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Working With Event Photographers: 8 Tips For Event Planners

Jan 15, 2008
Your next business event is coming up and everything seems to be coming together nicely. You've got the catering, the sound system and the guest speaker all lined up. What about your photographer?

Corporate events should always be recorded in photographs. Its a time when you bring members of your staff together, often away from the usual workplace. It might be a celebration luncheon, a pep-talk, a training session, a welcome to new members of the leadership team -- whatever. You will find numerous uses for photos from such events, especially if it is successful.

I've shot countless corporate and small business events over the years, and I've experienced great and not-so-great event planners. If you're charged with planning your company's next affair, consider these points when working with a photographer.

1: Don't plan on briefing the photographer just before the event

Your photographer needs plenty of information to achieve the best results. Often, an event planner will contract me to shoot a corporate event or meeting and suggest we meet "a few minutes before hand to go over everything." It sounds good in theory, as it saves time for both the planner and the photographer to eliminate an advance meeting. In practice, I've found that no matter how well planned, the hours leading up to the start of the event are extremely hectic. The planner always envisions plenty of time to go over things before the occasion starts. Then the caterer gets lost. Or the sound system goes on the frizz. The harried planner waves me off saying something like -- "Sorry, cant meet now. just shoot whatever you think looks interesting..."

Trust me. always schedule an advance meeting before hand to go over specifics. Both you and the photographer will be glad you did.

2: Explain to the photographer what kind of photos you need

How do you intend to use photos from this occasion? Print? The web? How soon do you need them returned? Do you need digital (delivered on CD or DVD) or prints? Will the photographer provide you with an online gallery you can download from? These factors will impact the way the photographer shoots the event and what equipment he uses. Get all of this laid out in writing before the event. Don't skimp on this step.

3: Don't surprise your photographer

Event planners love to surprise their guests. Nothing wrong with that, but the cameraman should not be kept in the dark. Recently I was shooting a corporate event where the planner arranged to have a small, concealed cannon spew forth hundreds of streamers into the air. Acting quickly, I was able to catch some of the streamers in flight. Had I known what was going to happen before hand, I could have placed myself in position to capture a much stronger image.

4: Provide a safe place to stash camera gear

Expensive camera gear is a prime target for thieves. You want your photographer to be concentrating on getting great images, not worrying about someone walking off with his gear. If possible, have a safe, secure place where extra camera gear can be stored.

5: Arrange parking and unloading areas

Depending on the event, your cameraman might bring along a load of equipment. He or she will need to get all that gear to the event venue. If possible, provide the photo crew with close, accessible parking. If that can't be managed, then make sure they can unload at a convenient spot and then move their vehicle elsewhere.

6: Always brief security before hand

In the post-9/11 world, security is often very tight at major corporate events. This is as it should be, but you don't want your event photographer to be caught up in a security snafu. Provide some sort of written credentials and make sure security knows you have hired a photographer for the occasion. If you fail to do this, security might detain or otherwise prevent the photographer from doing his job. You will most likely be emersed in other aspects of the event and won't be available to straighten everything out until afterwards. So much for photos from the event!

7: Find out if the photographer will be bringing an assistant

Assistants can be a great help to a photographer -- running errands, holding up lights, taking notes, running interference or shooting additional images. If your photographer is bringing an assistant you will want to know before hand, so you can provide credentials, brief security and make whatever other arrangements necessary.

8: Inform the photographer about the dress code

There was a time when corporate or business events had a simple dress code: suit and tie for men, business suits for women. The only deviation from this would be a true black tie affair. Today, corporate events are all over the map. Some may still be formal or at least dressy. On the other hand, causal dress has invaded the workplace at many companies, especially for out of the office meetings and the like. You want your photographer's clothing to match what everyone else is wearing. Some of the best event photos are candids, shot when the subject was unaware they were "on camera." If your photographer is dressed to blend in with everyone else, they will have a much better chance of catching good candids. If their attire sets them apart, they will be easier to spot...and avoid.

Every event is different, and there may be other aspects you and your photographer need to address. By taking care of the above issues, however, you will have a much better chance of obtaining excellent photographs from the event. 
About the Author
Read more about working with an event photographer by visiting Tom Bonner's Adventures in Design website. A resident of Gastonia, NC, Tom offers a full range of photography and web design services to clients in the the greater Charlotte area. Tom also writes on photography subjects on the popular Alphatracks weblog. You can eMail Tom at seo@adventuresindesign.com
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