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Phlogger aka Andrew Walmsley

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6 steps to prepare for a charity shoot

In this article, you will learn about 6 steps to prepare for a charity shoot.  This is based on recent experience and planning carried out.  Hopefully, this advice will be of use to fellow photographers.  We start off by going through the Phlogger’s experience at an event and then move on to the advice section.



A situation presented itself to shoot a colour dash fun run. This was a fun family event hosted by St Barnabas Hospice (Lincoln) on the 12th May 2018.

Jon from Instinctive Photography approached me early this year to get involved. He had a great time last year and knew the experience would benefit me. So after arranging this with the family, all the camera gear was packed and prepared. There would be a group of us organised by Jon, including Pyromancer Images, Colour in the country and video by Escape Everything Studios.

The event

This was to take place around midday on at Saturday at the Lincolnshire showground.

It is a family event for people to run or walk around the course. This included a few bouncy inflatable obstacles to traverse.  There would also be paint thrown on to the runners at various points around the course.

One of the obstacles at the paint dash (May 2018)

The charity

St Barnabas is a charitable trust in the Lincolnshire area.  They care for many people who are suffering from terminal illnesses.  This is a local and well-used charity that is so relevant to many in the area (even Jon from Instinctive).  So it’s really nice people can come together for fun and help raise for a good cause.

6 steps to prepare for a charity shoot

There are several reasons to be prepared for a charity event, including:

  • Length of event
  • Location
  • Weather
  • Responsibilities
  • Gear selection
  • Shooting

Length of event

It is important to know how long the event lasts as you may need to think of childcare arrangements yourself.  You may need a lift to and from the event and packing/unpacking equipment (more on this below).

Consider your equipment longevity too including battery and memory cards.  You would need to have ample charge in your batteries and enough storage to cover the time frame.

If you are shooting for a long period of time, you may need comfortable clothing and footwear.



It is important to know that place, as you need to arrive early if you are helping or part of a photographic crew. Arriving early may mean you miss any large crowds, traffic and you wouldn’t want to miss the start!

Start of the paint dash (May 2018)


Being a volunteer or part of the crew may mean responsibilities.

It is plausible you may attend a briefing or be provided with high visibility clothing, tabard or passes.  You need to know what is expected of you as the public may need help or want advice during the event.

One of the volunteers (who covered the Phlogger)

Gear selection

Do your due diligence on the event you are attending. It is always preferable to have the appropriate equipment. You may need to have certain protection for your camera (bags, hoods and even filters). Jon from Instinctive used a proper clear bag designed to protect a camera that you put your hand through.  For those of you who are budget conscious a food bag will suffice to cover the camera.  However, if you need to look through a viewfinder or EVF, you will need to consider this.

Camera bag after the paint dash (May 2018)

If you have more than one camera, choose the appropriate one for the event. If it’s lighter and smaller it may help you, but weather-sealing is another consideration.  Perhaps your spare or older camera may suffice for the event?  For this event the Nikon d200 was chosen as its 13 year old and well used.

Phlogger in action (credit: Instinctive Photography)

You can see from the picture above the paint (cornflower) went in your hair, clothes, bag and all your camera.  Being involved in this type of event is about joining in and getting in to the thick of the action.   If you use a longer focal length you can hide away from the paint and still capture great shots.  Each position offers something different, but you cannot be afraid of protecting your equipment – be prepared.

Example of paint used (May 2018)

Choosing an appropriate lens could be vital too. Focal length could be an issue if you are in a fixed position.  If the event is over a large area you need to be able to carry the lens around (think about weight). You should also think about whether you want to swap out lenses if an environment like above.

the best digital camera for street photography
The Olympus used for filming

Is it possible for you to leave more equipment secure nearby for later?

The length of the event may dictate the number of batteries and memory cards you require too.



From this due diligence and preparation, you should be able to work out suitable settings.  Because, on arrival, you will know the weather, the subject matter and lighting conditions.

charity shoot
Typical shooting mode dial

In an event like the fun run, there will be mainly slow-moving people. This would normally mean you choosing either shutter priority or manual mode. If you are moving around and mixing your work just switch when required. There will always be reportage/candid style shots available before and after the event.

charity shoot
Finished the race! (May 2018)

There are 2 more settings to consider – single shot or continuous.  If you are experienced you can get away with single shot.  But if you want to improve your chances shoot continuous,  you will have more pictures to look over/edit.

Choosing a viewpoint and perspective to shoot from is an artistic choice you can make. When working with children, lower yourself or lay down. Consider backgrounds where you can too, you don’t want busy backgrounds if possible.

charity shoot
Example of low viewpoint shot (May 2018)


However, it should be conveyed theory and planning are great, but not everything.  On this day, we were getting cameras prepared when something bad happened.  Yes, the autofocus stopped working!!!

This posed quite a problem, as this was the first time shooting something that would be moving.  Alarm bells, panic and frustration set in, which no planning could assist with.  In fact, planning to only take 1 lens (a Nikon 28-70) seemed to be sensible to capture a variety of focal lengths.  The little Olympus mirrorless was in the bag, but that only has a reach of 28-50 and this was set up for video.

What happened and what should you do in this crisis?  Carry on regardless!


Before we finish the article there is something that has not been covered so far.  There is no way for preparing for this – it’s very simple…

“have fun”

Yes, it’s sound stupid, but with everyone around you being happy it’s simply contagious. Help the event by using the skills you have, people will appreciate you for it.  It is really nice to get involved with the other volunteers too.  In my example 2 of these ladies persuaded me to be sprayed with paint too (see below).

charity shoot
Two volunteers covered with green paint (May 2018)

Go out your way and talk to the people, you see presenters do this at the London marathon.  So be brave say hello or well done, encourage them and keep them smiling.  One family allowed me to jog beside them after a quick pose.

The example shots are all from the colour dash event, but the theory and advice are the same for other shoots.

Thank you for reading and please check out the gallery below for a few candid pictures from the paint dash.





  • charity shoot

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