We love to wow clients with spectacular events that feature over-the-top catering, amazing entertainment, engaging speakers and creative décor. When it comes to using these events for future marketing and promotion, direct referrals and testimonials are crucial, but it’s hard to overestimate the importance of photographs when impressing new prospects. It’s through photographs that we remember events, and the quality of your images reflects the quality of your business.
Bounce the light. Light-colored walls and ceilings allow for bounce flash, which creates soft, directional light that is flattering when photographing individuals or groups. This technique generally requires purchasing a separate flash unit that swivels, rather than using the built-in flash on your camera.
Watch the windows. While we love venues with large windows and beautiful views, reflective surfaces and backlit scenes present special challenges. When possible, try to photograph from the window side of the scene, so that the exterior light illuminates your subject. Avoid the temptation to photograph people with the beautiful view in the background, as it will often leave your subject underexposed. If the view is important, make sure your flash power is correct to get a proper exposure. If you do photograph by a window, try to do it at an angle, so that a reflection of your flash (and even yourself) does not show up in the images.
Tone down the spots. We love to see tables lit with direct spotlights, showing off beautiful centerpieces and florals. But today’s digital cameras have a limited tonal range, meaning that it’s difficult to record very bright and very dim areas in the same photo—either the table will be well exposed and the room dark or your centerpieces will be overexposed. Professional photographers compensate for this by bracketing (taking various photos at different exposure settings) and combining the photos digitally or by using a technique called HDR (high dynamic range). But if it’s possible to put a dimmer on the spotlights, even temporarily, you can bring the highlighted table décor to within a range of illumination that will be attractive in photos.
Now bring on the spots. We always bring two radio-controlled strobes to place in the back of the room when we don’t know the lighting setup for speakers in advance. But when we see a professional A/V and lighting setup, it makes our day! Relying on preset professional lighting for speakers allows shooting in quiet “continuous” mode, which allows for capturing more speaker images and avoids the distraction of flashing lights.
Set a background for breakouts. While lighting and décor is often great for a speaker in a plenary session, breakout speakers are often shortchanged when it comes to nice backgrounds. Speaker photos are not so attractive with exit door hardware or green exit signs at the back of their heads. Changing the shooting angle may avoid some of this distraction, but an 8-foot section of pipe and drape makes a world of difference.
Leave a side aisle for access. Just as important as your photographs of the speaker are shots of attendees looking interested, engaged, taking notes or asking questions. A photographer walking up the center aisle to take speaker shots is distracting enough, but it’s virtually impossible to capture compelling candids of the crowd from that vantage point. So leave space for a photographer to slip up a side aisle.
Clear the room. We all love photos of the event space set up with no one around. Depending on how many vendors are involved and what kind of event you are putting on, it may be hard to “clear the deck” for that kind of photo. But particularly in a private or hotel event space, you can simply ask the event manager and/or banquet captain to give you three to five minutes alone in the space to capture photos. If you talk about it ahead of time rather than last minute, most venues are more than willing to oblige. Then, be sure to share those photos with them. They will love you for it.
Don’t forget the details. As much as we love the big-picture photos, your marketing won’t be complete without the little things: a coffee cup being filled at breakfast, hands reaching for passed hors d’oeuvres during a cocktail hour, décor, a shot over the shoulder of someone reading the day’s agenda.
Be ready for the unexpected & expected. A speaker who got a standing ovation last year may well get one this year. Be ready for that. Maybe a shot from behind the speaker with the crowd on its feet or a shot across the crowd. Whatever angle works, think ahead and be ready for it. If a speaker is entertaining, look for the angle to capture the smiles and the laughter in the audience. If a speaker is emotional, you should be capturing that emotion in the listeners.
Shoot for the brochure. Remember the purpose of your photos and plan for that. You can develop a shot list for yourself or give one to your photographer. Not necessarily an agenda-based shot list but a list based on the types of images that will be important for your marketing, brand and image (e.g., photos of attendees engaging with speakers, photos of happy delegates with the company logo in the background, etc.).
We hope that some of these tips will be helpful when photographing your next event. Good luck and happy shooting!