Everything to know when hiring an event photographer

Hiring an event photographer? There are a few things to know beforehand and questions to ask to help make your decision.

There’s a LOT of planning and a little bit of magic that goes into creating an amazing event. Spaces used for a completely different purpose hours before transform into the scene of delight and wonder. I’ve seen a bank in NYC close at 5 pm, and by 7, performers hanging upside down from aerial ropes doing acrobats in the center atrium. I’ve witnessed the Modern Wing of the Chicago Art Institute close its halls to patrons just hours before tables filled the space with elaborate centerpieces.  

If you’re the event planner or one of the many vendors involved, capturing this transformation is next to impossible while you’re making it happen. Having a hired event photographer takes the pressure off you and ensures you’ll have high-quality photos to share with prospective clients, corporate board members, or blog readers, what went into that event and how it felt for those there.

I’ve thought through some of the more common questions people might have about event photography and provided some thoughts below from my experience with them over the years. 

Hopefully, this is helpful, whether you’re a fellow event photographer or someone looking to hire one.  

From a corporate event to the opening of a store or the launch of a new product, showcase the work you put in and what your guests experienced through professional event photos. 

Why hire a professional event photographer?

I’ve had over 10 years photographing events in Chicago and New York City. Over that time, I’ve learned that having high-quality photos is key to connecting with future clients.  While the latest cell phone models are pretty sophisticated, they’re still limited.  A professional photographer will use special equipment like a tripod, shutter release, and long exposure to accurately capture the thoughtful design of transformed event space. 

There are also speaker photos to consider, which often call for a longer lens to zoom in close. Guests may be in darker settings and need a flash to illuminate them against the background. The right camera settings bring all these elements together to show the ambiance AND capture the feel of the event. 

What should you expect from an event photographer? 

When I’m hired for an event, I always like to show up a little early to survey the setting. This helps me for a number of reasons.  I want to know where key moments on the timeline will take place so I’m in position beforehand. It helps me know where the best route might be if moving through a large crowd to maximize coverage. For example, a recent event I photographed at the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago spanned three floors and multiple rooms. The speaker for the evening was on the first floor, the dj was on the second, and guests were invited to check out artwork on both the second and third floor. I needed to cover a large space and provide all the variety my client’s were looking to showcase. Arriving early gave me the chance to familiarize myself beforehand so I was well prepared. 

Your event photographer will, ideally, be professional with guests, polite when asking for a picture, pleasant, while blending into the background. They will be there to capture all the key elements in the evening, including decor setup, guests arriving, speaking images, staged groupings, and of course, candid pictures too. 

How will I use these pictures? 

Well, you know what they say, a picture worth a thousand words. If you’re trying to share what your company does professionally, having high quality photos go a long way. You’re prospective clients will see what your team looks like, the magic (or work) behind transforming a space in a short period of time, decor and entertainment options, guests experience, as well as any special guests that may have attended. 

These photos will provide you with wonderful material to use for your marketing purposes, including social media and website portfolio pictures. 

What are some creative ways to photograph my event? 

When many people think of event photography, they picture flash on camera photos of guests and maybe a few speaker pictures.  There’s potential for so much more though!  I love to find different vantage points that showcase the beautiful settings I’ve been hired to photograph–whether a super-wide-angle low to the floor or up high at a balcony looking down. I also love using long shutter speeds to show movement and create a sense of feeling to the image. Flashes set up on light stands off-camera can also elevate your guest pictures from the average to extraordinary, while time-lapse sequences show how a space is completely transformed in a matter of hours. Additionally, some events also hire photo booth vendors for instant keepsakes to offer guests.

How much does an event photographer cost?  Services range depending on the size and time range of your event. Some call for more than one photographer.  Experience is also a factor when it comes to your photographer’s rate.  My own starts at $250/hour. 

What is event photography? Event photography can include the setup process, the aesthetic details, imagery of those involved, candid and formal party pictures of attendees, images of speakers or performers, and photos of the overall space. Often they are used to show how an event came together, for marketing material for future events, and as keepsakes for guests.

How much does event photography cost? Typically event photography is quoted at an hourly rate and can range from $500-3,000 depending on the time and type of coverage required. 

Types of Event Photography: Event photographers are hired by different professionals for various reasons. A vendor involved in the event may only want to set up photos, while the company sponsoring the event might want images of the guests, speakers, and photos that showcase the flow of the event. There are also times when an event photographer might just be hired to photograph attendees for media outlets and other times when a venue may want photos that highlight the overall space and transformation that occurred. 

Event Photography Services: Services in this area are closely connected with the type of event photography you might need.  For example, if you’re the sponsor of the event, in addition to the photos of guests, you’ll likely want the photographer to host the images on an online gallery with a shareable link for your attendees to view and order their own prints.  You might also want the event photographer to have an assistant with them to take note of people’s names and other relevant information for media use after.  During the interview process, talking through your needs will help to determine the exact services you hire the photographer to provide. 

Modern Wing at the Art Institute 

Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

The Peninsula Chicago

Union Station Chicago

Ravenswood Event Center

Ignite Glass Studios

City Hall 


Lincoln Park Zoo – Cafe Bauer

What are the best small event venues in Chicago?

Creativo Loft

The Ivy Room at Tree Studios

The Lytle House

Greenhouse Loft

City View Loft

Morgan’s on Fulton