Graduate Student Development Main

11 Insider Tips on How to be Photographed at a Social Event

If you attend any social events these days, be it a wedding, a business meeting, or a birthday party, chances are someone will be photographing the event. Learning how to be photographed as an attendee and how to be comfortable in front of a camera goes a long way both personally and professionally. You’ll help to ensure that the most flattering ‘you’ is captured, and this, in turn, will ensure that you’ll have one kick-ass image that you could use for your own blog, Facebook, or portfolio! As an event photographer, I have shot thousands of images of folks attending social events. Let me give you 11 insider tips on how to be photographed at a social event.

Professional photographers are best at making attendees feel comfortable. But they can be the most intimidating with their professional gear. Professional photographers are there to capture the best of the event: the atmosphere, the decorations, the attendees, their interactions, and the “buzz” of the event. A skilled professional photographer knows how to shoot an event without being intrusive. A skilled photographer makes his/her presence known in order to help his subjects feel at ease. The professional photographer will try to stay stealthy. While you may not know when a photographer may photograph you, do know that photographers only want to publish the best of you.

Without further ado, here are 11 tips for being photographed in a social event as an attendee.

11. When in doubt, relax and smile. Enjoy yourself.

10. When spotted by the photographer, keep doing what you’re doing, unless otherwise instructed. There’s no need to suddenly stop and smile for the camera. The photographer is often interested in candid shots of people mingling, interacting, and generally having a good time. If you know you’re being photographed doing something, it does help if you slow your action by just a tad. If you would prefer to not be photographed, simply smile and wave no.

9. Act like you’re interested in your companions, even if you’re not.

8. Tyra Banks knows how it’s done: smize. Smile and let your eyes sparkle, especially when you’re talking to someone else. Photographers want to see life and engagement in your eyes.

7. When being photographed in a group shot (you know those elementary school class photos where everybody stands in rows), don’t leave a gaping hole between you and the next person. Stand close, shoulder-to-shoulder, and stand tall. Stand on both feet. Smile.

6. If a photographer raises a lens at you, it’s because he noticed you doing something interesting or photo-worthy. The photographer will likely stay on you for a few seconds, snapping consecutive shots, hoping one might work out. So, keep on doing whatever you were doing.

5. If there’s a speaker speaking at the event, try to stand/sit close to the speaker. Don’t be the odd one lingering at the back of the room.

4. If you’re being photographed chatting in a small group (the “huddle shots”), make sure you’re looking at the speaker. You don’t want to be the odd one out looking disinterested. If you’re chatting with another person (2-person shot), try to stand shoulder-to-shoulder (and not facing each other). This opens up a space for the photographer to get in and photograph the two of you chatting.

3. Don’t track the photographer at an event. Don’t start looking for where he/she is.

2. Photographers have no interest in photographing you eating. Don’t worry. Do not stuff your face full of food if you want to be photographed. If an event serves food, carry your plate near your belly level and not at the chest level. No body wants to see a plate of sandwich.

1. Photographers love animated speakers. When you’re gesturing, keep it hands above your waistline but below your chin. Do not let your hands block your face or eyes. Do what conductors do—they work within an imaginary box that’s above the waist, below the chin, and extends left-and-right. Never crisscross your arms.

Above all, have trust in your photographers. They’re there to make you look good! Be gentle and kind to the photographer. His goal is to bring out the best of you and highlight how awesome the event was.


Photo highlights from AEA 2012 Day One

Well, here are some photo highlights from day one of AEA 2012. I was an AEA volunteer photographer for that evening. It’s always neat to go from one place to another, exploring all the nooks and crannies, while on “official business”. It’s a lot like doing ethnographic research, only with less stake and perhaps more fun! Typically, I shoot with a dSLR for event photography. Because of air travel/customs, I defaulted back on to my five-year-old point-and-shoot. Not my favourite toy in my bag of goodies, but certainly did the trick!

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Photo Round-up from Queen’s University Initiative Campaign [Sept 27, 2012]

Photos © Chi Yan Lam for Queen’s University.


Photo round-up of Faculty Orientation Day One at Queen’s University


In photography, timing is everything.

In photography, timing is everything. And one of the best way to capture that “star moment” is to predict and anticipate what is to come. In photojournalism, where few things are staged and moments are captured as they unfold, this can be especially challenging.

In my early days as a photographer, I tended to maintain an unobtrusive, stealthy stance when I photograph. (In research terms, I maintained distance from whom I study for fear of “contaminating” the reality.)  To the novice that I was, this was much easier on the soul. For reasons I won’t get into here, a subset of the population fear the camera lens, get grossly uncomfortable when they realize the presence of a photographer (even when they weren’t the subject), and respond with dirty eyes. This can be unnerving when one is only starting out.

This stance, of course, made it more difficult to capture those star moments. Sometimes, you just need to interfere in order to get the shots that you need.

As I become more comfortable with myself, I have become more assertive and directive in order to produce quality photos. I’m slowly coming to terms with entering a scene and making my presence known.

However, this changes the role of the photographer from a silent observer to a participant observer. The constructed reality represented in the photo is not going to be the same as the one without photographer intervention. Quick illustration: ever decided to photograph a famous speaker, musician, or the host at a wedding, and as soon as they notice you’re photographing them, they suddenly give you more “star moments” by smiling bigger, speak slower, or gesture grander?

So when might this photographer intervention be acceptable if photojournalism requires the photographer to accurately report on reality?

Perhaps it is not a question of to-do-it or not. What matters most, for me, is how a photographer does so ethically. The rule for me, then, is that the photographer may not request subjects to do something that wouldn’t otherwise be doing. A photographer should not suggest, incite, or otherwise provoke or promote subjects in order to the shot he needs.

But as you will see, some shots just aren’t mean to be.

I had wanted to grab a shot of these students doing a cheer. I set them up and was all ready to go. I held off their execution several times due to oncoming traffic. Finally, the road looked clear, and I gave the go-ahead. But as you will see, suddenly a truck pulled up, and gone was the star moment.

In photography, timing is everything.


Move-In Day at Queen’s University [Photos]

Photos from Move-in Day at Queen’s University.

By the way, have you seen my photo essay on What is Queen’s Tricolour?