event design blog

How to Get the Best Event Photos

By Julie and Damion Hamilton

For event professionals, designers and photographers, it’s all in the details! After so many years photographing the events of some of the best in the business, we had amassed hundreds of tips that not only go into producing incredible events, but the photos of those events as well. We finally chronicled all that information in an ebook called The Detail Experience so that we may pass that information on. After all, every event is a once-in a lifetime happening and since photos are the only record of it that you’ll have, isn’t it imperative that you know how to get the best event photos? Whether you are a photographer, event planner, producer or designer, here are some of the most important tips to know.

DON’T allow heavy furniture to be placed without aligning it with the major pieces in the room, including chandeliers, lighting, walls or even art installations. It is very difficult to hide these type of “too obvious” misalignments.

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This is a common problem we see much too often—the table is completely mis-aligned with the overhead lighting fixtures. This is really hard to hide in your camera! Look around the room before placing furniture.

DO pay attention to how the design aligns with the entire room from all angles. The room below has perfect alignment, from the exposed beams to the mirrored ball to the cake and even down to the DJ’s turn table.

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The alignment in this room is perfection! DO pay attention to alignment. Design: Sasha Souza events, Venue: Meadowood Napa Valley, Lighting: Got Light

DON’T expect to see stunning pictures of your food if they are taken after dark. The lack of light means that the photographer will be forced to bring in artificial light (usually flash at events), which can never replicate beautiful, soft even daylight or capture the true beauty of the cuisine.

DO bring the photographer in early enough to capture food during daylight only if you have discussed it with catering and are able to work out a plan that suits both the photographer and the caterer.

DO find out if the chef is willing to plate an extra setup just for the photographer in advance.

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Daylight is the best option for getting beautiful food shots. Plan ahead with your chef/caterer and photographer to make this happen. Food by Chef Dominic Orsini at Silver Oak Cellars.

DO plan a specific time for wide room shots in the timeline. Clear the room for at least 5-10 minutes if possible to allow the photographer to get that shot that will tell the overview of your event’s story.

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Getting dozens of staff out of this shot took a lot of work, but gave us an incredible vantage point to this black & white party. Design: Blueprint Studios, Venue: San Francisco City Hall.

DO look for, plan for, and get access to higher “perspective opportunities” such as a balcony or rooftop prior to the event. Having keys in hand or permission in advance can save your photographer lots of time and effort searching for the right person or location.

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Climbing up these hidden stairs took special permission, but it was worth it! Design by Sasha Souza Events, Venue: Castello di Amoroso

DON’T forget to capture your event at the “blue hour.” This is a narrow window of time during twilight where the lighting will be properly balanced with the sky and produce a stunning blue sky straight out of camera. It is not usually seen with the human eye, but a good photographer will anticipate the right time for this photo.

It’s important to note that if you want this shot, DON’T schedule the photographer with another task at the same time.

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Blue hour makes a stunning backdrop for this cityscape. Lighting: Got Light, Venue: Metreon

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Blue hour highlights the beauty of the chandeliers and captures the ambiance of this party in a romantic way. Design: Barbara Llewelyn Catering & Event Planning, Rentals: Hartmann Studios, Venue: Vintage Estate

DON’T scrimp on extra event lighting if possible. It’s a powerful way to transform any room. Even adding a few colored uplights can create a huge impact. For instance, contrast these two pictures below. Taken of the same room, the top picture has no additional lighting other than what the venue has provided. The bottom picture adds multiple uplights, washes, and gobos to the same event space. Even if you removed all the furniture, the room feels dramatically different with the additional lighting.

DO use multiple colors if at all possible. It adds interest and diminishes the intensity of one particular color cast.

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The Historic Barrel Room at Vintage Estate becomes an entirely difference experience with the addition of gorgeous lighting as seen in the bottom picture! Bottom picture Design by Sasha Souza Events, Lighting: Got Light

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The same room with lighting.

DO look into getting custom projection mapping of your event for maximum impact. Projection mapping creates a unique template for your event space and can incorporate moving designs projected onto virtually any surface. For example, the projection could make your building look like it is crumbling, filling up with water, or look like a ribbon is threading through the windows.

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Impact Lighting created this powerful sensory experience using multiple colors and lighting effects. Design: Hartmann Studios, Venue: Menlo’s Circus Club

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This brilliant chandelier by Immersive is projection mapped and the color block pattern you see here was changed frequently throughout the night to different colors, patterns, and logos to keep the guests intrigued as they anticipated what would come next. They can even “wrap” entire buildings with custom designs.

DON’T forget to give your photographer a heads up on the most important details of the event. If you need specific concepts photographed, don’t be afraid to alert them to the importance of capturing that set up. As photographers, we don’t always know which details are the most important to the host or to you, so we just aim to capture all of them!

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Help your photographer out by pointing out details that are important to you or the host. Design: Blueprint Studios, Venue: Bently Reserve

Last, after your party DON’T forget to pour yourself a glass of good wine and kick up your feet. You deserve it after all the hours and days of hard work you put in!

These few tips are just a sample taken from our new ebook “The Detail Experience” where you’ll find 275+ pages full of practical tips, advice, and beautiful pictures! Available on Amazon, iTunes, & Google Play.

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Damion Hamilton is a leading photographer in Northern California who works with the industry's premier event designers. Together with his wife, Julie, Damion has published a book called The Detail Experience: Refining Detail & Décor Photography. Damion's imagery has been featured on numerous magazine covers and many local and national publications from Woman's World to Destination Weddings & Honeymoons. His impressive online portfolio consists of publication on top blogs and websites including Style Me Pretty, The Knot, and Grace Ormonde's Wedding Style Magazine among others.

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