Debriefing my first event shoot

As a long time Toastmaster, I was honored to be asked to be the official photographer at a district convention. Totally unpaid, of course, but it sounded like fun and would be a great learning experience. And boy, did I learn.

The good-What I did right:

I brought two cameras, a charging cord for one, an extra battery for the other, extra memory cards and my lap top. That gave me some flexibility, with my DSLR on a tripod and my P&S to carry around the crowd. I was able to dump my images onto the laptop every evening and empty my memory cards for the next day.

I shot in RAW. That came in real handy because the light was VERY low and RAW is so much easier to clean up in post.

I shot big pictures and lots of them. That gives me the opportunity to pick and chose, as well as being able to downsize a bit as needed to "sharpen" the appearance of the pictures and reduce the appearance of noise.

I knew what the "must shoot" pictures were because I have attended these conferences several times. So I got all the expected shots.

I sought, and got, advice from a long time professional photographer at the event. You know, the type that has a lot of paid work and doesn't need the learning experience. I am going to be like him someday! His advice-use shutter priority and set the shutter speed to 1/500.

The bad-what I wish I had done differently:

I was not prepared for the terrible quality of the light. I knew it would be dim, but I didn't realize quite how dim it would be! I had a good tripod, so I didn't get camera blur. But I was taking pictures of people. And people move :-) Some of them move way too fast to capture sharp pictures at the shutter speeds I was using. The tip about using shutter speed control was a good one-but trying to shoot at that speed resulted in astronomical ISOs and lots of noise.

I like taking candid shots and I got a lot of good ones, but I wish I would have communicated more with the conference chair so that I could be set up in the right place for the best light and taken more formally arranged photos, which give people a chance to look their best.

I seriously underestimated the time it would take to do the post processing. Yikes!

And now for the really ugly:

My response when I was asked was something along the lines of "I'd love to, but I'm not sure I am good enough." AHEM, not good enough to work for free!! What was I thinking?

If you get a chance like this, I definitely recommend you give it try. The most important thing is to be prepared before you go. What is the venue like? Will you be getting a lot of group shots? Large groups or small groups? What are the most important images to capture? What equipment do you need? Think these things through and give it your best-you will have a great chance to meet people and I promise you will learn a lot!

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Photo credits: Cjh Photography Llc, Jjspring.

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Thank you both. Great advice! I am real comfortable with AP mode, but I am so used to leaving the flash down that I didn't even think of putting it up until quite a way into the event. I should have popped on here for some tips first :-) I also like the idea of asking for a small amount of pay and will try that out next time.


In the situation you are describing I always set my camera to Aperture Priority and turn the flash ON in low light situations. This ensures you're going to get good shots because your camera is going to set the shutter speed for crisp shots. And you have to keep in mind that this is an event shoot that doesn't require stock quality sharpness. The images you'll get in Aperture Priority mode will work fine for print and online purposes. I've shot a number of events like this... sailing tournament, golfing tournament (including interior group shots at the captains meeting and event coordinator meetings), and the people that received my photos from these events were thrilled with the results. And the post processing was a snap when the exposure is good. People from these events aren't going to open the image in Photoshop at 100% and review it like the DT reviewers do. Do some test shoots with settings as I've described to get comfortable with it and the next event shoot should go really great for you :-)


Too bad you didn't ask for "some" money, like $ 20. If they're not willing to pay $ 20. it means that they consider your talents worthless and it's not worth wasting your time. For practice, just go to an art exhibit opening, shoot with no pressure and at the end give them your card and tell them you'll share your photographs for $ 50. Problem is, there are probably 5 other people like you doing in also for nothing. Paid gigs nowadays are as rare as hen's teeth when everyone has a camera and considers himself a photographer. Live and learn!
Nice shots in your portfolio by the way! You should get paid!


Thank you for your answer. Good luck!


Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you had a great experience. :)


Thank you, I am glad some find it helpful.


thanks, just the kind of helpful info i need !!!!


Thanks for sharing your experience! Very helpful advice!


Very Useful!Thanks for story!


I used flash a bit and it helped some. I did not bring my diffuser because I never planned to use the flash. I wished for my external flash with a simple diffuser. Good luck to you! Let me know how it goes.


Thank you for sharing. I will have a one day similar event in the next 2 weeks. Your experience will help me be more prepared. Did you use flash a lot? Diffuser ? Tx


You got it exactly right! It was fun and alarming. I love Toastmasters for being a safe place to stretch your limits. One weekend taught me more than I can believe. I am a real hands on learner.


Great insight to a fun but a little alarming event for you. Sounds like you learned some important lessons and the rest of us get to benefit from your experiences. Thanks for the insider's view.

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