Creative: 11 tips for taking good smartphone photos at events

Cameras on smartphones are excellent these days. Taking good photos requires more than just a good camera (though it does help). Here are a few tips for getting some brilliant shots even when you don’t have a professional photographer.

Tip #1: Lose any self consciousness

If you’re like me, you feel a bit weird blatantly wandering around a conference room and getting into people’s faces to take photos. Lose this as fast as possible. People are used to photographers at events and won’t judge you, they’re probably more concerned with making sure their double chin doesn’t show! The easiest way to lose your self-consciousness is to get up and take photos, you can start with some shots from the back of the room to warm up.

Photos at Events - Full room
Photo from the back of the room by my PrimeTime colleague Stephanie Naudo

Tip #2: It’s all about framing the shot

There are three parts to a photo: foreground, middle ground, and background. Make sure you have something in the foreground and one of the others. This will give the photos a more professional feel. You can use a plant, a wine glass, food, a microphone, a person, a flower vase. Take a look around and see what’s available.The below are all my shots with my iPhone for events.

Tip #3: Look for weird angles

Play with the mirrors in the room, climb on a chair, get low to the ground. You might find a really cool shot or you might not – the point is that you don’t know if you don’t try.

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Tip #4: Use the focus feature

If you have objects or people in the foreground and background zones, then take photos with the focus on the foreground and the background blurred and vice versa. One will work slightly better than the other. You do this on a smartphone by touching the screen where the object you want to focus on is placed.

Tip #5: Make sure the light works

This is tricky one in an event space for these reasons:

  1. There’s usually horrible electric light that makes all your photos look dull and yellow
  2. The projector is usually light-based, so to get logos showing on the screen in the shot, you’ll end up having to sacrifice light on the audience as the contrast plays up
  3. The light is usually all-encompassing, because it’s from the ceiling, so you won’t get shadows that provide depth.

What can you do about this? Try to find some shots near a window. Take photos that are adjusted to the projector light and the same shot adjusted to the background light, one might work.

See how the projector light messes up the light in the photos below?

Tip #6: Use time to create a sense of story

You can take pictures of the event with an empty room, people arriving at the registration desk, people collecting food, people sitting down to pay attention and packing up activities. This will help provide an immersive experience for those viewing the picture. Here is an event I ran at Fab Cafe SG at the ArtScience Museum, see how the timeline gives you a sense of having been involved?

Tip #7: Capture speakers in action

From a marketing perspective, shots of speakers in action is very useful content for social media photo albums in particular. You get reflected glory for being able to pull in quality speakers. You can also share the good shots with the speakers to reinforce your (often new) relationship.

Tip #8: Capture various company brand materials

Again, from a marketing perspective you need the reflected glory of other company logos in the materials on your event photo albums. If the projector lighting is giving you trouble, try finding branding documents, conversation cards, pens, business cards etc and use them as foreground objects.

Photos at Events - Logos
From Lean In at PrimeTime with Uma Thana (June 2018)

Tip #9: Show behind the scenes activities

People love to know how the magic happens, so show them. It adds to the story and people will get to see parts of the world they wouldn’t normally see. Ever wondered what’s behind the scenes at the ArtScience Museum? Well now you know, it looks like a warehouse. An art warehouse.

Tip #10: Have fun!

You’ll get the best shots if you’re having a good time. It will also keep your energy up if you’re working late at night. Here I am having fun at Fab Cafe SG at the ArtScience Museum, tidying up after an event.

Tip #11: For event selfies, hold the camera higher than your head

This will make your double chin disappear. No need to go overboard so the phone is pointing at your crown, but that’s the right angle. Try getting the audience in the shot behind you too for a more relaxed demonstration of the event success, you can stand on a chair if you need to. If you are a woman with long hair, you may want to try the selfie with your hair down so that it frames your face and jaw.

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