Essential Photography Gear & Settings for Different Types of Events

Event photography is a whole world unto itself. Whether it’s capturing the emotional highs of a wedding or the corporate buzz of a business event, every gig brings its own unique set of challenges. It’s not just about having a fancy camera and calling it a day. It’s about having the right gear, the right mindset, and knowing how to navigate whatever challenges come your way. No doubt, having the right attitude will help you succeed as an event photographer, but for those of you just beginning your journey, let’s start with the gear!

Eight women in red shiny dresses standing four on each side of a man in a red top hat and red shiny jacket.

What Every Event Photographer Needs

As a professional event photographer, I’ve done my fair share of different types of gigs. And I’ve learned a lot along the way. Over the years, I’ve curated my kit to include the essentials and a few useful, but often-not-thought-of extras. 

If I do a wedding, I always have three cameras, two or three flash guns – on-camera flash guns. I use a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-70mm f/2.8. A lot of wedding photographers shoot primes. I mean, I have a 35mm, I have an 85mm, so sometimes I shoot prime, it all depends on what sort of wedding it is.

Pretty much take the kitchen sink. Take a reflector, extra memory cards, and lots of batteries all charged up. I always take a little needle and cotton just in case for a wedding. I’ve had a bride who split her dress, so you never know. Safety pins for the bride as well as myself. 

And then for an event, a corporate event, it would be two cameras sometimes. Also, I’d take a tripod for both events, because if they want pictures of the venues, you’re better off using a tripod, it makes life a lot easier. 

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It’s funny, not so many people worry about taking pictures of the rings, bouquet, and shoes nowadays, but the dress and hair are a must. Things have changed a little bit, they don’t want the arty shots anymore. Some do, some don’t, but the majority of them don’t.

My Cameras and Lenses

I’ve always pretty much shot Canon. I’ve got three Canon R6 Mark II’s and I’ve got the RF lenses. I think when you’ve got two cameras, have them the same because buttons are in different places on different systems and there’s nothing worse. It’s the little things you learn along the way.

Canon EOS R6 Mark II - Full Frame Mirrorless Camera (Body Only) - Still & Video - 24.2MP, CMOS, Continuous Shooting - DIGIC X Image Processing - 6K Video Oversampling - Advanced Subject Detection
Canon EOS R6 Mark II – Full Frame Mirrorless Camera (Body Only) – Still & Video – 24.2MP, CMOS, Continuous Shooting – DIGIC X Image Processing – 6K Video Oversampling – Advanced Subject Detection (Image from Amazon)

With events, I tend to take two lenses: a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 because that covers you for most situations. Occasionally I’ll have an 85mm f/1.2.

Paul’s Lenses
Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, Telephoto Zoom Lens, 3792C002
Canon RF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, Black
Canon RF 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS USM

Canon RF 85mm F1.2 L USM Lens, Black
Canon RF 85mm f/1.2 L USM

The lenses are already on the cameras so they’re ready to go; no wasting time swapping out lenses. I use a Spider Holster. You can use BLACKRAPID straps or you can use a Spider belt. The reason I like them on my hips is it doesn’t affect my back so much and I just find it leaves your hands free. 

Pro Tip: And this sounds weird, but it’s easier to go to the toilet! Because obviously if you’ve got straps all hanging over your shoulders, it’s a bit of a hassle!

The most important thing I would say is to always have business cards with you.  

Managing Challenging Lighting Conditions

Unfortunately, there are a lot of photographers out there right now that shoot on the proviso that “I can put that right in post.” I try to get it right in-camera. And that means getting the light right in the moment.

Molton Brown luxury bath & beauty gifts event photo.

Different events are going to have different lighting scenarios. You might take your own lights for some, but you might work with what you have available for others. So when you walk into a venue where you’re going to be taking photographs, you sort of look around the room, you get an idea of what you’re working with and what you need to fix.

I mean, I did a headshot the other day and there was a big fluorescent light above them and they couldn’t turn it off. So I had to overpower that light as best I could by upping the ISO, upping the power of the flash. And I still had to put it right in post. It was a pain because it took me twice as long as it should have done. 

We had another photoshoot the other week for a football presentation that needed a backdrop and the only place we could put the backdrop was against the window. And then at 12 o’clock, the midday sun came through and you had three white window panes shining through the back of a light grey backdrop. So we had to hang a black sheet across the back. It’s problem-solving. 

Male singer on stage belting out a song into the microphone – in black and white.

I was asked to shoot a thing called MusicalCon in ExCel London and I got some amazing photos. The lighting, you know, this was West End Studio lighting, it was amazing. I mean anyone worth their salt couldn’t have taken a bad photo. I was shooting at f/2.8, ISO 600, 800 and they were pin-sharp. All right, I’ve got decent cameras, I’ve got decent lenses, but anyone who knew what they were doing could have taken a great shot. The photos came out incredible.

When to Use a Second Shooter

While you can shoot a lot of events on your own, sometimes you may need to call on a second shooter. For instance, weddings, big events, say if you are doing a presentation evening, like an awards ceremony. 

Man on stage presenting at Ilford Business Awards ceremony.

If you’re photographing a big stage where they’re getting awards, ideally, you would want someone capturing the people having their awards given to them on stage and maybe someone behind you shooting them walking up the aisle. You cannot shoot both yourself – you can’t photograph them walking and then turn around to photograph them on stage; the settings are completely different. 

So having another photographer with you sort of eliminates the risk, really. Some people ask for second shooters, but it’s mainly weddings, big events. If it’s a corporate gig, and there are 1000 people there wandering around, you wouldn’t be able to cover that alone. 

But, of course, having a second shooter means paying them for their time and work. Which brings us to the topic of getting paid. Luckily, I’ve written an article on what you should be charging as an event photographer

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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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