Camera Equipment and Settings for Event Photography

Adobe Bridge: 24 photos for the local newspaper.

Last Saturday I photographed a Trunk or Treat event for the local newspaper. I took 361 photos with two DSLRs, plus 5 more with my iPhone. On my first cut I picked 63 images. After the last cut I was down to 24 images which I optimized and sent to the paper. In this article I shared the equipment and camera settings that I used.

Camera Equipment

Event photo gear. Left: camera with 24-105mm lens. Center: camera with 70-300mm lens.

I used two DSLR cameras Saturday, a Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-105mm lens, and a Canon 7D Mark II with a Canon 70-300mm DO (“diffractive optics”) lens. Thanks to the field of view crop of the 7D2, I had focal lengths from 24-105mm and 112-480mm. In the backpack I had a 17-40mm lens and a 15mm semi-fisheye lens, just in case I needed them, but I did not end up using them. If I was using just one camera I would miss important shots while changing lenses. There are some do it all zoom lenses with focal lengths in the neighborhood of18-300mm or 18-400mm, but they are not sharp enough over the whole focal length range to give me the results I want. Besides, what if your lens dies? If you are using two lenses you still have one to work with.

Thanks to the diffractive optics of the 70-300mm lens, it is more compact than most lenses in that focal length range. That is why it is my favorite telephoto lens for most events.

I was using the exact same setup to cover an event a few years ago and the 24-105mm lens died. (It can happen to any lens.) So I used the 17-40mm lens for the rest of the event. I had a focal length gap from 40-112mm but that didn’t turn out so bad. When I needed those focal lengths I used the 17-40mm lens at 40mm and cropped the images later, or backed up if possible with the 70-300mm lens.

The camera strap for one camera is usually around my neck and the camera strap for the other camera hangs off my right shoulder.

Camera Settings

Focal lengths, shutter speeds, and aperture values for the 24 photos sent to the paper.

Most of the time when I pick up a camera I have some control in terms of the lighting or the light is consistent enough that I don’t need to change the settings very often. I do a custom white balance to make sure the colors are spot on, and I shoot in manual exposure mode with the best choice of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

But fast shooting events events with people in sun and shade are different. There is no time to change camera settings between photos or you will miss important shots.

For the Trunk or Treat event Saturday, I set the white balance to daylight for the photos in the sun. That meant any photos I chose that were shot in the shade would need to be warmed up in post processing.

I used aperture priority mode and chose an aperture of f/8. That is my favorite aperture when having a lot of depth of field is not important. When I started, I chose an ISO of 800 which would give me fast enough shutter speeds in the shade and very fast shutter speeds in sunlight. As it got darker I switched to ISO 1600 and eventually ISO 3200 which is pretty noisy on my cameras.

I learned this trick from a professional sports photographer at a football game with the field half in shade. He did not like having the aperture bouncing all over the place which would make his images look inconsistent, so he shoots in aperture priority mode for a consistent look. As long as his shutter speeds were fast enough when the football players were on the shady part of the field, he didn’t care how fast the shutter speed was when they were in sunlight.

As you can see, my shutter speeds ranged from 1/25 second to 1/800 second. 1/25 and 1/40 second are pushing it for me but they still gave me some sharp, usable images publishable images of non-moving subjects. If it got any darker before the event ended, I would have jumped to ISO 6400.

As you can tell I do not have a favorite focal length when shooting events. I grab the camera with the lens that works best for a given shot, zoom in or out to frame the image like I want it to look, and click the shutter. My focal lengths for the photos I sent to the paper are pretty evenly spread from 24mm to 300mm.


Trunk or Treat: Choosing the Best Event Photos

The Field of View Crop in DSLRs

Why and When To Set A Custom White Balance

How To Set A Custom White Balance On Your Digital Camera

Setting a Custom White Balance Will Save You a Lot of Time