Let me start off with saying that a good event picture doesn’t have to have a specific recipe. But I think you will find that there are elements that many have in common. It’s much easier to reproduce that cake that you like if there is a recipe to follow. Same concept here.
What I am going to do here is list the common elements I try to reproduce to get that tasty image. The list is not an absolute. In fact, every single one may be violated and you still end up with a killer shot.
Such is photography. Such is art.
BTW, my second sentence above indicates that I am not really a documentary photographer. I am more interested in making something look nice (to my personal aesthetic) than recording what is actually there. In fact, the later is the exception: very rarely do I record “what is actually there.”
- simple, clean background
- there is a primary subject and they are highlighted with light and focus (bokeh)
- a sense of movement
- skin tone on the focal point (primary subject) is (largely) neutralized. Therefore I tend to negate theatrical lighting; highlights may remain
- overall warm tone, with saturated color
- tight, intimate framing
- something to add tension (tilt, leading diagonals, etc)
- composition (I’m a rule-of-thirds kind of guy)
Let me again emphasize that this is my way of doing things, not the way. It is my aesthetic. And yes, I break my own rules. Frequently.
The point is to recognize what you like in a photograph and develop that into a set of reproducible criteria. Make the recipe. Break them when you feel the inclination, but knowing your own set of rules will help you get more images to your liking.
Happy accidents are OK too.