14 Tips For Shooting Your Next Chaotic Event

In my filmmaking career, I’ve had the opportunity to film some pretty unique events. While shooting I often come across other event shooters and realize that we’re a unique breed. Essentially, we're people willing to sacrifice food, rest and comfort to tell an amazing story.  Even though we accept the stresses that comes with event shooting, there are a number of ways we can plan ahead and minimize headaches.

I proudly support a local not-for-profit called “Power To Be”. One video I shoot for them each year is a highlight video for “Power To Play” - a 1000 acre race across Stanley Park in Vancouver. This event is without a doubt the craziest video I shoot each year.

The Challenge:

-       Rougly 20 teams spread out across 1000 acres

-       Physically demanding event

-       I’m the only videographer

-       Short Event (Less than 4 hours)


(Before I get to the official tips, let me just give an un-offical tip: Don’t strap a Go-Pro on your head and film a behind-the-scenes during a crazy event.)


You can watch the behind the scenes video at the top of this page. Here are the 14 tips I share in the video:

  1. Pack light: Content is more important than fancy shots. Don’t pack too much gear.
  2. Hydrate: If you’re like me, you get into a “zone” and forget about eating or drinking. Avoid getting a headache by drinking some water before the event.
  3. Envision and prep for your first shot: I always arrive to the event early to scope out the location and plan my first shot. Pre-choosing your focal length will help save time and get better shots.
  4. Plan out your bag (Formatted cards and full batteries): Make sure you designate compartments in your bag. It hurts to miss a shot while changing batteries or cards.
  5. Prep your backup camera with a telephoto lens: It might not be as pretty as a prime lens, but you'll get the shot.
  6. Gather interviews for context: You might miss a few other b-roll shots, but the interview footage is much more valuable.
  7. Trust your peripheral vision: Always shoot with both eyes open and don’t be afraid to abandon a shot if something exciting is happening in your peripheral vision. It’s often the right decision.
  8. Don’t use lens caps: Lens caps slow you down and often get lost during a chaotic event. Keep them at home.
  9. Grab an Instagram photo: I’m serious. Snatch something for social media before the day gets crazy.
  10. Work well with other shooters: Always a touchy subject. Try to chat with other shooters ahead of time in order to avoid conflict. When conflict inevitably arises, breathe and save your complaints for your videographer/photographer friends.
  11. Plan your transportation ahead: Don’t be that guy that gets stuck running between locations with all your gear.
  12. Choose your picture profile carefully: Superflat picture profiles like Canon’s Cinestyle are often a great choice for unpredictable events.
  13. Force yourself to change lenses: Variety is the spice of life and leads to less sucky edits.
  14. Grab a beer: Reflect on what went well and what you’ll improve on next time.


Hopefully a couple of these tips are new to you and will help minimize headaches at your next event. As a fellow event shooter, I’d love to hear any tips or stories you may be able to offer. Feel free to leave a tip in the comments below or on my Twitter.

Final Power To Play Video:





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1. timetable and ground layout: get it and study them. Each event has one.
2. Chat with the organisers. They have detiled intel. Think birthdays, weddings or honorations. Bonus shots!
3. Focus and choose. You can't be everywhere all the time.
4. Don't forget yourself. Schedule time to eat & drink.
5. Lay low on booze. Trust me on that one for multiple reasons ;)
6. Enjoy yourself!

Great job. The video looks good, and it seems like a fun event!

So awful. "Telephoto" and "prime" are not mutually exclusive. I think anyone who's shot more than one event has already internalized these "tips" - they're called "common sense." Except for the lens cap bit. That's just the arrogance of youth wrapped in stupidity masquerading as knowledge. But it makes a great Halloween costume, so congrats on that!

FStoppers continues it's slide down the turd trail towards irrelevance.

Trolling works so much better when you don't try so hard. Remember that this is a site for people (regardless of skill or experience) to learn from professionals.

Yes some of it was pretty obvious, your tips, but your video was good, and I like to see more of your work dave, ignore the meanies that troll on people. Another internet hardman has surfaced, pity you recieved its vitriol.

Okay, so you and I and others may know most (if not all or more) of these things, but not everyone does. Not everyone here is an experienced photographer, or has done a hectic event or three.

These tips are helpful to some, so if it's not relevant to you, move on and read something else.

Great job Dave.

*14 Tips For Shooting Your Next Chaotic Event

Tip 14 is essential lol. But I fully recommend a camel pack for water! I use to shoot football games and they are a life saver, keeps you from having to set your camera down.

"14 Tips For Your Shooting Your Next Chaotic Event"
What would you think seeing this sort of error in the FIRST LINE of the cover letter of the CV (resume) of an applicant for an assistant job with you?

Thanks for catching the typo. I'd probably care much more about their coffee making skills ;)

A helpful and concise post for new comers. I could have really done with an all inclusive jump start guide to event videography like this back when I started out. Thanks Dave
Cheap shots from Shvantz. Comments like his are making Fstoppers less appealing by the day.

One I was advised for video that is relevant here: 'anticipate and lead the subject, rather than react and follow'.

If someone is leaving a house, focus on the door, as you know that's where they are going (plus, that's the ideal 'leaving a room' shot).
If someone is on an army assault course climbing frame, focus on the top before they get there and them at the bottom, because that's where the 'emotion of success' shots will occur.

Often, by anticipating a subject movement as a story (start, middle, end) and moving to those areas a second before the subject gets there, you get a connected sequence that tells the story, rather than lots of 'unconnected snaps'.
('story' in this context can mean actions lasting split seconds - para-jumping from a plane is a good example: anticipation, fear, action: all will occur within 5 seconds right before the jump!)

If you are reacting, you may lose split seconds by following the subject
By leading the subject, you are ready before the subject is, and are better able to show story structure from even chaotic events.

I think most professionals actually do this intuitively through experience, but for beginners (like myself) it is a good tip to keep in the back of your mind.

Sham, makes perfect sense. This tip on its own has helped pull everything together for me. Thanks for sharing.

Great video i shared it with my photo group they're mostly hobbyists with a few branching into video and something like this will really help them lose that "panic" during events.

Coming from a hot climate (Texas) it always makes me laugh when tips always tell you to hydrate. Here it's pretty much Hydrate or die of heat exhaustion or stroke. It just comes intuitively. Then again...i can see plenty of obvious tips i'd need for shooting in cold climates.