Event Photography: Good Light and Time

Conference photography

When a client commissions us to take photos of their event it becomes our job to make them look good and to portray the event as being a roaring success. Photographers aren’t hired to merely document a day for their client, a good event photographer partners with the client and shares in the client’s hopes and dreams for the event as if it were their own event. As photographers we want our clients to succeed and it brings us great joy to be able to deliver a set of beautiful photos that makes the client’s brand look good and show them photos that will keep memories alive and bring happiness to them as well.

How do we get those beautiful shots though? Point and shoot? No no… Corporate photography, specifically event photography, is not simply taking photos of people interacting, getting a few group shots and making sure you’ve caught all the speakers on stage. Event photography is an art, an art that takes patience, time and the correct light. Light is at the heart of photography. You can get wrapped up in a multitude of other details, but in the end, it all comes back to light.

We prefer capturing photos using only the natural light of the environment. Those photos tend to be more dramatic, colourful and arty. Capturing those event photos is not as easy as you may think. Most venues are badly lit and sometimes a bit bland, to be honest, so we have to be creative! We walk around the room scouting for a good angle, for a spot in the room where the light hits the subjects at just the right angle, preferably with something colourful in the background. We are also careful to include branding where possible, and miss things like exit signs, fire extinguishers and other unsightly objects that venues all have to have. Once you’ve found your spot you become a bit of a hunter… You set your sight on your subject, get all the settings just right, point your camera to the subject and wait for them to smile, laugh, talk, make use of their hands while talking, listen attentively or do anything photogenic. Them having a bit to eat or pulling faces is not photogenic and nobody wants to see themselves that way, so you wait for them to appear well and take photos that flatter them. You never give somebody a photo of themselves that you would not want to see of yourself. Once you’ve photographed your subject, made sure you got good usable photos, and you move on to the next spot or next group of people.

If it is really dark and you need to use a flash that’s also fine. Just make sure that you bounce the flash off the ceiling and shoot at a slower shutter speed so the light has time to travel from your flash to the ceiling and down to the subject. If your shutter speed is too fast your subject will only be lit halfway, and you don’t really want that. In the end, you want high quality, clear photos so do what you must to achieve that.

With event photography the angle of your shot is very important. Anyone can pick up their camera, point and shoot. Yes, it is the way we actually see it, but it can appear very boring in a corporate photo. What we do is change up the angles from which we shoot. We bend down, stand on our knees or sometimes look for some height to take the photos from. When photographing people at a conference it is best to take the photos from their eye level, so typically you would be on your knees capturing photos of people sitting and listening.

As previously mentioned, you want to flatter people with the photos you take of them, never offend them or make them feel self-conscious. This is so much more important with speaker photos at a corporate event. You need to make very sure you have at least three to four really good photos of each speaker and photos from different angles. Some people are very expressive when talking and that tends to look a bit less flattering in photos, so then you have to be very patient and take lots of photos to have photos that are just right. Always be sure to take photos of the speaker with some of the audience to bring context to the viewer. It is always nice to have the big picture as well.

Photographers are light-seekers, artists and communicators. We are there to bring out the best in people and places while creating something beautiful that also communicates the message well. We take time to take decent photos that will make an event so much more memorable.

“I am forever chasing light. Light turns the ordinary into the magical.”

– Trent Parke

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