Wikinews:Red carpet event photography
Recently, I was asked by User:Zanimum to be the Wikinews photographer at an Oscar-viewing red-carpet party in Beverly Hills, California. Since this was my first time doing this type of photography, I received some very useful tips from Zanimum who has organized such events before, and came up with some recommendations of my own. This document attempts to synthesize all of these recommendations. Some of these may not apply to events of other types or sizes, but are nonetheless probably somewhat useful. -- IlyaHaykinson (talk) 08:18, 8 March 2009 (UTC)
What's a red carpet event like? 
Basically, when well-known people show up at events, they are paraded one by one in front of waiting photographers and videographers. The photographers and videographers are allocated some space right next to the red carpet. Each VIP is given anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes to parade down the specific section where the cameras are -- on one side are the cameras, on the other is a backdrop with event or sponsor logos.
It is the job of the red carpet photographer to do three things:
- Take pictures of everyone on the red carpet
- Keep track whose pictures they are taking
- Take a good picture
All of these will be discussed below.
Getting there 
Try to get to the event early. Fifteen minutes before the event is probably too late; two hours is probably too early. When you get to the event, you may need to go to the press check-in to receive some sort of a media pass. It may help to print up (or pretend to have forgotten) some Wikinews or otherwise semi-legit looking business cards — these provide credibility. Even more so, a nice camera set up will qualify you as a photographer.
The reason you need to get there early is to find a good spot. The red carpet press section is not very big, and if there are many photographers then some get to be in the front row and others get to be behind them. It is in your extreme interest to be in the front row, right by the rope separating you from the red carpet. If you are going to be in the second row, you will have very little ability to choose your shot, influence the quality of your picture, or keep track of whose photo you have just taken. If you are not very tall, you will have an especially hard time. If you get there early, however, take up a spot somewhere in the middle of the photography section, right at the rope. Note that at some events you may not get to choose.
Once you have selected your spot, do not move from that spot under any circuimstances. Event photographers are amazingly combative; they may find stand-ins to take their place if they need to leave for a few seconds, or they may engage in some light pushing etc. Ensure that your place at the rope is uncontestable: keep a hand on the rope, and don't leave until the job is done.
When you go to the event, you will want to bring your best photographic equipment. Unless you are a professional photographer, the other event photographers will be using far better equipment than you. And they'll have a lot more practice with it, at similar events. That doesn't mean that you can't get away with taking great shots. Here's what I recommend that you bring for your camera:
- a fast SLR camera. You may want something that can take at least a couple of shots per second. If you do not own a camera body, consider renting one from a local camera shop — you don't need the best. A prosumer Canon (450D, for example) or Nikon (D80, for example) is more than enough.
- a decent zoom lens; I recommend something like an 18-70mm f/3.5 to give you the versatility of full-body shots and closeups. You will want this lens to have autofocus.
- a UV filter for your lens; you won't actually need it but it doesn't hurt the pictures and at $20 or so it helps protect your lens in this fairly feverish environment.
- at least two batteries for your camera. You may or may not need to swap, but be ready to do so.
- an external flash (Speedlight/Speedlite), and a couple of sets of batteries.
- media storage card in your camera that can store several hundred pictures per hour for a couple of hours (200-800 photos per hour may be what you'll end up taking)
- a backpack or something similar to keep this stuff
You may also want to bring a foldable and small stepladder; this will let you sit on something before the event and climb on something if you end up in the back. An alternative to this would be a box or a stepstool that raises you 20-30cm above everyone else (more if you're not very tall).
Finally, bring a digital voice recorder. Hang it on your neck on a string. You will need this to keep track of whose picture you are taking.
Dress code 
It seems like photographers dress in dark clothing; some dress in suits. You will not be out of place if you dress in dark business-casual attire. This is probably to lend a bit of credibility to you, as well, since it's actually very hot near the bright lights and you'll end up sweating.
The process 
Generally, this is what happens: someone you probably don't know starts walking onto the carpet from one side. They come in front of the first one or two photographers and stop while those photographers take their picture. Then they move a little bit, and the next group of photographers can take their picture. Then they move further and so on, until they run out of photographers in line.
Now, there's nothing preventing you from taking their picture early -- when they're just in front of the previous photographers. The issue will be that they are not looking at your camera: they're looking at theirs. Sometimes this is OK, but that means that you can't focus on their eyes and they'll be sideways to you.
The more well known the person is, the less likely they actually need great photos in entertainment rags. So they are thus less likely to want to stop and give each photographer some individual time to take the perfect picture. If they are not well known at all, however, they will give you a lot of time.
So what are your challenges?
Taking a picture of everyone 
You need to keep track of what's going on with the carpet. Are people being paraded down, and if so, are you taking their picture? Have you taken a full-body shot, and a closeup, and a few of each, and reviewed them on your camera's display to ensure that the quality is fine? If so, you can relax for a bit. Otherwise, get to shooting: Wikipedia could certainly use good photos of people, even if other entertainment sites or magazines don't care to spend a lot of time on lesser celebrities.
Keeping track of names 
There are basically a few things that can happen: a person may get shoved onto the carpet, walk the entire length, and you may not know who they were at all; or some VIP handler may walk up to the front-row photographers and tell them quickly who the person is; or the VIP handler may hold up a piece of paper with the person's name; or you may just recognize them.
The digital voice recorder helps you with knowing whose pictures you are taking. You can quickly press the record button and say who is coming up, if you know from the handler or paper or recognition. Every so many people, mention what they look like as well, or what they are wearing -- this will help you connect the name with the photo later on in case you miss a few folks. If you just do not know the name, ask the photographer next to you: perhaps they know!
The easiest would be if the VIP handler walks around with a sign or card showing the name of the VIP. In that case, use your camera to take a picture of the sign and then immediately of the person. Also don't forget to record something on your voice recorder, even if just a mumble that such-and-such had a card with their name.
Taking good pictures 
To take a good photo on the red carpet, there are two basic rules: eyes, and pose. Your goal is to have the VIP look at you while you are taking your photo (or preferrably several photos in rapid succession: their attention span is very short). To get them to look at you, try everything: yell out their name, say "/their name/, over here please" or "/name/, down at the front center please" etc. Addressing them by name — if you know it — may help them look at you. Be ready for that shot! For pose, you can be passive (looking for a good shot) or active (tell them what to do). If the VIP is carrying a purse, ask them to swing it or hold it up or to the side or whatnot. Tell them "/name/, do something with your hands", or "show me the back of your dress". More often then not, they will comply with your request.
If you think you'll have a second go at a VIP, quickly review your photos on your camera. Were they alright looking? Did you need to repeat the shot, or could you switch to a closeup?
In general, try to get a few full-body shots, and a few closeups. Try your best to get them to look at you, and focus on their eyes.