In this article, you’ll pick up 10 great tips that you can use to help you get great photos of events even if you are not a professional photographer. This is a guest article by Morgan Cartlidge as he shares his knowledge with you about what he learned by photographing an epic event in the UK.
Earlier this month I spent a week with camera in hand, romping up and down the beautiful Cornish coast path on a colossal egg hunt.
Now, unlike your usual Easter egg hunts, these eggs were moving away from me and it was up to me to catch them at certain points along the path. The eggs were being carried by two teams of hikers, each making a 300-mile trip along the South West coast path and meeting at Land’s End to break the world record for the world’s longest egg and spoon race.
My creative agency was covering the race, and as the photographer it was my challenge to keep up with the eggs as they sped towards the UK’s most southerly point, joining them on the path at key locations to capture the race in action. I learned a lot about how to capture an event like this over the week and in this article, I’m going to share with you some of the top tips I picked up along the way.
#1 – Communication details are essential!
It may seem a little obvious, but this has to be tip #1!
Have the contact numbers and email addresses for as many of the people involved as possible. Is someone running late? Did the walkers have to make a diversion? Or maybe you can’t make it to the right spot in time.
There’s a whole host of things that can (and likely will) crop up when you’re photographing an event with a lot of moving parts. So being able to quickly get in touch with the right people is indispensable.
#2 – Have a schedule – and be prepared to abandon it
While comms (phone communications) really are key, it’s not always a possibility. As beautiful as the Cornish coast path is, the mobile signal is just as notoriously patchy. Many times I found myself wanting to check in with the walking teams but was unable to get a call or email sent.
It’s great to have a schedule to fall back on in these situations. Pre-arranged meeting points and times (including a map reference or an easily visible landmark and directions) are fantastic. It gives everyone structure for the day, as well as a fall-back option if all other communication fails.
That said, be prepared to be reactive. Live events over many days always end up a little askew and it’s very likely that you’ll have to change plans at the last minute. If that occurs, do what you can to update everyone else as well.
#3 – Trackers are indispensable
I’ve photographed quite a few expeditions and events like this, but the use of GPS trackers (thanks to SafeTag) was an absolute game-changer for this one. Again, the Cornish signal void gave me a few issues. There were a few moments standing on cliff tops frantically waving a phone in the air and trying to find a scrap of service. But on the whole, the trackers were indispensable.
Updated in real-time, I could see exactly where the two teams were at any given moment. This allowed me to head out onto the path at just the right moment to capture them passing by. While reducing my time idly sitting and waiting on the path was great in its own right, I found the most value in being able to pull up at a cafe near my next meeting point and get cracking with the edits before nipping out at the last second when the walkers got close.
As the photos were all going to PR, they had to be edited and delivered within two hours of being shot so I needed all the edit time I could get!
#4 – Laptops are lifesavers
On that note, laptops were a real lifesaver. In a studio or home environment, a desktop works great. They’re powerful and you usually get more bang for your buck. But, in a situation like this, and anything where the photos are destined for PR, a laptop is your best friend.
Whether it was in a cafe, the passenger seat of a car on the way to the next location, or even out on the coast path itself, a trusty laptop means you can get the edits done and dusted almost immediately, without having to head back home or to the studio throughout the day.
As a bonus – having a laptop on hand means you can get a backup sorted while you’re editing. Great for some extra peace of mind.
#5 – Pack light – leave the prime lenses at home
I know what you’re going to say, how can you bring a laptop and pack light?
When I say pack light, I really mean only bring what you need. It’s great to be prepared and I definitely recommend carrying small things like spare batteries and SD cards, but when you’re covering miles of ground and trekking up and down hills with your camera, you don’t want any excess weight.
Zoom lenses are your friends here, squashing a range of focal lengths into one package is ideal. So for this trip, I only packed my 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses.
#6 – Invest in a quality camera bag – your back will thank you
If you’re going to be carrying everything you’ve got on your back, you best get a comfy pack to hold all your gear.
Padded straps and an adjustable waist strap are a must. This lets you take the weight off your shoulders and put it on your hips, saving you horrendous neck and upper back pain when the day is done. I also recommend a pack with a quick access panel like the LowePro Fastpack that lets you stash your camera and take the weight off your neck without having to stop and take your pack off.
#7 – Get a camera rain cover
One of the things I would recommend you take (unless of course, you’re going somewhere you absolutely won’t need it) is a camera rain cover. Cornish weather is famously changeable. Around these parts, we say if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.
So a rain cover was a no-brainer for me. They’re lightweight, can be squashed into any corner of your bag without taking up much space, and are a lifesaver if the heavens open and you still need to get your shot.
#8 – Be clear about expectations
If you have the chance to speak with everyone involved with the event before it takes place, then do so and clarify the expectations of the creative team. You’ll want to know whether you’re there to be a fly on the wall, or if there’s any lee-way to make detours for shots you’ve lined up or any time to quickly redo segments or stop for photo points and interviews.
The people actually doing the challenge are going to be tired and aching when you catch up with them. So springing something on them that they weren’t prepared for won’t always go down well.
#9 – Google Maps is your cheat code
To find those perfect spots along the route or to eye up locations you can stand to capture people as they go by, Google Maps is your best friend. In an ideal world, you would walk the whole route beforehand and mark down exactly when and where you want to take your shots. In the real world, however, that’s just not practical.
Fortunately, with phone cameras as good as they are now, Google Maps is full of photo uploads from millions of users at scenic locations. These spots are a gold mine of possible photography locations, often made up of the most picturesque spots. If it makes everyone else stop and take a snap, you can bet it’ll look good for you too.
#10 – Always have a backup plan for mission-critical shots
On the final day, the two teams were due to arrive triumphant at Land’s End around 19:30. The first team arrived not long after that, at about 20:00. We had watched them come in on the tracker and were ready and in position to capture them coming down the final stretch.
But remember when I said something could go wrong and you’d have to adapt?
The other team’s tracker had stopped working and comms were patchy. I eventually learned that they were way off schedule, and wouldn’t be getting to Lands End until 21:30. When they did arrive, the sun had set and there was no light left to get the much-needed photo under the iconic Lands End entrance archway.
It would have been an easy fix if I had a flash in the car, but I didn’t (note to self, add flash to indispensable kit) so I had to find a way to light the scene. It’s times like this when you have to be bold and get creative. I ended up using the reversing light from a truck and the headlights from the crew car to pump enough light into the scene to get the shot!
Bonus tip: If you are cranking the ISO on a shoot – Lightroom’s new AI denoise feature is incredible. It can take a couple of tweaks to get right but it saved the image you see below from being too grainy to go to press.
So if you have any aspirations or plans to photograph a major event, I hope these 10 tips will give you a nudge in the right direction. I wish you all the success photographing your event and remember to stop and enjoy the journey along the way too!