’t always just happen naturally. Or sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.

Say I’m asked to go take some football photos. I could spend an hour watching the game and a parent could come up to me after and say, “Oh, you didn’t get one of my daughter or my son kicking a ball or scoring a goal.” Well, they didn’t kick a ball and they didn’t score a goal. I can’t make it happen. 

I think the problem is, people don’t realize what goes into taking a great photo. When you take a great photo, you know what you’ve done to get that photo, but people don’t always care. 

Woman with short blonde hair in a bowler hat holding a sign that says, "Mazel Tov!"

I used to be a very good pool player when I was younger. And I might take a shot, or you see a pro on the telly take a great shot, and you think, “Wow, that was a great shot, what he did to get that!” and the crowd just sits there with their hands closed. And you’re like, “That was the most amazing shot! Why are you not clapping?” It’s the same with photography. They don’t realize you’ve got on the floor in the mud, looking up, and captured this incredible shot.

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So sometimes you have to work harder than others. Sometimes people don’t do anything, so you’ve got to create a moment. For example, you get two lovely girls or two guys and get them standing back to back, doing the James Bond with a gun pose. Just get something funny. 

Shoot for the Story First

Before resorting to staging a photo, however, you should always aim to shoot for the story naturally. There are a lot of photographers out there nowadays, who, unfortunately, shoot for the album. A lot of wedding photographers do that. They don’t shoot the wedding as a story. They shoot for the album photos. 

Capturing emotions in event photography – close-up of woman in audience laughing and clapping.

While capturing emotions in event photography requires a keen eye and a quick reflex, you may see things differently in post. One shot may not have turned out the way you wanted. Or there could be another incredible shot that you just weren’t expecting at all.

When the event is over and it’s time to sit down at the computer to go through all the images, firstly, I look for photos where the lighting’s right. It needs to be sharp, and it needs to be telling a story. It’s showing something that’s happened. 

My editing process is probably slower than most. I tend to do it a little bit longer-winded, If I go and shoot an event and I’ve got five or six hundred images, I will load them all, and I’ll go through them all individually. But I know what I’m looking for, what I’m not.

I’m looking for the story. That’s what it all comes down to.

About the Author
Paul Fox

Paul Fox, with over two decades of experience, is an event photographer renowned for his captivating reportage style. Through Event Capture, he brings a unique blend of passion and personality to each photograph, crafting memorable moments that transcend mere images. Paul's ethos revolves around creating, not just capturing, timeless visual narratives that resonate with authenticity. You can see more of Paul's work on Instagram and Facebook.

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