I love event photography. I have been taking pictures at events for over 30 years, having trained as a yearbook photographer back in the 1970s, having hundreds of my pictures published while I was still in high school.
That early training helped me be aware of the best places to stand for certain events. A big part of being a good event photographer is looking like one. Stay out of the way, but at the same time work your way up to the best vantage point. Take the shot, smile, nod your head as a sign of thanks, and get out of the way.
But you don’t want to get too involved in what’s going on or the people will stop concentrating on the event and start interacting with you instead of doing whatever they were doing. You’ll never get the decisive shot then. It's OK if they look at you, but it's even better if their eyes are concentrating on the task at hand.
I have recently become something like the official photographer of our church and the children’s school, having had several of my photos printed in their publications. It is a win-win situation even though I don’t get paid, because I’m at the school events anyway and like taking pictures.
The main disadvantage of being an event photographer is that your artistic eye strains everything through the photojournalistic filter, meaning the desire to photograph the most important people, capture that decisive moment and record the highlights and mood of the event.
Of course, I always strive to integrate artistic elements into my pictures – framing, composition, depth of field, perspective, color, etc. – but usually you have to filter out such thoughts in order to simply get these one-time shots. Sometimes you're lucky and the elements work for you.
It always helps to be able to anticipate the lighting situation and approximate composition of the pictures. That's the advantage of having lots of experience. Closely observing how the kids move and interact before they start performing can help you get a better shot.
At one point the principal of the school, Elke Schuster, made me aware of the face-painting going on in one of the classrooms.
That was indeed a great opportunity for pictures. It seems everyone wanted either butterflies, soccer symbols or national emblems.
Then I went around from room to room and discovered all the different events planned and put on by the teachers as part of this circus-themed school fest.
The background can often tell a large part of the story that would otherwise not be obvious to the viewer of the photograph.
Of course the buffet full of cakes and other goodies is the highlight of such a party, so both sides of the table were busy all day.
As part of the faculty planning committee, I know how much work went into the organization of the fest. In typical German fashion (democratic and thorough), everything was discussed – from the price of tickets to what we would do with any sausages that might be left over. Everything seemed to turn out just fine.