The Sony a6000 is a relatively new high-end camera from Sony that comes with a wide range of capabilities. It boasts a powerful feature set that makes it good for almost any niche of photography, provided you set it up properly. Today we’ll be talking about how to set up and use the a6000 properly for event photography.
When photographing events, one of the most important things to remember is that you’re likely shooting for somebody else. This means that understanding your client’s desires and expectations is more important than what you think you should be shooting. You have to find a good balance between following your inner photographer and controlling that energy to deliver on what your client orders.
With the a6000, there are a lot of different things that can affect the way you’re shooting. For event photography, this comes in handy because you will often need to shoot dozens of different types of photos and videos for a long period. You also need to be vigilant for candid photo ops that will make a huge difference in the end product.
So, without any further ado, here are some tips and tricks for how to set up and use your Sony a6000 effectively for event photography. Some of these are general recommendations for style or behavior, while others have some technical recommendations for actual settings or pieces of hardware.
Learn To Use The Mode Dial Effectively
The a6000 has a wide range of “modes” that the camera can use to automatically set up a shot depending on what you need. These can make your photography experience go from fully automated settings to fully manual if need be. It all depends on how much control you want to have over the camera.
For event photography, you will often be switching between different lighting conditions and photography types many times in one session. Sometimes you will need to get crazy landscape shots back-to-back with candid action shots that you were lucky to catch in time.
This means that finding a good balance between the automated modes and manual modes is key. Of course, this will require an almost encyclopedic knowledge of what every mode does, so playing around with it ahead of time to acquaint yourself is probably a good idea.
Invest In Good Stabilization
As an event photographer, it’s likely that you will often need to set up the perfect shot many times in one session. Having a decent tripod can make this much easier for you. Conversely, having a cheap and ineffective tripod can also make it much more difficult for you to get the shots you need.
A good tripod can be easily set up without much hassle and adjusted to any specification that you may need for the event you are shooting. Cheaping out on your tripod can end you up with something that isn’t stable enough, and you can end up with a damaged camera.
Likewise, the construction of your tripod should be versatile, as well, to get different types of shots depending on what your client wants. Some photographers even carry multiple kinds of tripods for different situations. It all depends on personal preference and client expectations.
Look At How Others Are Doing It
If you read material from other photographers online or in your community, you can see what other event photographers are doing, and how they are getting the kinds of shots they get. Observing the competition is one of the best ways to learn your craft.
This is even better if you can focus on competitors that are also using the a6000. Even if the work of somebody catches your eye, and they use a different camera than you, you can always discuss with them the different types of apertures and such that they used to get those shots.
Ask Your Clients What They Want
Remember that as an event photographer, you are shooting for your clients, not for yourself. Think about some of the different settings you will be using with your a6000, and discuss the different things your camera can do with your client.
You don’t have to get super technical with them, but the more the client knows what you can and can’t do, the more you can tailor their expectations of what you can deliver. This is also a good way to plan out how the shooting will go as the event plays out.
This can be very important for events (such as weddings) where you should generally be out of the way when you’re not needed. If the event needs to be focused on something that isn’t you shooting photos, then being integrated with the event planning itself is key.
Play With The Aperture Priority Mode
Adjusting the aperture on your a6000 allows you to play with the depth of field in your photos. This means that you get to choose what appears in focus and what appears out of focus in your photographs. Being able to control the depth of field is essential to getting those nice bokeh effects that are good for many different types of event photos.
You can set the aperture by using the control dial at the top right of the camera. There is also a control wheel on the back that lets you manipulate the aperture. The control wheel is to the right of the camera screen.
Learning how the aperture affects depth-of-field requires knowing a lot about aperture settings and the actual physics behind photography. To really get the hang of using this setting, you will probably have to do some research into apertures and how they affect photography.
Creative Style Feature
The a6000 features a wide range of special modes, and many of them have varying levels of usefulness. One of the more useful and easy-to-use ones is the Creative Style menu. This can be accessed by hitting the menu button, navigating down to the “Camera” section, and scrolling to the right until you hit “Creative Style”.
This gives you access to one of a few different modes. Standard is good for general shooting; vivid adds a lot of saturation if you want the colors to really stand out; neutral leaves the input as-is and makes a much more evenly toned and contrasted images.
In general, for event photography, you will be using standard and vivid settings. The neutral setting just looks a little bit flat and lifeless, which are not good adjectives to describe event photos. There are also black and white options if you want to do some high-contrast work.
How To Get Those Blurry Action Shots
When you’re shooting in action mode, you can capture some very nice moments that show a lot of motion, despite being a still photograph. Of course, being able to play around with the settings to get the perfect amount of blur to show motion without obscuring the subject is essential.
The key feature here is shutter speed. Shutter speed determines how long the sensor is exposed to light for the photo, and slower shutter times end up capturing motion as a king of “blur”. If these blurs are captured correctly, they can add a lot of apparent movement to the photograph.
If you want to set the shutter speed for nice blurred action shots, start at a shutter speed of 1/40th of a second or slower, and adjust until you get the result that you’re looking for. It’s a good idea to experiment with this ahead of time so that you become acclimated to how it affects your photography.
How sensitive the image sensor is to light exposure is measured in ISO. 100 is the lowest setting, while the highest is 25,600 for the Sony a6000. If you’re shooting in lower light conditions, you will want the sensor to be more sensitive, and therefore higher ISO settings will be necessary.
The problem with this is that the higher the sensitivity is, the more you will end up with a kind of grainy image after shooting. Doubling the ISO doubles the sensitivity of the sensor, but it opens you up to more of this graininess.
This can be mitigated somewhat if you’re not displaying the photos at a high resolution. However, for event photography, you will want to keep your sensitivity lower than ISO 3200 to ensure less graininess. You can also leave the ISO set to “auto” if you feel you can trust the camera to take care of it.
Adjust For Low Lighting By Lowering Your FPS
If you’re shooting video in low-light conditions, it can be difficult to get exactly the lighting that you want. This problem can be controlled a little bit by limiting the frames per second on your video shooting. If you’re shooting in 24 frames instead of 60 frames, then each frame can capture more light, making the result a little bit easier to see.
Although this is a decent way to kind of control your lighting in low-light scenarios, it is definitely a good idea to invest in some good external lighting for event photography.
Diversify Your Lighting Options
There are many different kinds of lighting that you can use for event photography. Oftentimes, the way that a scene is lit for an event can make or break the way your photos turn out. Events are generally lit with the attendees in mind, and not the photographer.
For these reasons, it is essential that you not only bring your own lighting solutions, but bring a wide range of lighting solutions so that you can be prepared to light any scene that may be required. This will often include stationary setups as well as on-board solutions and some jerry-rigging.
Having a diversified, yet efficient, set of lighting options (and knowing how to use them properly) is essential to meeting all of the different needs that the client may have. Getting caught lighting a shot with sub-optimal lighting solutions is an easy way to end up with lackluster photography.
One thing to be aware of is that having too many bulky lighting devices on you can impact the aura of the event itself. You don’t want to stand out too much, so keep this in mind when selecting a lighting loadout.
Sweep Panorama Mode
The a6000 comes with a “sweep panorama” mode that allows you to sweep the camera across a wide landscape or scene and capture a kind of panoramic composite. This is really great as you can do some really creative stuff with it, but it is also a bit finicky.
The camera will often tell you that you are sweeping too quickly or too slowly, and you can even end up with incomplete composites where black bars need to be cropped out or aberrations corrected in post-processing.
This feature can produce some very impressive panoramic shots, though, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with it. In our experience, we found that beginning from the end of the desired shot and twisting your body slowly towards where you want the shot to begin typically gives the best results.
Get Out And Play With Your Camera
One of the easiest ways to learn how to effectively photograph events with your a6000 is to get out there and actually do it. Playing around with the different settings and seeing how the different photos turn out is not only fun, it’s also probably the best way for you to actually learn what the different settings on the a6000 do.
Nobody can teach you how to shoot photos the way you feel comfortable shooting them. The more you familiarize yourself with your camera on your own free time, the more comfortable you will be using it to photograph an event. You’ll never get that professional confidence of a real photographer unless you really become intimately knowledgeable about your camera.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to fire away in the comments section!