The Five Ps of taking great photos at your next event

Taking engaging photos and videos is more important than ever in a digital world but is your community organisation often falling short? 

With a camera in everyone’s pocket and so much of our interactions happening online in social media, having at least one great photo of your meetings, protests, actions and events is critical to your organisation communicating and growing.

With a little thought and planning anyone can be a great volunteer photographer, even you!

All you need are the 5 P's:

  1. Place

  2. Planning

  3. Power

  4. Privacy

  5. Practice

The five P's of getting a great photo for beginners

** This article is to help you take better photos & videos. If you'd like to understand how you can use your photos in the media then read this article.

You’ve just read the headline and already I can hear you groaning...

It’s hard enough getting volunteers to help out in meaningful ways and to get people to your event; and now you have to find someone who’s willing (and able) to be that person awkwardly stopping conversations, asking everyone to smile and squat/ducking in front of the stage to simultaneously take a photo and not interrupt anyone’s view.

I bet the role is often left to you, right?

The results are often blurry, dark or unusable photos of people chewing or looking grumpy.

Alternately, maybe you’ve got someone in your community team that’s really into taking photos - which is a relief but may also pose its own problems. They’ve got a suitcase full of lenses and will take dozens of photos to get the best shot regardless of who or what’s in the way.

The results can be anything from arty black and whites of buildings shot at odd angles, to highly-filtered and weirdly colourised or ultra close-ups of people’s profiles and or similarly beautiful but not always practical photos.

However, with a camera in everyone’s pocket, and with the importance of social media as a marketing channel for community groups and causes looking to connect, it’s actually become more important to get at least one great photo at any meetings, protests, actions and events you hold.

With a little thought and planning anyone can be a great volunteer photographer, even you!

So have one last groan and even an eye-roll and then read and share the ‘5 P’s to great photos and videos at your next event.

1. Place / Publish

Place means where will you use the photos? Where are you going to publish them?

Most likely your photos will used in a few different ways so it’s good to keep the place in mind when thinking about what and how to photograph. Here’s some places to get you thinking:

  1. Are the images for emailing to your group? Then you need to make sure they’re small enough to email and have the right people in them.
  2. Are they for publishing in a high-quality annual report or for the local newspaper? Then they need to be large files and they’ll need to be edited by someone who knows what they’re doing.
  3. Are they for social media sharing? Then you need to think about how the image or video will look in a square (not the traditional 4:3 proportion). Also they’ll need to be small and you may want to add catchy text or your logo so is there room on the photo or is the background plain?
  4. Will you be sending copies to VIPs? Then make sure you’ve a nice photo of them and also that your banner or other branding element is in the shot.
  5. Will you be using them in your black & white photocopied newsletter or poster? Then you’ll need to have high contrast, uncluttered and clear images as photocopying makes it hard to read and see fine details.

TOP TIP: Label photos in a folder with the event name, month and year and store all your photos electronically in the cloud so people can find them months from now.

2. Planning

Though most photos will be taken on the fly, you need to plan a few posed shots as your photos will be the main formal visual record of your event.

If you’ve already taken a few moments to consider the place then planning will be quick and easy too. 

Once you know what shots or video you want to have, let the right people (MC, speaker, organiser etc) know on the night that you’ll be needing posed photos so people will need to be organised or pre-warned.

Here’s a few suggestions for these:

  • A shot of all the organisers in a group
  • A shot of the entire group smiling and then ask people to jump or raise their arms
  • photo/s in front of any branding like banners, signs or stalls
  • photo/s in front of any food tables
  • Handshake photos or arm-linking if appropriate
  • Photos of all speakers looking good (ie no weird faces that people pull when talking or eating)
  • Photos of any individuals that are important to have
  • Photos of any entertainment
  • Photo of the room empty and of the room full
  • Smaller groups, tightly together in a diamond formation is better for social media as it’s easy to edit into a square.

TOP TIP: Just before you take a group shot, tell a silly joke that will help the group relax and smile naturally.

3. Power

We’ve all heard about a picture telling a story but it’s not just an old cliche it’s your mantra.

Your photos need to express the point / message of your group and to convey that point powerfully. So that means getting emotions that reflect the event - sad, happy, joyous, angry, concerned etc. If your event or action has an objective, like a protest, then capture that mood and any signage. Keep your key message in mind and have your photos reflect that.

As the photographer, always keep a gentle eye on the background of any photo you take so there’s nothing in the image that distracts from your message and the people. However the background and ‘colour’ of the event can also help tell the story so that people who don’t know anything about the event, especially months later, can tell what it’s about.

If there’s a script or a running sheet, make sure you get the powerful or decisive moments and this may be better as short video too.

TOP TIP: When taking photos, watch out that the light source is behind you and lighting up your subject. 

You can also experiment with angles and distance. Trying shots from below or standing on a chair. You can close up on people or catch their response to a speaker. You can play with focus as well as you get more confident.

4. Privacy

There's an easy way and a hard way to manage the privacy of taking photos at your events.

The hard way to manage privacy is to download a generic image release template or create your own and have every single person sign one every time. 

A release is a form that professional media uses to protect themselves and participants. You'll have to get every individual to sign this form to give you permission to use their image and sound for all and every digital and print purpose you can think of. 

This is often more important if the image or video is being used for commercial purposes, to make money. Examples include before and after photos of skin and bodies to promote beauty and exercise products but also people coming to conferences or attending concerts. Business use the photos for marketing like print and digital brochures and in advertising.

I'd only recommend this 'hard way' if you're a big organisation that's likely to use the images for large-scale professional projects or you're trying to make money off the free images you're taking.

However for most community situations this is overkill and you can do it the easy way.

You can put a sign at the front of your event, at the registration desk for instance, that explains that you will be taking some photos and will be using them for promoting the issue, event or organisation and if anyone doesn't want to be photographed they need to let organisers know. Also, don't take or publish photos of children without their parents express permission.

TOP TIP: take a photo of your image release sign at the table in case you're questioned about privacy later on.

It's worth keeping in mind that if you're in a public place including University campuses, shopping centres, parks and playgrounds or just the street, you can take any photos you like and publish them. This may be true for sporting venues too.

Finally, here’s just one P left when it comes to photography...

5. Practice

Like any skill, taking great photos takes practice and you’ll only do that if you have fun so don’t take any of the P’s very seriously. Focus on having fun and trying new things. Enjoy the event and your important role in it.

** This article is about taking better photos of your event, protest or action. For help with your event email us or speak to your organiser.

Showing 1 reaction

  • Irena (Bee) Bukhshtaber
    published this page in News 2018-04-30 13:36:35 +1000