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6 Photography Tips to Make the Most of Your Fundraising Event

Event Photography Blog Intro

All too often, the planning and execution of a fundraising event becomes so overwhelming that photography and videography fall by the wayside. It’s easy to see why many organizers succumb to this pitfall - these details don’t help actualize the event. Why waste resources on photography when there are far more important matters needing attention?

However, just like the funds you raised, all those little fleeting moments are the fruits of your hard labor. After the event, they will prove an invaluable tool with which to engage your supporters on social media. Down the road, your photos will provide much-needed content for newsletters, email blasts, annual reports and blog posts. They’ll even help you promote future events as you elicit fond memories from past supporters and pique the interest of new ones. Investing a just a small amount of resources into event photography will pay dividends - don’t put it on the back burner when the going gets rough! Make the most of your event with killer photos and video by following these six tips.

1. Pick a Great Photographer

The first step is coming to terms with the fact that you simply don’t have time to run around taking pictures during the event. And while your other event organizers might have a moment to snap a few shots here and there, the absolute best solution is to pick one person whose sole responsibility will be to capture the event on camera.
Find a Great PhotographerIf you don’t have the budget to hire a professional photographer, don’t be discouraged! Take a moment to think through your supporters, volunteers, friends and family members. Chances are, one of them fancies themselves a shutterbug. 

Sniff out the amateur photographer in your midst - is it your nephew the art student or perhaps your friend the birdwatcher? Whoever it is, they’ll know how to work all those arcane camera settings and properly frame a shot. They’ll likely even have their own fancy camera and be excited to put it into action!

But remember: it’s imperative that your photographer be comfortable interacting with event attendees. Don’t choose someone who needs their hand held - meekness can easily get in the way of organizing group photos and corralling VIPs. Instead wasting time working up courage, your photographer must be outgoing enough to walk up to strangers, introduce herself and begin snapping shots.

2. Assemble a Shot List

While you’ll want your event photos to look as organic as possible, some moments are best engineered prior to the event. Creating a detailed shot list provides direction for your photographer, allowing him to easily herd the right people together for those must-have photos.

Event Photography Shot List

Your shot list should be comprised of the names, titles and headshots of event VIPs. Find these folks on Linkedin or Facebook, and screengrab their faces so that your photographer need only scan the room to identify the big dogs. Be sure to note the various combinations of VIPs that absolutely must be seen together. Is an event speaker leaving right as a key board member is set to arrive? The photographer needs to be ready to grab these folks by the sleeves, push ‘em together, and strike while the iron is hot.

Finally, try to brainstorm unique photo opportunities at the event. If there’s a ribbon-cutting ceremony, who should be standing beside the person wielding the oversized scissors? If someone’s being presented with an award, who should be seen congratulating the honoree in her moment of glory? Creating a detailed itinerary of photo opportunities ensures that nothing slips through your fingers on game day.

If you’ve raised funds using Bonfire prior to the event, all those matching T-shirts can make for a striking picture - be sure to grab a group photo of everyone wearing their coordinated attire. (Oh yeah, and send us a copy. We love to see our shirts in action!)

3. Get Candid Shots

It can feel strangely voyeuristic at first, but candid photography often yields the most unique and genuine shots. A roll comprised of folks saying “cheese” to a lens will be repetitive and boring.While posed photos are easy to take and great to have, they often fail to capture the feel of the event itself. If the lighting is good and the camera is set properly, your photographer can turn off that disruptive flash and meander around your function, capturing those elusive moments without making his subjects overly conscious of his presence.

If done well, he’ll photograph genuine, meaningful expressions - you’ll see the faces of an audience enraptured by a powerful speaker and the creases around someone’s eyes as they laugh at a joke. Later on, these sorts of images will help you tell a better story as your audience identifies with the human emotions you managed to capture on camera.

Event Photography Collage
Change Addiction Now (C.A.N.) captured the essence of their annual Steps of Change event with a combination of candid and arranged photos.

4. Shoot Great Video

In the age of smartphones, everyone has the ability to whip out their device and capture a memorable moment on video. While smartphones have made us all amateur videographers, they’ve also yielded an onslaught of poorly shot, horribly edited, unusable footage. If you decide to capture part of your event on video, be sure to do it right.

Phone Holding Example

If your videographer is using a smartphone, make absolutely sure that they know to hold their phone sideways. We’ve all seen those tall, skinny videos that are the result of holding a phone vertically. This all-too-common atrocity is committed because we naturally want to hold our phones in this position. Also, particular shots tempt us to frame them vertically, similarly to how we might snap a photograph. However, when you’re you’re rewatching the clip on a larger screen after the event, you’ll have instant regrets. Simply put, vertical video looks amateurish and unprofessional.

That said, there are many times when still images simply won’t do. Does your event include a live performance - perhaps dance or music? Will there be a spectacle of some sort like a charity dunk tank? Will a rousing speech be delivered by a particularly talented speaker? Carefully select a moment suited to video and start rolling!

Finally, take some time after the event to edit the video into something watchable. Stabilize any shaky video, add music and captions if appropriate, cut out any boring bits - in short, keep your audience interested.

5. Take Social Media by Storm

Your event has concluded successfully, and you’re now sitting on a huge pile of great photos. Mission accomplished, right? Au Contraire! Now is not the time to rest on your laurels; now is the time to engage all your event attendees, supporters and volunteers on social media. Go through your photos and pick out the cream of the crop. 

Instagram Example

The number of photos you’ll upload to Facebook or Instagram will obviously depend on how many you’ve taken, but be sure to cut out the fat as much as possible. No one wants to browse through 50 similar shots of the same folks milling around. Instead, just select the best ones.

Make sure to tag as many folks as you can. This might require a bit of research to match names with faces and to figure out who is on which social media platform. However it’s well worth it to form new connections with your supporters and to increase your social media presence. Finally, be sure to write some witty captions that provide context. This way, you’ll be sure to kindle a discussion in the comments section and keep the album at the top of everyone’s news feed.

And if you find yourself tweeting a photo of your peeps sporting Bonfire shirts, be sure to mention us @bonfirefunds - you’ll make our day!

6. Save Your Photos for Later

Down the road, you’ll find countless opportunities to use your treasure trove of images. Do yourself a favor and back up those high-resolution files somewhere safe - don’t keep them on the camera card, and for heaven’s sake, don’t regard your Facebook album as the definitive copy. Facebook will permanently lower the quality of your photos by compressing them to lower their file size.

But what opportunities might present themselves down the road? If you raised money using Bonfire, photos of folks in their fly T-shirts will prove a crucial tool to drive future sales. Nobody wants to feel left out, and when you post that group shot of everyone in their matching T-shirts, you’ll appeal to folks who didn’t purchase last time around. Be sure to add these photos to your fund profile and use them on social media when promoting your next fund. If you’re re-launching a fund, just reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to add your pics to your fund profile.

Event Photography Group Shot

Also, think of how you’re engaging your supporters through written communication. Like it or not, many people won’t take the time to read through a lengthy text-only email blast, blog post or newsletter article. Instead of letting their eyes glaze over, dazzle their senses with one of your colorful event photos. Engaged readers will be more likely to respond to your appeals for donations or calls for volunteers. If you’re a nonprofit of any size, use the photos to spice up your annual report. You’ll transform a blasé wall of text into a vibrant, dynamic story for your stakeholders.

Finally, if your event is an annual one, you’ll soon find yourself once again appealing to prospective attendees. What better way is there to entice folks to attend than indisputable, photographic evidence that it’ll be a blast? Include last year’s photos in your invitations, and watch the RSVPs roll in.


We hope these tips help you make your next event even more successful. From all of us here at Bonfire, happy shooting!