Reader Assignment: Photograph An Event

By Enna Grazier Back to


Matt and I met while we were studying photography at Maine Photo Workshops/Rockport College. While we were studying photography we had no idea that we would create a boutique photo studio that specializes in weddings. We first perceived wedding photography to be one of the least rewarding or interesting opportunities for professional photographers. However, we found that wedding photography requires diverse skills and aptitudes. We are required to become specialists in photojournalism, portraiture, food photography, editorial, landscape and fashion photography. Each of these approaches is part of every wedding we photograph, and this makes each job amazingly different from the next. We love the visual and emotional challenges that we are presented with at each and every wedding. I am often asked what makes our work special, or what I look for in a wedding (or other personal event) photographer. Here is what I think makes OUR work special: Matt and I strive to create images that 1) convey a sense of place, 2) narrate an experience (that of our clients and their guests) and 3) communicate emotions and relationships. At the root of it we are looking to create images that move the viewer (including ourselves). We feel that if we can capture each of these elements in our images, our work will have “heirloom” value to our clients, which is the fundamental purpose of any personal photography.

Visual goals while photographing a personal event:

Sense of Place
In order to convey a sense of place, it’s important to look for scale, environment, detail and shape or composition. Change lenses, use tripods and take your time with lighting. Capture interesting details, compositions, the weather and the built and natural environment in order to help the viewer feel immersed in that space.

Narrate the Experience
If you are a guest at a wedding the couple will really appreciate a few images that convey your own unique experience at the wedding. (Note: as a pro photographer, my job is a little different. I have to convey my clients’ experience—not mine—at their own event. This requires me to be quiet, observant and unobtrusive, and to follow their every action and reaction throughout the day. I look for images that show the guests participating in the event experience).

Communicate Emotions and Relationships
Once I learn the key people at a wedding (relatives, best friends from childhood, siblings of the wedding couple and parents), I watch them carefully in order to get images of emotional reactions and interactions. I actually have a mental checklist in my head that goes something like this: “Mom emoting, Dad emoting, Sister emoting, etc.” I try to get an image that is emotionally evocative in some way of each important person. This is a challenge when I don’t know all the key people. Some people just don’t emote very much, or else they are super camera- aware and shut down whenever they notice my camera. And there are times when someone just doesn’t seem to be enjoying the event.

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If someone’s super camera-aware, I’ll use a very long lens, or leave them alone for a while and revisit photographing them later in the night when they’re more relaxed. Matt and I frequently check in with each other part way through the reception with comments like “I have some great photos of the maid of honor, but the mom has been so busy I don’t have any candids of her yet,” then we make it our mission to look for these images. We watch for the couple to interact with people and wait for reactions.

Often the best candid images come just before or just after something important has happened, so we try to be ready for these moments as well. So that’s the trifecta of perfect wedding and event photography. For me an image that manages to convey all three of these qualities is the real prize. Images that convey a sense of place, evoke emotion and that contain storytelling narrative almost always end up in our portfolio. Add technical strength to the list too.

These technical/logistical tips feel like common sense but they are perhaps the most important; they are easy for anyone to overlook, even pros.

1. Allow guests to enjoy themselves…don’t be a nuisance with loud noises, constant movement, or by where you choose to locate yourself.

2. Organize your tools—pack plenty of batteries, memory cards and gear and create a system for using and storing them.

3. Educate yourself so that your exposures will be successful. No matter where you are in the spectrum of camera proficiency, there’s always room for improvement. Learn how to use the manual settings on your camera. If you’re proficient at that, then learn how to use a flash. Then study off-camera f lash.

4. Use the tools that are flattering for your subjects. If you find yourself doing portraits for a special event, take your time to check your settings and choice of lens. Remember to check your ISO (as low as possible to minimize grain/ digital artifacts), shutter speed (fast enough to prevent unwanted motion) and aperture (narrow enough to ensure that all important aspects of the image are in focus).

5. Be organized and methodical about the types of images that you must capture. We always follow a timeline that we’ve reviewed very carefully with our clients and we follow a checklist of must-have group formals.

6. If you are shooting for a close family member or friend, be aware of what parts of the event you are missing by participating as the photographer (instead of being a guest). It’s important to understand your limitations in this situation.

7. If there is a professional photographer hired to shoot the event, be respectful of the space and time that they need in order to do the work they’ve been hired to do.

photo technique and Photo Synesi ( have teamed up to offer subscribers a discount on an individual portfolio review by Enna Grazier based on the assignment Photograph An Event. Subscribers can get $9 off* a $19 Snap photo review. To get your $9 off discount, look for the special code that begins with PTPS on your mailing label. Digital subscribers will find their code on the email that announces the available issue.

Create a group of images that convey the mood, setting, and story of an entire event. It can be a birthday party, family activity or milestone, sporting event, or any other special day. Keep in mind the three key areas to get across in your photographs when completing this assignment: sense of place, narrate the experience and communicate emotions and relationships. Work unobtrusively and quickly, but with heart and soul. When reviewing and editing your work afterwards, be honest with yourself and answer the following single question: what is lacking? How did you do with creating an emotional connection? Visual and compositional diversity? Lighting or other technical skills? Storytelling? This will help the next time you photograph special moments and events.

After you make the images, visit to participate in the assignment and review process. The coupon is only applicable to this particular assignment. Select reader reviews (written and audio) may, with the photographers permission, be featured on the website so other subscribers may pick up some tips from a pro!

Please submit the JPEG files right out of the camera. Do not do any post-production on your images—in the best of all worlds, they will be around 1500 pixels (approximately) on the long dimension. They can be bigger or smaller but try not to make them bigger than 5000 pixels on the long dimension. Though you may normally shoot RAW files, for this assignment you will learn the most by shooting RAW and JPEG and submitting only the JPEG images right out of the camera for the review.

NOTE: The $9 off offer is for subscribers only. Log in to the photo technique website to participate in the discounted review process. The link to participate is on the website, under Community>Assignments. You can view previous assignment reviews on the photo technique website> Community>Portfolio Reviews.

FREE OFFER FOR ALL READERS! We also are giving away 10 FREE SNAP REVIEWS FOR THE ASSIGNMENT! To enter the raffle for a free review, send an email to:, with the heading FREE REVIEW RAFFLE-EVENT. Are you in a camera club or Meetup group? Please share this assignment and subscribe to participate. Watch for the next assignment in our November/December issue. *Assignment submissions are accepted starting September 1, 2012. The final deadline for submitting this assignment is October 31, 2012.

About the Author

Enna Grazier
Enna Grazier and her husband Matt run Grazier Photography in Boston. They offer creative wedding photography to couples who place a high priority on photography for their wedding day. Grazier Photography images have won international acclaim with several awards from the Wedding Photojournalist Association and the Wedding Photojournalist Artistic Guild. Their photographs have been published in Style Me Pretty, Brides Magazine, PDN, The Knot, Elegant Weddings, La Bella Bride, Your Wedding Day, Art New England and Boston Sunday Globe Magazine.