When contracting a photographer or videographer to cover an event clients usually provide a shotlist (a list of key images the photographer or videographer needs to deliver after the event). While this practice helps organizers feel they have covered the bases and minimized the risk of not getting images they want, there are some hidden risks to be aware of.
The main issue with asking for a specific set of images….is that you might just get what you asked for. While this may not seem like a problem, if you are also expecting a broad range of images from your event that have not been specified on your shot list, the photographer or videographer you’ve hired may not think to capture them as they will be following the list you’ve provided.
The impetus for creating the shot list may simply be to serve as an aide-memoire for the planner who is thinking through where the eventual content will be used and how it will be distributed. But if that is the case, having a brief conversation with your hired visuals team about the purpose of their work will be more effective. Rather than provide a list of each speaker you want photographed, tell the team that your company gives a package of images to each speaker and sponsor of their contribution to the event which clarifies what the goal is for the shooter and aligns him or her with your company’s objectives.
Creating the list may also add another task to a usually over-burdened event manager. While it is helpful to provide your event photo/video team with a general flow of the day or an agenda from the conference, the most useful information may well be indicating what you DON’T need coverage for rather than try to spell out a long prescriptive list of what you do want. These kinds of instructions are usually easier to remember without a list and often can be given verbally at the venue, removing at least one line from the event planner’s to do list.
Finally, providing prescriptive work orders to creative people can sometimes limit the creativity you’ve hired the talent for in the first place. Again, a broad statement of purpose and alignment call or conversation with the team about what their work will be used for and why it matters can be a far more effective tool for getting the best quality images and video from a supplier than simply asking for a list of items to be checked off. It is also a more engaging way to work with your freelancers and makes them feel a part of your team which usually results in deeper commitment and motivates them to think about ways they can go the extra mile for you.
Fall is a busy time for fundraisers, though the needs of most organizations are ongoing throughout the year. As a supplier of photo and video coverage for events and conferences we are often hired by organizations to cover their balls, gala events, art auctions, golf tournaments or other events created to attract funds and attention to the cause at hand. In all instances where feasible we offer a donation in kind, allocating a portion of our fees directly back to the hiring organization.
Four ways to give back
There are many ways to give and show support for meaningful causes. At Julian Haber Photography we focus primarily on health and children’s related causes in honour of the life’s work of Dr. Leo Richard Haber who passed away suddenly earlier in 2019. Help can be given in many formats:
Make a direct donation: obviously, the simplest way to give is to reach into your pocket and give money. No amount is too small, and with very minimal requirements you also get a tax deduction for the donation which makes it even easier to give.
Raise awareness: as a photographer and video supplier, our work is often a key instrument in helping raise awareness for the cause at hand. Sharing photos, posting about the event you are attending using designated hashtags helps generate buzz and extends the reach for fundraiser organizers. Make it personal and express how and why the cause you are supporting is particularly meaningful to you to have the biggest impact.
Make a donation in kind: offer time, product or services you can manage that will help the organizers run the event or enhance a silent auction are always appreciated.
Give regularly: one-time events are often the primary tools used by organizers to raise funds, but they eat up a lot of resources, administrative time and still cost the organization money. The best way to give is to pick one or two causes (or more if you can afford it) and make a regular monthly donation. For extra karma points include a portion of your donation to cover the credit card processing fees which eat into the amount donated.
In memoria – a small ask
On February 7, 2019 my father died of a sudden heart attack while on vacation. A busy and still practicing pediatric doctor, he never slowed down and gave tirelessly of himself both to his thousands of patients and to the Catholic community he was devoted to as a deacon. He never had a chance to retire, and on September 29 he would have turned 77. In his honour I have set up a Tribute Fund to support the Montreal Children’s Hospital where he worked much of his 40+ year career guiding residents, and caring for sick children. Please consider making a contribution to help extend the reach of his life’s work and continue to help sick children heal.
September is a good month to plan for a headshot renewal session for your employees. As the weather turns ever so slightly colder and the summer season fades into Instagram memories, the return to regular routines brings a new kind of energy planners can leverage for engaging employees.
Key advantages of headshot sessions
We are often approached to conduct profile portrait sessions for staff on-site during a normal work day. The advantages are obvious:
Time savings – employees just have to wander over at their appointed time slot and check in for a quick headshot.
Cost savings – booking a session for multiple employees (anywhere from six to 100+) brings cost savings as the contract will benefit from volume discounts
Better uptake – more than just scheduling efficiency, having a session conducted onsite means more of your staff are likely to avail themselves of the opportunity
If you are going to make the effort to set up a day where your executives and rank and file workers can get a new headshot, you want to maximise the number of people who get it done on the chosen day. This confers not just the advantages listed above, but also ensures a consistent look and feel to the portraits should you be planning to use them on corporate websites, or even just as ID photos or intranet profiles for use on in-company social networks like Yammer.
FAQs on planning a portrait session
When planning out the day a few commonly asked questions are:
How much time do I need to allocate per person?
We’d also like to do a few group shots – when should we schedule these?
What size room do we need?
What kind of lighting should we use?
What should people wear (men, women)?
Should we also book a makeup artist?
What kind of backdrop should we use?
1. Time requirements
Set-up time takes between 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on room chosen for the session. The set up may entail bringing in a backdrop stand and backdrop, setting up lights and test shots to ensure everything is running smoothly. Once the studio is in place, the session is ready to begin. Very high-quality portraits can be taken in surprisingly brief encounters. In fact, in our experience, speedy portraits often capture more natural expressions as subjects don’t have time to really get worked up or nervous about having their picture taken. A good rule of thumb for planners is to book 10 people per hour. For executive and leadership teams, aim for 6 people per hour.
2. Group shots
Group and team shots should be scheduled after all the individual portraits are taken. Depending on the size of the group (company wide or a specific team) the group photo may need to be taken in a different area within the company or even outdoors or in a lobby space so plan for a buffer of at least 30-40 minutes after the headshots are done to allow for a new set-up (if needed). A good idea is to schedule all the individuals of a given team together so they are all done and ready for their group shot later that same day.
99% of the headshot sessions conducted onsite are taken in a large conference or boardroom. While it is not absolutely necessary, the additional space found in these areas is used to provide some breathing room between the subject and backdrop and the subject and light dispositions.
Lighting is the photographer’s concern not yours. Lights on stands are often used. Sometimes on camera flash is more appropriate (especially in cases where offices are too small to properly set up lights), and natural window light can also be used. Keep in mind that if you are aiming for consistently lit, more professional looking images shot on a white or grey seamless paper background, the photographer will likely want to control the lighting which means having the ability to close blinds and block out other light sources as deemed necessary.
5. What to wear
There is no hard and fast rule for wardrobe. Just as norms for what people wear at work has changed with only a few more conservative industry still requiring men to wear suit and ties to work, there are no fixed rules for how to dress for a portrait.
That being said, in our long experience, for a professionally useful headshot, men tend to look better with a collar shirt and suit jacket (with or without tie). The colour of the shirt matters with respect to the backdrop against which the photo will be taken (so white collar on white backdrop not good). As well busy patterns can be distracting or send the wrong message so unless it’s a retirement party maybe leave the Hawaiian shirt at home.
For women, in photos as in life, wardrobe choices are much broader. Keeping in mind that unless a group or full length portrait has been added to the bill this is just a headshot, so shoes, skirts and anything below the mid-riff will not appear in the photo. In a professional context, the kind of blouses and jackets worn at work on a normal day are usually good for photo days as well. Scarves, dangly or looped earrings and busy necklaces should be avoided (this is sometimes just to help with the editing after if needed on a given photo), and classic, simple, solid colours will give the image a longer term life.
6. Makeup artist
Working with a makeup artist always enhances and improves a photo session. Subjects enjoy the extra attention and the skillful touches and insights a makeup artist provides make subtle but noticeable differences in the final image. (For more on this check out an earlier post here.) That said, a makeup artist is not essential and booking one will add cost to the session. If budget and time allows (women will need at least an additional 20-30 minutes pre-shoot, and men at least 15-20 minutes), then definitely ask for one. Otherwise, don’t worry about it as you will still get very good images from your session.
A backdrop is what stands behind your subject and fills the frame around the edges. By definition it is in the background and while extremely valuable and important as an element in the image, keep in mind that the main focus of the photo will be the person being photographed. Backdrop considerations should be taken in light of the intended use of the final image. If you are posting all the images on your company website which has a branded colour or uses simply a clean white background on-screen then a seamless white paper backdrop is best. If you are more interested in showing your people in natural environments or your branding guidelines allow for more creativity and flexibility in how profile pictures can look, than you can look to use interesting walls if available (green walls, bricks, large art, etc) or opt for an in-context shot within the work environment or in front of a window with a good view.
Ultimately, there are many things to consider when setting up your company headshot session but nothing that can’t be easily sorted out in a quick call with your provider. Sessions can be planned for working hours, in-office, or at company events, town halls, board meetings or conferences. Hopefully this post helps as well. Feel free to share with your team when planning your session or reach out to us for help.
“Siblings: children of the same parents, each of whom is perfectly normal until they get together.”– Sam Levenson
Family – whether you love it, hate it or something in between there’s no getting away from it. Even those lost poor souls wandering the earth came from someone and hold in their veins the story of their predecessors. For many others of us, our families – however we choose to define them – are the people nearest to us with whom we share our DNA (usually) but more importantly, our love (as well as most other emotions at one time or another). Covering a family get together as a photographer is challenging if you’re an outsider, but even more challenging if you are a part of the story but want to capture it as if you were an outsider.
I am just back from an annual celebration of family that took place in between broad corn fields and green fields sown with soy bean. “This is cash crop country,” one of my cousins said as we drove down the road in his jeep to pick up glacial quantities of ice for the coming weekend drinking session.
Over a hundred showed up, nearly all of whom I am related to in some fashion. All came with their trailers, tents, husbands, wives, children, dogs and a wide array of bbqs and every kind of portable folding chair ever produced.
It was my first time in attendance, having missed several previous years for what I thought were good reasons (but now realized weren’t). After just two brief, sun filled days and fire lit evenings, I reconnected with many of cousins, aunts and uncles whom I hadn’t seen in many years. We were all older, most of us larger around the waist, but otherwise still the same. It feels good to be with your people whoever they are, and I felt at home, sitting on any available chair eating whatever food was offered to me, taking it all in.
The days were filled with wandering from one trailer to another, having a drink here, a bite to eat there, while the children slid down the makeshift slip n’ slide, and played a series of games all involving chasing each other around (“Manhunt”), throwing water bombs and shooting each other with water pistols.
There was a fully equipped karaoke station, and of course, a huge bonfire at night, singing, laughing, and a little bit of falling down.
Yup, that’s an actual camera
While everyone has phones and takes photos and videos constantly, I was only one of two people that I noticed using an actual camera (my trusty Fuji X100T). I always keep it around my neck so that people stop noticing it after a while, and with its silent action, and small format, it is easy to blend in and get shots without anyone really paying any attention at all. These are my favourite kinds of photos – the ones that plant you right in the middle of the action without anyone posing for a photo.
On the second night we lit lanterns for two fathers, our Uncle Johnny and my father, Rick, both of whom passed away this year. It was a tragicomic success, with the fiery lanterns nearly crashing into one of my cousins, then almost burning down a tent before finally getting lift off out over the neighbour’s corn field, their passage marked by the sounds of people shouting “Lookout!” while others harmonized “Amazing Grace”
We cried, we laughed, we drank, we fell down, we stood up, slept badly if at all, or passed out cold and slept the sleep of the dead, with everyone looking forward to their own bed’s and next year’s gathering.
A recent trend in company town halls and employee meetings is presenting in the round, where the stage is set in the middle of the conference room flanked by audience members (usually split into four sections).
In the spirit of lessening the distance between the executive team and rank-and-file employees, the format allows for a more congenial presentation style. As the main stage is centred there is a much broader face of the audience to address and the most distant row is only a few layers back. In presentations, as in any relationship, proximity is power and the closer one stands physically to the audience, the greater the impact.
When photographing this style of meeting, there are some advantages. In most cases, the presenter/s will effectively provide four opportunities for full frontal shots as they rotate around the stage, addressing each section of the audience. This gives the shooter an increased number of openings for shooting not just head on portrait style images, but also some interesting side angles and wider angle views that take in a front-facing section of the audience as well.
There is, of course, the other side of the formula that means that 3/4s of the time your speaker has his or her back turned to you, but if you are nimble and ready to move, you can simply circulate around the stage from the outer periphery and stay facing your subject as she or she moves through the presentation.
Another upside is the greater number of audience engagement shots that clients typically request. As the main purpose of these events is to elicit engagement from employees and to strengthen company culture, images showing the audience rapt with attention, smiling, laughing or otherwise reacting to what is taking place on stage are important to capture. With a presentation-in-the-round style format, there is not one, but four faces to the audience to shoot into, all reasonably well lit from the stage lighting. As well, there will likely be four aisles to move through between each section, affording additional chances for down the aisle type shots and more close ups with a deep background of faces to fill up the image.
If you’re shooting a lot of conferences or corporate meetings, it’s likely you’ll encounter this type of presentation format soon, if you haven’t already. If you’ve shot more standard presentations than you can keep track of (ahem), this format can be a nice change and can be a new stimulus to your creativity. You’ll want to have a few lenses on hand (telephoto, wide, 50mm) to take full advantage of the shooting opportunities but you’ll find that this style of presentation is easier and generally more fun to shoot than a traditional conference style format.
When I started out as a freelance photographer, that’s all I was thinking of doing, and clients didn’t expect me to offer more. I was a sole practitioner, offering a specific, in-demand service and that worked well for me and my clients.
But much as I love the art and craft of photographing people at events, or observing and documenting groups learning and networking at conferences or creating thoughtful portraits of professionals, clients today need – and expect – more.
Much – maybe everything – has changed about how companies communicate over the past fifteen years. The technology is different, the channels for publishing and sharing content are different, the ways in which content is created and shared is different, the speed and frequency at which content is expected to be produced and distributed has accelerated, and clients today need their creative suppliers to be able to respond to all of these changes, quickly.
The average product marketer, comms director, event manager or conference planner today has to feed content to a dozen different channels from social media to micro-sites, advertising, social media and emailer campaigns all while maintaining and developing a brand their target audiences can recognize and love.
The band’s back together again
Perhaps the biggest change has been the explosive growth in the collaborative economy, in which independent gig workers and freelancers come together for projects and share and grow each other’s business through a web of interrelated referrals and service offerings – and there is more work than ever thanks to the never-ending maw of the internet that creates a constant demand for images, video, graphic design, graphic notation for illustrating ideas produced in a workshop or at a conference, written content and more.
This demand for more services has been a stimulus for growth for my way of doing business, and over the years, I grew and expanded on my main offering to satisfy the needs of my clients as a way of rewarding and maintaining their loyalty.
And it’s provided me with a chance to learn new skills, and stay relevant in a competitive space where there is always a new up and comer, right behind me willing to do what I do for close to nothing.
Photography, videography, podcast production, & more
Today I am happy to be able to offer videography through curated collaborations with skilled directors and videographers I regularly work with; photobooths for events and parties through my side hustle at LePartybooth.com; design and podcast production in collaboration with Media Mercantile; as well as copywriting and content creation. (I even wrote a book about freelancing based on everything I’ve learned living it over the past fifteen years, Gigonomics: A Field Guide for Freelancers in the Gig Economy ).
By offering a wider range of services, my clients are able to find what they need for the event and conference needs, and I am able to grow and develop new client relationships.
While some event managers and communications coordinators may prefer to work with different teams of vendors, I’ve found that most find it more efficient and satisfying to have one main supplier who can handle the full range of their content creation and coverage needs. This keeps things simpler from a project management perspective, and it is more efficient, as my team and I are able to leverage our learning and understanding of a client’s brand, company, culture and industry across related projects.
Adapting to rapid technological and cultural change is a necessary skillset for freelance content creators in today’s gig economy. Luckily, it’s also a fun way to keep learning and stay on top of your field. Developing and building a professional team of talented freelancers who fill out your offering to provide clients with the full suite of services they need to help them complete their mandate is increasingly becoming the new normal for the kind of work I am doing these day. The projects are bigger and more complex with more moving parts to coordinate, but the end results are often even more satisfying than just sending out a link to an online gallery. Creative services like the ones I manage and offer are an integral part of what many clients need to deliver on to satisfy their own internal and external clients. Having the support of a curated collection of people who’ve worked together, who can be trusted to deliver quality service on time and within budget is a precious commodity and one I’m proud to be able to provide my clients.
Got a project you’re working on now you need some creative support on? Let’s connect.
Your client has booked you for a full day conference, say beginning at 7am to capture registration all the way through to 11 pm to close out the evening gala. Everything is happening in a few similarly drab conference rooms. Sometimes, just one, where you’ll be spending your entire day and most of the night, training your lens in on the same faces over and over and over again. As creative as you get with angles, bounce flash, focal lengths, at some point (usually around 2pm) you will reach the limits of your creative energy. When you catch yourself repositioning branded napkins, or shooting the conference centre decor, you know you’ve gone too far.
Because of how most events and conferences are organized, there are key moments, scheduled presentations and other agenda items happening throughout the day and night that need to be covered. But there is also a lot of in-between time where you’re effectively standing around in the room, looking for interesting shots to take because you’ve got all you need from the speaker and there’s still 45 minutes left in the keynote…
As every professional events or conference photographer knows, these hours can be long on gigs when you’ve shot everything there is to be shot and you’re still booked for several more hours onsite.
Ideally you would settle on a fixed rate for the work, then simply use the in-between time to start processing your images onsite, getting a head start on tomorrow’s burden of image edits that await you, but unfortunately, fixed rates don’t usually cover the time spent on the site. For some strange reason, clients seem to believe that a “day rate” should be cheaper than the sum of the total hours on the job, and that a working day for a freelance photographer is 12 hours long.
Alas, since the hourly rate is still the most accurate way to match effort to compensation, it is what usually gets used for setting a price. And that leaves you, the photographer, bound by that schedule with all those hours to fill.
This invariably creates the temptation to produce waste. You are there anyway, so you might as well keep shooting. But neither you, nor ultimately your client, needs or even wants ten photos of the same faces in the same room taken under the same lighting conditions during the same presentation.
And don’t get me started on the “shots from the dancefloor” which, like cut flowers on the counter, rapidly deteriorate as the party continues. The fun may be ramping up, but the photos start capturing more and more of what most guests would prefer to not put on record (shiny sweaty red faces, wardrobe malfunctions, male pursy lip dance faces, etc).
My solution is a developing aesthetic towards photographic minimalism. My goal is to shoot only what I will use. No more, no less. Capture exactly what the client needs, but resist the temptation to spray the room with shots simply because I can and I have time to fill.
A very good practice is to align with the client on how the images will be used. If, as is usually the case, the objective is to generate a bank of images to market the event online, use in ads, websites, newsletters and a curated photo gallery for attendees, then the needs are clear.
What this means in practice is, shoot better and shoot less. Take your time to actually envision the shot you want to create, then wait for the right moment to take it.
Making speakers and presenters look awesome:
Piling on shot after shot of the same speaker taken from microscopically altered focal lengths or slightly different crops is not necessary. Five great, varied shots of anyone at a podium is more valuable than 25 ok shots of the same subject.
Capturing conference audience engagement:
Organizers always want audience reactions shots. And by audience reaction, they don’t mean heads down looking at their phones. Because the audience is sitting there in front of you, you may be tempted to shoot either indiscriminately by simply pointing the camera in its direction and hitting the button, or you may over shoot them, by continuously scanning the crowd and shooting every half-cocked head, smiling face or look of rapt attention. What do you really need? Perhaps thirty or forty really excellent images of audience engagement taken over the course of the full day. Fifty is probably too many, and twenty too few.
Documenting attendee interactions at trade shows:
Walk the floor once just to take in the views and get a sense of the vendors, spaces and exhibits, then walk it again and start shooting. Get the interactions between vendors/participants every client wants, maybe a booth shot of the exhibitors and move on. Unless you’re working a massive, multi-chambered German style trade show, even this more intensive coverage can be accomplished within two hours max.
Showcasing the ambience and VIPs at gala parties:
Take in a few wide, ambience shots; a handful of decorative elements, and then simply – and only – shoot when you can get the right lighting effect on your subject. I’ve covered countless huge gala events where organizers are very wowed by their events company and want you to capture the same look and feel in your images, without really understanding that how something looks to the naked eye does not always translate well through a lens. Some lighting (red!) is very difficult to make anyone not look sort of horror showy in, and other kinds of strong pot light effects create harsh contrasts that are nearly impossible to shoot well without making some compromise either on exposure or focus. Far better to take fewer, well composed and captured images of people when those moments do arise when the conditions present themselves, then to fill your cards with images you ultimately won’t be able to use.
When you’ve finally packed it in for the night, what you have sitting on your SD cards is all there is to re-vision, re-package and re-market the event. An immediate filter is applied called time, that means that from the hundreds of images you might have taken, only the really great ones will ever get shown or used. The vast majority of images delivered to clients wind up buried alive on hard drives never to resurface.
As the person charged with documenting the evening, your ultimately job is to deliver a set of images that tell the story of the night, the day, the speech, the award ceremony etc, without any of the unnecessary filler that actually took up most of the time during the gig.
Rare indeed is the client who wants more to do more work – save them, and yourself, the trouble by training yourself to shoot less, paying more attention to capturing the meaningfully and visually gorgeous images that people will want to share, ignoring everything else.
At a recent conference I was covering, during a break between sessions one of the organizers stood up and introduced The Human Search Engine to the audience: an opportunity for anyone in attendance to take the mic and give a one minute pitch on what they are working on and who they are looking to connect with at the conference.It struck me as a convenient way to add value to attendees and create another opportunity for network connections to happen which is always one of the main goals of conference organizers.
The process is simple, an could easily be introduced in any sized conference on any topic. After a brief introduction explaining the concept, guests are offered a chance to take to the podium and tell the audience what they are looking for.
Within moments a lineup is likely to form and then attendees can follow up with each other on networking breaks to develop the connection.
Most people who go to conferences are there primarily for the contacts and connections they make, and secondarily to absorb the content, stay current in their industry and learn a thing or two.
The Human Search Engine increases connections between attendees and provides a good break in programming, changing up the format and bringing out a higher level of engagement. Give it a thought if you’re planning out your next conference.
Conference planners (and the event companies that often interface for them and manage the local suppliers) often book photo/video teams well in advance of their conference, and usually long before the agenda for the event is finalized.
The upside of this practice for a client is that elimination of last minute panic scrambling to hire a reliable team during a busy conference season (ie autumn) when there are many other events running concurrently. For the photographer/videographer it’s a “bird in the hand”, a blocked booked date in the calendar which means paid time – always something comforting in the gig economy.
There is a downside, however, which I’ve encountered on numerous occasions, which affects both the contracting entity (whether that’s the direct client or an agency acting on their behalf) and the supplier, and it affects both the quality of the bid received/submitted, and the price.
“…as the day is long”
I’ll start with an example. When an organizer is trying to lock down costs for an event taking place many months in the future (or sometimes just a few weeks ahead), the aim is to get all supplier costs in on fixed price bids.In order to do so the RFP, or call for estimates usually asks for a day rate on the job.
A day rate is a fixed price, and means the client doesn’t have to worry too much about providing details on the exact schedule for the day. The problem arises when the concept of a “day” gets stretched to include every waking hour from the 7am early-bird registration/buffet breakfast to the 11pm last call after the bar closes at the end of the opening night reception.
When a supplier offers their day rate, they are usually calculating a day to mean 8hrs, give or take 45 mins to an hour. It anticipates a bit of lag time between programs, a meal when photos of open mouthed chewers are eschewed, and maybe the opening round of a cocktail event. Something like 8am to 5pm, or 9 am to 6pm. What people working regular jobs would consider a normal working day.
Alas, for freelance photographers/videographers, the idea of a normal working day doesn’t seem to factor into many client’s thinking.And should you be so unwise as to have submitted a bid based on an average length day rate, you may find yourself working the equivalent of two days in one, or effectively getting paid 50% of your normal rate, because the goal posts shifted after you submitted and won the bid.
Being the lowest cost bidder will often win you work, but it doesn’t help your career and ultimately encourages the unfair practice of being asked to bid on work for which the scope remains undefined.
From a client perspective, it may seem like a win to lock in a supplier on a price based on terms that subsequently get redefined to the client’s advantage, but the result is likely a souring of the relationship and “you get what you pay for” attitude on site from a supplier who realizes they’ve been conned.
Build flexibility into the bid
Most clients are not out to screw their suppliers, but this can be an unintended consequence of asking for fixed price contracts without provided full clarity on the scope of work being requested. One practice that I use that helps is to add a clear note in estimates that the day rate is based on an 8-hour day, and hours in excess of that are billed at a standard hourly rate. This keeps the bid submission price reasonable and averts sticker shock, and if, once the agenda gets finalized it is clear that the day is being stretched to include evening events that expand the hours in the day from 8 to 12, you have a fair basis for negotiating a price that better matches the work actually performed vs. what was anticipated when details were scant.
Event photography has always been a bit like the fast food business with a need to deliver fresh photos quickly, but today it is more like Netflix where clients expect to have a steady stream of images on demand, delivered almost as fast as you can take them.
One reason for this, of course, is to meet the expectations of event attendees who will be snapping and posting photos of the event on their personal social media feeds. Event managers want to tap into that same excitement but keep eyes trained on their social channels and leverage the content and media generated to support the event. This is usually managed by assigning and communicating to all an event specific #hashtag which helps pull in photos and videos posted by everyone who uses it, not just the paid professionals hired to cover the event.
Another reason clients like to have a hot dish of freshly baked images delivered on site is to take advantage of venues that offer big screen experiences, like we recently experienced at Taverne 1909 here in Montreal, for the after party of the Shriner’s Hospital Wonder Race event.
Not only does the instant show provide an added element of fun for attendees (who are all waiting to catch a glimpse of themselves in the shots selected) but it is also fun for the event photographer who usually sends off his or her images to a client’s email without ever really seeing how people use or react to the images that have been generated, curated and crafted into a storyline.
As a professional event shooter today, if you’re not using tools that allow you to turn around a set of images onsite, quickly, you are becoming obsolete. And for clients, if you’re not taking advantage of the extra oomph you can pack into your events by sharing images (and brief video reels or event highlights for a grand finale) you are missing out on an additional touch point with your guests and a chance to add yet one more layer of connectivity between you and them — which today is what’s needed to capture loyalty and keep your event top of mind for attendees, who have a plethora of events, conferences and meetings to choose from.
As a conference and event photographer I am frequently asked to provide estimates for covering day-long meetings or multi-day conferences. It is not uncommon to be asked to provide a detail costing out for services even before the official agenda for the conference is finalized. The challenge here as the photographer – and I would argue for the client as well – is understanding how much coverage is enough and pricing accordingly.
There are some rare clients for whom budget is no object and they would rather have the peace of mind of knowing the photographer they hire will be there to cover whatever is happening, wherever, whenever and they don’t want to waste time parsing out an agenda to reduce the hours (and the bill). They would rather pay full pop and get more than they need and sort it out afterwards. These are great clients to have.
But the vast majority of clients are not so loose with their purse strings and usually are operating on behalf of their client, who has hired them to organize the event. These kinds of clients may still ask for the complete coverage but they are much more sensitive to cost and may wind up tossing the baby with the bathwater if they receive a bid that seems high, without evaluating if what they had asked for a quote on was completely necessary.
For example, I am often asked to arrive onsite up to an hour to an hour and a half before anything actually begins. This is almost always to mitigate a client’s anxiety or worry about not having a photographer be there when they really need them and may speak more to the reliability of some freelancers than to the anxieties of the client, but the net result is either a lot of unpaid time for a photographer, or an increase in cost to a client paying for something they don’t really need. Every professional photographer or videographer I’ve worked with or hired has been able to size up a space, the pacing of an event and digest the order of action for even multi-day, multi-location events in a very short time. It does not usually require more than 15-20 minutes as it is usually very obvious to a professional what is important, and what isn’t.
Another way clients ask for more than they need is if the event they are hosting involves a lot of repeat action in the same setup, with the same lighting, and most if not all the same people, perhaps moving from room to room for workshops or discussions in slightly different formations. Depending on the final use for these images, it may not be necessary to pay for a full day of coverage if you can capture the main look and feel of the event in fewer hours.
On the flipside, it is unreasonable to ask for a photographer or videographer to show up for a gig that won’t last more than an hour, or an hour and half and expect to pay the same hourly rate offered on longer jobs. I know of few (to no) people working regular jobs who would even consider going in to work if their boss said they only need to be there from 2:30-4 so will only get an hour and half’s worth of pay that day. Gig workers (and photographers and videographers have been working in the gig economy since long before it was even called that) also need to make a living wage and can’t afford to take small jobs without applying a minimum rate to cover their time. In this case the client should be prepared to pay a fee that is higher than a job priced on an hourly basis would be if longer hours were offered for the service provider.
In the end, it makes sense both from a photographer’s point of view and a client’s perspective to consider what the desired end result is from the photos (or videos) produced and structure the work accordingly. Complete coverage, half days, partial or minimum fees are all based on finding that balance between meeting a client’s needs and making the work worth the time and effort a professional will provide. A little time upfront spent thinking through the event and even discussing it with the prospective supplier can save both time and money – and ensure that the client receives a fair and accurate quote they can build out their plan on.
Fundraising teams face a continuous battle against apathy. Each year they are faced with the challenge of raising millions of dollars using the same tried and true methods, often from the same individuals and organizations. Fashion shows, art auctions, casino nights, gala soirées, silent auctions and the perennial golf tournament are the mainstay of fundraising organizations everywhere. They are in competition with one another from other teams using the same tactics, and playing from the same playbook (sometimes even the same person who’s moved from one team to another), and having photographed all of these kinds of events, I can see how much of a challenge it is to keep it fun and to differentiate yourself from the others.
I was recently covering a hospital foundation golf tournament fundraiser and tasked with, amongst other things, capturing the fearsome foursome shots. Foursome shots are to golf tournaments what table shots are to big gala evenings. A necessary, but rather dull, posed photograph documenting attendance. They are often top of a client’s shot list, as they serve the useful function of identifying who actually showed up for the event and they can be given as gifts to attendees by way of onsite prints, or post-event photo with a thank you note from the organizers.
However, like their table shot cousins, having a group of four stand, clubs crossed, facing the camera for a standard shot gets a little boring for both guests (and photographers!). As most of the attendees are on every fundraiser’s list, they may attend two or three of these tournaments a year and I suspect they have a collection of these nearly identical shots. From a branding point of view, it doesn’t strike me as a good way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
This year, in collaboration with my client, we decided to shake things up a little and play around with the idea of the foursome shot. Instead of just posing each one in the same way, we asked them to do something creative (and offered a prize for the formation judged the most creative). Not only did the teams embrace the idea, we ended up with some fun photos that are unlike any other from any other golf tournament they’ve ever attended.
Why not try out some of these poses (or better yet, come up with new ones) at your next golf tournament?
(If the embed video doesn’t work which often happens go here: https://youtu.be/Iwuy4hHO3YQ)
Hey presenters – stop using video to open for you!
A lot of presenters now use videos as a kind of mental cocaine to stimulate their audience and fire up their emotions. The room darkens, a presenter pops out on stage and mumbles a kind of apologetic introduction then scurries to the side to let the video do the heavy lifting. The intention – I presume – is to focus the audience on to the topic at hand, using the emotive force of moving images and stock music tracks to engage them. As the photographer observing that same crowd, I think exactly the opposite actually happens.
Most event planners do not put lighting very high on their priority list, if at all, but it can make a difference in how the photos and videos from their event will look. While not every event can afford a lighting designer, just considering simple things like whether the room you’ve selected has natural light or not will make a difference in the kind of imagery your event will yield.
This week I covered a talk given by an Olympian gold medal winner, Bruny Surin, hosted by Rio Tinto’s Health & Wellbeing Committee. Amongst the many positive takeaways from the session (which ended with a pounding dance beat and a push up contest), what he had to say about achieving your life’s goals was something that really caught my attention.
So what is life like as a freelance event photographer in Montreal? Well, after surviving February (the most feared month of the year for any freelancer), March has kicked off with a roar. It’s never easy to predict workflow or plan for last minute assignments, but sometimes they can happen fast and furious and the job of a freelancer is to answer the call.
I often receive solicitations by email to work for foreign clients coming into town for an event they are hosting. The type of events range from a few hours of a global sales meeting to full multi-day conferences, and every kind of networking / cocktail / gala / awards reception you can think of in between. I’ve noticed that many of these out-of-country clients work with very specific mandates and shot lists, sensibly, since they are typically the same kind of organizations that mount events worldwide and need to ensure a consistent quality across their global portfolio of events.
Here are some tips to make the process smoother and easier for event planners looking for creative contacts in a city they are unfamiliar with:
In the next few weeks many of us will have a little downtime and maybe even a chance to rest and relax (hopefully) with the people we love.Many too will be receiving, or treating themselves to, new cameras, drones, or phones and will have a chance to start capturing images with them.
A question I get asked a lot by people I meet at conferences and events I am covering is “What are the photos for?”Sometimes it’s phrased as “ where do the photos end up?” or “Who are you working for” but the intent is always to understand why I am attending every session, popping up at the front of the room during the keynote and constantly scanning crowds for emotions and reactions, like a security guard on high alert.
Millions of photos get taken every day only to flicker briefly across a small screen then roll down out of sight forever. What makes the images produced by an event photographer any different?
It’s a fair question and deserves a brief response. In person I invariably say I am hired by the organizer to cover the event and leave it at that, but if you are the organizer, it is worthwhile considering exactly what you intend to do with the images.
We need it now
These days there is a demand for very quick turnaround on photos to populate Twitter feeds, Facebook page posts and generate Instagrammable moments. This rapid turnaround on photos requires a quick selection and in-phone edit to get highlights out to a designated contact onsite who then flips the images into targeted posts. Conferences, in particular, benefit from this kind of speedy service. Generating a steady stream of content linked to the presentations and discussions taking place at the conference provides the organizer with a rich social media stream throughout the conference, and leaves behind a trail of moments that can be used, post-conference, to get a broad summary view of the entire event for those unable to attend.This extends the reach of the event, helps promote the next one, and drives traffic to the organizer’s site while it’s happening.
Always online marketing
Another related use of event and conference photography is simply tohave a bank of owned, edited, usable images crafted exclusively with your n annual gathering of family physicians or an international host of 5G engineers, your organization will be communicating with attendees – and prospective attendees – throughout the year. Email blasts, blog posts, press releases, Tweets, LinkedIn stories, etc will always need a few good photos to illustrate the content. Regardless of how meaningful or well written your piece is, without images your engagement levels will sink. Being able to draw from a well of images you’ve specifically had shot for you, at your own events, with your own needs in mind means when you are under the gun to get a press release out you have ample images to choose from to help augment your pitch.
Selling the story
Similarly, as over-used as it has become, people respond to stories first. No one really appreciated being sold to, or marketed at – but that same prospect eagerly absorbs a story if it comes with a relevant emotional hook and appeals to something greater than a desperate plea to “Click Here” for the next dopamine hit. Photos that show a real moment shared between attendees at an event tell the story of what to expect clearly and intuitively. Going to conferences or coming out to an industry event has huge potential benefits for a person’s career, professional network and reputation. But the price tag to attend can sometimes be daunting, or more significantly, making the time in a busy schedule can be challenging. A prospective attendee has to feel that it’s going to be worth it and getting him or her to read through any length of text or preview an agenda isn’t going to cut it. They want to speed through a reel of photos from your last event, watch 20-30 seconds of a highlight reel and decide if the location and theme of your upcoming conference is worth their time.
And that’s all just the external facing uses of event photos. Internally images are shared during employee only / team building events. They can be used for documentary purposes just to remember how the room was laid out, or the exact number and placement of screens set up. They are helpful for on boarding new staff who may suddenly find themselves responsible for wrangling crowds of several hundred or even thousands of people. And of course, they can be used in targeted sends to past speakers, sponsors and other key financial contributors to an event to extend and share the same benefits to them.
Photography has become more important than ever in a media-saturated age, and having images that really stand out and make your event look its best are key to the success of future events. In the end, the images become a part of your brand’s story and one of several tools event organizers need to continually develop their market and maintain relevance in an increasingly crowded space.