This February saw Composed Images provide a number of businesses with event photography and award ceremony photography in and around Cardiff and Newport. You should never stop trying to learn, improve and hone your craft – particularly when it calls on you to be flexible and think on your feet, sometimes under no small amount of pressure. There are infinite variables you have to react to, and technology is always developing to offer solutions.
Call this a simple note to self, call it some general best practice tips, call it a boring blog post. Call it what you like. Here’s my starter for 10 tips to better event photography.
Try to get into the main room where all the action will happen, well beforehand. You can get a sense of the set up and where you’ll be wanting to position people for pictures. Hopefully, alongside an organiser or presenter, you can take a few test shots. Businesses often like an image of the set-up, with tables decorated and the back drop all set. A nice row of trophies can look pleasing on the eye.
Branding is critical when photographing business events, and especially award ceremonies. Branding offers the context to smiling people in suits with a trophy, because you can’t usually read what the trophy says. Elegantly fitting the branding and the people together means you have to plan, considering heights and where people will be approaching from. Arguably easiest is a large backdrop around 7 or 8 feet tall, containing the branding. Or perhaps a large screen backdrop declaring the award winners, which you can expose for as well as the people. More challenging are those waist-high oval pop-ups.
Coloured lighting can be tough to overcome. In the midst of the awards flow, and when people are on stage posing for their photograph, will the stage light be constant or dappled with changing disco spots of neon? Random green spots glowing off shiny bald pates rarely looks that good. Find out. Speak to those guys at the back, hiding behind the desk. Perhaps ask them to hold the light consistently when they see you’re about to take your shots. Or you might err towards safety with a stronger burst of flash.
You want beautiful symmetry and flawless alignment in every shot. A set of uniform images. But this is not always achievable. Everyone stands slightly differently, people are different heights and sizes, total consistency is not always possible. Think beforehand about your arrangement of groups around the branding.
Take your time and check your shots on camera screen. This can be tricky because if you’re feel pressured by the pacey rhythm of an awards ceremony. If you have any concerns about a shot, try not to be pressured by others. You have a job to do in nailing every shot the best you can.
If you’re working in a large venue, as I was at the Celtic Manor Resort’s beautiful Caernarfon Suite recently, you have more options and more angles and more backgrounds. With the length of a good lens you should be able to discreetly work the perimeter of a room, producing a strong mixture of shots. I liked this one of England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winning manager, Sir Clive Woodward.
At certain events involving networking and mingling and people enjoying themselves, there is local publicity equity in straightforward group shots of people smiling into the camera. Lifestyle magazines such as Cardiff Life, City Life Cardiff and others give good exposure to certain events featuring people out on the town having fun.
You can take the same pictures of people networking over and over again. And if that’s your brief, you should obediently stick to it, however much you might feel like you’re a sort of distracting, moth-like nuisance to people trying to have conversations. But you might also make your contact aware you can quickly process and send a few images for use on their social media channels. If you have a laptop and a connection, it shouldn’t take much time to send a number of high quality, web sized images.
If you’re organising an event, remember that by sharing images live and encouraging attendees to use a dedicated hashtag, you can extend the reach of your event. People outside your immediate network can see what a great party you’ve arranged. While it shouldn’t take much time to compose a tweet, there’s value in assigning people specific duties beforehand so this doesn’t get overlooked at the time.
Keep the communication channels open between photographer and event organiser open throughout. Ask if they want any other types of pictures, or pictures of specific people. Communicate, and make sure they’re able to easily find you throughout.
It can be easiest to just make a discreet, quiet exit from an event. Especially if your primary contact is engaged with other guests or enjoying themselves, and it’s late and you’re feeling shattered. But always make sure they know when you’re leaving the site. Shake their hand, be professional, give them that transparency of knowing you’re leaving. It takes under 10 seconds.
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