Useful Photography Tip #26: Quick Tips on Shooting an Event While Unprepared

When shooting event photography, I like to take a moment and prepare. I usually take time to check out venue, look at past photographs etc. Most recently my bride told me that I was going to shoot an event, a kid’s birthday party. I could not say no. All I could do was go in blind. The setting was a bowling alley; the lighting was horrible. I had an idea of what I was shooting, however unprepared, and I made it through.

Go to Gear

In times of sudden events, I like to use my go to gear, my prime lenses. Usually I plan for an event. I like to pick a lens that is suited to it. If I do not have the lens needed, I can rent it. Sometimes events call for a 24-70mm f2.8 lens. If I have a client, I can work the cost of the rental into the bill. When caught off guard, I have to play it safe. When shooting full frame, I like to carry a Nikon 85mm f1.8D along with Nikon 50mm f1.8D. These two lenses allow me to get almost every type of shot. If I am shooting with a crop sensor camera like my Nikon D90 I use my Nikon 35mm f1.8G and my Nikon 50mm f18D , which is a 75mm on the crop sensor. I carry a flash with my diffuser just in case I cannot use the ambient lighting in the area or have to shoot impromptu portraits. I have my camera attached to a Blackrapid RS-7 strap, so I can take notes with either my phone or a pen and notepad. I bring everything in my Lowe Pro Event messenger bag, which is small enough, but with enough space to carry all I need.

Metering and Settings

Among all the things to think about in photography, not knowing your lighting situation can be most troublesome. No matter where you are, the dark art of metering is something you have to keep in mind. When going in unprepared you have to be able to judge the lighting of a room as quickly as possible. Come up with solutions so you can develop a flow and produce quality images. If you don’t have a good grasp on judging a room, setting your camera to auto, and taking quick shot, then looking at the detailed results on the back of your camera. If your camera handles High ISOs well, you can set it to go higher. This will help you maintain a proper shutter speed. If you do have a little noise, it is okay. You want to avoid blurry images at all cost and this will help. If you can get to the event, a little early. Look at the area you are shooting in . Pay special attention to the light sources. These spots will be some of your best resources when things are dark.


If you can meet the host, do so as soon as possible. You can quickly learn what shots they need, which guests are important. This interaction will help you build a strategy quickly and enable you to work efficiently. It will also make you look better in the eyes of all the potential clients around you. It is crucial to understand who or what the event is about.

In the End

Being caught unprepared for an event does not leave you powerless. Having go-to gear, knowing how to meter, and being able to communicate will get you far. It will also make things less stressful letting you have more fun with your photography.

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.