Gear roundup: Packing your event photography bag
As a corporate event photographer, I’ve worked with a variety of equipment over the years. My bag is limited in space, but it’s large enough to hold everything I need. Obviously you have your camera, but what else do you need to bring? While some photographers bring all their gear, I like to stay as mobile as possible.
Arguably the most important piece to your bag, lenses will define what you’ll be capable of shooting. For me, I always ask for a generic overview of the event in advance, so I know how far I’ll have to reach. Nine times out of ten, my bag includes the following:
- 24-70mm f/2.8: This is great for working the crowds. It’s fast, and great in low light atmospheres. It has enough reach to photograph people that aren’t standing right in front of you, but it can also get a wider shot where you have ready access to guests. I personally shoot with a now-discontinued Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, which is just slightly further reaching, but it’s a bit more budget-friendly than the 24-70mm options.
- 70-200mm f/2.8: There are usually two types of 70-200mm lenses — one with an aperture of f/2.8, the other with f/4. For event photography, a f/2.8 is a must. If you’re photographing a speaker in a dim room, you’re going to want that extra pop that the f/2.8 version offers. It will also enable you to better capture any hand motions that the speaker might incorporate on the stage.
- A good wide angle: Now, this is the final lens in my event bag. It’s by no means required, but it helps complete your coverage of the event. I pull this out for maybe five minutes over the span of the entire event, to take photos of the entire room or to get a shot featuring multiple people on stage. I think of it as a good “overview” lens, in order to show my client what their event was like, and how many people were present. It also can help remind them of the setup for next year’s event. The aperture on this isn’t as important to me, so if you’d rather save some money, go with the f/4 version. Or do what I did — get the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 lens, which is budget-friendly at $1199. It’s fast, great in various lighting situations and it reaches pretty wide.
What if you have to reach further than 200mm? You have two options. One, you can set your full-frame camera to use DX mode, furthering your reach. The downside to this is you’ll lose megapixels and quality. But if you can live with that, it’s a free option that works well.
Alternatively, go to your local camera shop and rent a larger lens. Earlier this year I rented the Nikon 300mm f/2.8, which was an absolute beast. Keep in mind that with bigger lenses come a high price tag, and the possible necessity of having something like a monopod with you, so you don’t break your back.
Speedlight and accessories
This goes without saying, but you need a good speedlight, preferably one with TTL functionality. The last thing you want to be doing during an event is manually adjusting your speedlight output, so for events, I just put it on TTL and go to work.
In addition to the speedlight itself, I use a diffuser to soften the output of the flash. Further more, I typically try to point it to the ceiling, as I try to spread out the light.
Don’t forget extra batteries! If you’re shooting a long event, you’ll want at least one spare set. Don’t spend your money on typical alkalines either — go for the rechargeable NiMH batteries. I use Promaster’s batteries with its charger, which charges the batteries within 20 minutes.
If you don’t have a battery grip permanently glued on your camera yet, you’re missing out. I went without one for a few years, but I knew I would need one when I started getting busier with client work.
Not only does it double the time your camera lasts, but it also provides you an extra shutter button so it’s easier to shoot vertically. Say goodbye to arthritis in your hand and hello to a battery grip!
There’s a ton of third-party options out there. I opted for the Nikon official brand for my D800, but I recommend you do research specific to your camera.
Extra memory cards
Most cameras have two ways to work with memory cards — overflow, or backup. I always choose backup. With big events, the last thing I want to do is lose my photos because of a card failure!
This can mean though, that I won’t have as much space as I would with the overflow setting. If you have a high-megapixel camera shooting RAW, you can quickly run out of storage space.
The only requirement here? Get one that has a fast read/write speed. It’s totally worth the extra money. You don’t want to be limited by your cards!
A good strap and bag
Two weeks ago, when I discussed using a sling strap for photography, I had a lot of people comment that getting a holster is a great alternative. I couldn’t agree more. Whether it’s a strap or a holster, choose something that’s comfortable for long periods of use, as well as one that doesn’t get in the way of you doing your job. More than anything else, you probably don’t want a neck strap for event photography. The last thing you want is for someone to spill their drink on your camera, because you accidentally hit them with it, or because it was sticking out too much.
Secondly, get a good bag. I’ve got a Vanguard Heralder, which can hold my three lenses, speedlight, tablet, extra batteries and strap. It’s comfortable, and I can easily lug it around from one side of the room to the next. It’s small enough where I can stuff it under a table, too.