Shooting a special event is never an easy task. The first thing you must understand is that, while you might be extremely educated on how to get the best shots and what lighting conditions are best for the shoot, you are at the mercy of the people who pay you for the job. You can make suggestions but, at the end of the day, you must find a way to work around their wishes while delivering the best quality event videography you possibly can.
The events you have the most control over as a videographer are parties. Whether it is birthday parties, anniversaries or just about any other celebratory party under the sun, there should be plenty of time to plan ahead to make sure that the event goes off on your end without a hitch. There are things that will happen that are unexpected but as long as you research the event ahead of time, you should be able to work around them.
When you are hired to shoot a party, you need to get all the pertinent information from the people who are paying you for the event. You can make suggestions based on past parties you have worked but then listen carefully to the client. Normally, they have an idea of what they want and you can help them fill in the blanks. However, the most important thing is to understand what they want and do not fail them. If their biggest wish is to see the birthday candles blown out, that needs to be something you do not mess up. They are paying you and you need to make sure they are happy with your work.
Find out where the event will take place and figure out if the lighting will be enough. Find out the best places to work with the camera so the individuals involved are not washed out by harsh light or silhouetted by background light. If the event location is too dark for quality video work, make sure you let your employers know you will need to bring lighting to get the best possible quality video. Then find a place to set them up where they are not intrusive and do not emit too much heat on the guests.
Finally, when the day comes, make sure you are an invisible guest. Sweep in and out getting the important shots needed but understand this is someone else’s special day and you need to remain in the background of the event. If the people who hire you want interviews with some of the guests, take them aside to do the talks and don’t let any of the work get in the way of the other guests who are there to have a good time.
When hired to shoot a major event, such as a prom, graduation ceremony or wedding, it is important to understand you have little in the way of preparation outside of scouting the location and learning from your experience. A graduation ceremony will oftentimes offer poor light, so you need to be prepared with the best possible camera for low light event videography. If you do not own or have access to a camera that can capture pristine low light video, do not take these jobs because you would only be cheating your clients and the poor word-of-mouth can make it impossible to find future work even if you do purchase new equipment.
For something like a prom, you need to make sure you have not only a good low light camera but also a solid piece of audio recording equipment. A prom might deliver the worst sound quality you can imagine and you need a good source of audio recording or you will have a worthless video once the event is done. This is even more important if you are recording a live concert for a musical band. In this case, you have a great option of bringing audio recording equipment that hooks directly into the band’s sound board, making the audio perfect while eliminating the ambiance from the project.
When you reach the event, make sure you understand what is going to happen and when. For graduations, get plenty of crowd coverage before the event starts and then keep track of the program to know who is going to speak and understand where they will be standing. It is also a good idea to have a second camera in operation, focused on where the students walk up while operating the main camera focused on the stage where the diplomas are handed out. For a prom, know when important events are taking place and make sure to be in position before they begin. Spend the rest of the time shooting dancing, interviews and other pick-up shots from the event.
Shooting sporting events can be very difficult for a beginner. You must know exactly where to stand with the camera to get the best angles of all areas of the field with nothing blocking the shot. Shoot in HD and close in just enough as needed to get the majority of the action in the shot. Once you are editing the footage, you can zoom in during post production work to get the best shots possible. It is also nice to use a slow zoom when a specific player starts running with the ball but, beware of turnovers, because you may miss an important play.
It is also a good idea to have two camera operators. For football games, have one operator work above in the stands shooting the master shot of the action and then have the second in the end zone or sideline, shooting from a lower angle. These produce very nice shots in editing. For other sporting events, such as drag boat racing, have someone set up at the start line and someone at the finish line, both shooting the same action and you can cut to the best possible angle while editing.
Information based on author's personal experience in the videography business.
Photos from author's personal collection.