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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!


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.


What is Queen’s Tricolour Spirit? [updated]

In this photo essay, I try to unpack Queen’s legendary school spirit through my photographs.

I ask: What is the “Tricolour Spirit”?

As a three-time alumnus and current doctoral student, I hold enormous pride for my alma mater.  Queen’s University, located in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, is renowned for its school spirit and traditions. In only a few days, over 3000+ new undergraduates will arrive on this beautiful campus, effectively joining the family of students, grad students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Residence and faculty orientation week soon follow. It not only serves as an induction but also a capstone experience that catapults school spirit into feverish state.

[Update: This post has been viewed over 1200+ times in under 21 hours in 11+ countries. It’s been tweeted 31 times and Facebook shared 58 times. It’s also been picked up by the official Queen’s University social media channels and various campus groups! Thanks for all the love. Keep sharing and keep tweeting. Cha Gheill, Chi]

Class of 2016, Are You Ready?

Is Tricolour Spirit about being decked out in fans gear…

girl cheering…or is it showing off your school pride in every possible way?

Is Tricolour Spirit about being painted in tricolour along with your floormates?

Is Tricolour Spirit about ingenuity in climbing the grease pole…

…or hugging the adorable school mascot, Boo Hoo the Bear?

Is Tricolour Spirit fighting as a golden Queen’s Gael?

… or cheering on the Queen’s Gaels?

… or welcoming froshies in disguise?

Is it being purple?

Is Tricolour Spirit about singing Oil Thigh in a stadium full of 3000+ fellow Gaels…

… or moshing in frosh week…

… or celebrating the end of exams by wearing and slamming your Queen’s jacket proud?

Is Tricolour Spirit about returning to campus, sharing in the glory of winning the Vanier Cup, as a Principal and as a Mayor?

… or, finally, leading frosh week cheers?



The fact is, the Tricolour Spirit is all that…
and more.




Tricolour Spirit is about belonging.

Tricolour Spirit is about being a part of something big.

Tricolour Spirit is about building lifelong friendships.

Tricolour Spirit is about daring to think
and see different(ly).

Tricolour Spirit is sometimes about singing Happy Birthday!

… and getting your hands dirty and having fun.

Tricolour Spirit is about coming home.

Tricolour Spirit is about a thirst for knowledge
the intellectual pursuit that goes with it.

Tricolour Spirit is about dressing up in neon because you feel like it.

Tricolour Spirit is about building memories.

Tricolour Spirit is about perseverance.

Finally, Tricolour Spirit is about being yourself.




Welcome to Queen’s University!



The challenge I have for the incoming Class of 2016: How will you be willing to be shaped by Queen’s? And, how will you shape Queen’s for those who come after you?

PS: If you like what you see, show me some love by sharing it on Facebook, tweeting it to your friends (#TricolourSpirit), and leaving a comment below. I would love to hear your reactions and feedback. Thanks!

PPS: If you know a Queen’s alumni, please consider sending this to him/her! 

All photographs are copyrighted (c) Chi Yan Lam, 2008 – 2012.