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Event Photographers

Learn about event photographers, including required training and skills.

Event photographers can freelance or teach at local colleges. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Event photographers can freelance or teach at local colleges.

Event photographers are called upon to create photographic images that provide visual records of various activities. Their work brings publicity to those events once the photographs are published. By hiring a professional event photographer, attendees can enjoy the event without trying to take their own pictures and still have access to keepsake photography for a fee.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of photographers in all categories was 122,000 in 2006, with a projected growth of 10 percent over the next decade. The median income for salaried photographers in 2006 was $26,170, with the top 10 percent earning more than $56,000. Because many people are interested in being photographers, competition will be keen and further heightened by improvements in digital photographic technology that make it easier for anyone to take high-quality pictures.

What Event Photographers Do

Event photographers take pictures at weddings, reunions, sporting events, exhibitions, corporate events and fundraisers. They may take posed head-and-shoulder or full-body shots of brides and grooms. Event photographers may be required to take action shots of athletes in a competition or a series of photographs that tell a story.

Event photographers who work for themselves also write their own business plans and bid for jobs. They obtain permission to photograph people and locations as necessary, write contracts, set prices for their works and keep their own financial records. They also have to market their services to clients and know how to negotiate, as well as have a working knowledge of how to license and copyright their photographs. Generally, salaried news photographers make more money than freelance event photographers, who have to bear the costs of their equipment.

Event photographers affiliated with newspapers or magazines may become photography editors for those publications. Other event photographers may teach their craft at technical schools or universities.

Event Photographer Training

To succeed, event photographers need to be able to visualize their shots and capture objects in motion. They must know how to set up lighting to compensate for varying natural light conditions. They are skilled at digitally editing and reproducing photographic images, with a strong knowledge of camera lenses, filters, computers, photo-quality printers and digital imaging software. Event photographers must also have an awareness of the event they are photographing and the importance of their photographs in promoting the event's success and preserving its memory for posterity.

While it is possible for event photographers to learn these skills on their own, most learn their photography skills through college or trade school classes in photography. Some schools offer degrees in specific areas of photography, while others offer general photography or fine arts degrees. Training covers photographic equipment, processes and techniques, and with the increasing number of freelancers, many schools also offer training in business skills. Graduates are usually apprenticed to more experienced photographers to learn how to apply their camera and business skills on a practical basis. They help carry the equipment for more experienced photographers are frequently employed to find new business for the studio.

Event photographers can continue to expand their skills by joining an organization such as the nonprofit Society of Sport and Event Photographers (SEP). SEP provides its members with educational resources in the form of online articles, an electronic newsletter, a trade magazine, educational programs and an annual conference. It provides information on copyright and legal issues, sample contracts and release forms, insurance for the photographer's equipment and medical coverage. Members can also participate in a referral network and are entitled to use the SEP logo as their credential. They also receive discounts on equipment leasing and car rentals.

Hiring Event Photographers

When hiring an event photographer, it is a good idea to interview several prospective candidates to learn more about their credentials and experience photographing the type of event, and to review samples of their work. The photography should have a portfolio of past work for prospective clients to look at. The interview should cover whether the photographer works in black-and-white or color, as well as what kind of photographic keepsakes the photographer can produce. The photographer should have backup equipment for any malfunction and someone who can cover in case he or she is unable to make the event as planned.

Once hired, the photographer should receive clear instructions about what photographs are to be taken and when, and the client should have a clear understanding of the corresponding fees to avoid misunderstandings.

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