The Art of Event Photography

Some days are strange. I spent mine supervising students at the Air Canada Centre for “We Day 2009”, and despite my misgivings about the motivation and sponsorship behind the message, I still felt the message was valid. I know that I can be cynical to the nth degree, so I chose to accept the positive in the message, to ignore the shiny white teeth of Ben Mulroney and do my best to take some yearbook photos to support the student articles that will be written.

Robert Kennedy Jr.How often do you have the opportunity to hear a Kennedy speak? For me, it was a revelation to hear the oratorial skills move across the crowd. Yes, it was the wrong crowd for the speech, but I felt like I learned why the Kennedys were great, even if I could only hear the traces of echos in this lesser giant’s voice. What I wanted to capture here was that iconic pose that all great speakers have born into them: the Thunder God raising fire from the clouds.

The Jonas BrothersIt did not matter what Kennedy said, as he followed the day’s surprise guests: The Jonas Brothers. Photogenic and bouncy, these boys played the heartthrobs for thousands of screaming girls and then were fun to take pictures of. I will admit that I had wished they were Trent Reznor or Tom Waits, but I just love taking musician photos. If I could get access to a press pass to use my better lenses and get backstage, I would be in heaven.

Hedley as Freddie MercuryHedley closed the show. Love the man’s tattoos, his frenetic attitude and am hoping that as he ages he will find a better balance between his edginess and the pop audience he has at the moment. Regardless, he was all over the place and a great entertainer. And then there were the politicians…

Lieutenant GovernorSkollPaul MartinElie Wiesel

Let’s be honest…most even photography is really about these guys. It is about the CEO/philanthropist/nobel prize winner who is chosen to speak because he can. The real trick to event photography is making THESE guys look great, because they are the ones who paid to put the whole show on and will pay for the images that make them look like swashbucklers. At a wedding, they are the dad. At an annual meeting, it is the board of governors. If you can make these guys look good, then you will go far, Sonny!

My advice for events is to learn how people react. Everyone has a pace, and there are definite money shots that people pay for. Let older men be diginified, older women glamourous; the young will act accordingly. You need a fast camera that will shoot in high ISO ranges and a long lens if you are in an audience or a fast lens if you can get closer. Today, I shot these with my Canon EOS 1D mkIII and the 300mm L Series f.4 lens. I took 400 photos in the span of 6 hours and was fairly far from the stage given the closeness of the shots. If I could do this every day and make a living, then I would. However, I did not envy the pros there shooting the scenes for The Toronto Star and The Globe, because their dinner is at stake every day in a way I am just not ready for…yet. If either of these publications called with a press pass, then I would have some thinking to do.  At the end of the day, I was given the luxury of practicing my art, to hear some wonderful speakers, and enjoy the glitterati of the show. Did it change the world? Give everything time…

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