Event Photography – updated LED Lighting

Event photography has always been one of my favorite disciplines. I like the speed and challenge to always be in the right place at the right time plus its sociable which is something I’ve always enjoyed. You have to interact with the guests and organizers.

Last week I had the pleasure of covering a major Central London event for over 500 guests at the Brewery near the Barbican. It’s an event I’ve covered before for at least the last 7 years as the Event organizer really likes what I do and seems to have complete trust in just letting me get on with the job.

Each year the theme is different, we’ve had Game of Thrones and Circus to name a couple but this year it was going to be different. The Theme was going to be lighting. A subject close to every event photographers heart. Event photography does become a passion becuase the times involved are often so antisocial.

The theme was covered in the pre-dinner reception with LED lit costumes for the stilt walkers and violin player to a multi colour light changing bar and LED furniture as well as a shadow dancer.

Amongst this array were the guests all in their finest and the trick was to try and get enough ambient exposure to pull in all the LED and mood lighting but balance this out with enough flash just to clean up the guests so you could see their happy smiles to camera.


event photography balanced lighting
Balancing ambient lighting with enough flash to see the guests


This is one of those occasions where the computer in the head can sometimes get better results than the computer in the camera and a range of exposures were used neither recommended by the camera or matching suggested flash guide numbers with chip speed settings.

The reception was followed by dinner in an aircraft hanger of a venue with very low light levels which would have completely beaten film cameras but that digital SLR’s can cope with their extremely fast chip speeds available.

When event photography becomes difficult is when you don’t know what is going to happen next. The most unpredictable event of the evening was sorted before the dinner started. We had a laser light show in total darkness in the room with unknown quantities of smoke billowing about. Having had a run through we were able to get a base exposure that would cover the show and still pick up some exposure on the guests.

event photography laser light show
The Laser light show

What we hadn’t had a run through on though was the pole dancer. Again with the lighting theme this had an unusual twist in that lasers were projected on her and with some computer wizardry her movement was tracked and pixilated into a beautiful projection of moving light on to the screen behind her.


Following the action I quickly got the exposure into the correct range while she was being backlit with blue light, but this quickly changed as first it moved to white and then red light. All three give very different exposure levels if you want to keep the intensity of the light but again the brain was up to the job and manual exposure settings could easily be changed to match the lighting needs to end up with some stunning imagery.


eb=vent photography pole dancing
Colour and movement, what more could you ask!

Once the dinner was completed the evening continued with both live band and DJ to entertain the guests in the now transformed reception area. This is where pressure is now off for the Event Photographer, we have several hours to catch the best of the action, the dancing, the entertainment and any performers still mixing with the guests. The Guests are more relaxed because the alcohol has been flowing and one gets a lot more to camera poses.


event photography after party

The only draw back of being in the event photography profession is the hours. I start to work at about 5pm and don’t finish until 1am for a major event like this. And when you have a client who wants pictures for Facebook and twitter as soon as possible it can turn into a 4am climb into bed!

So if anyone tells you photography is easy and event photography especially point them at this blog and let them know we earn our crust!



By Brian Russell

Copyright Sept 2015