Here at Meet Cambridge, we have a team of experts on hand to help you find your perfect venue and when you need to call on suppliers to assist with your event, we’re pleased to say that we also have an extensive network of specialists that we can introduce you to…
We are often approached by organisers who want to arrange photography for their events and need assistance with the planning or writing the brief, so we asked our resident photographer, Damien Vickers from Damien Vickers Photography for his tips and advice on how to engage with a professional photographer when you’re planning an event.
What are the golden rules when considering photography for an event?
Planning and communication…as with all of the aspects of hosting a successful event, preparation is key, and this is no different for photography.
It needn’t be a daunting task…I have worked on many projects including conferences, exhibitions, formal dinners, drinks receptions, theatrical events, sporting events and product launches. In my experience, there are some basics that can be put in place to help you with your planning to get things just right.
Make time for a conversation with your photographer in advance, but where possible, I’d recommend meeting your photographer. A phone call, or through email might suffice if the brief is straightforward but a meeting is the best way to ensure a clear understanding of what’s expected.
What should an organiser think about before approaching a photographer?
Think about the purpose, always ask yourself, what are the photographs likely to be used for and who will be looking at them? Is it to record an event, market a future event, to raise awareness of your brand or perhaps to illustrate a press release?
If the photographer is aware of your intention, they can approach the shoot in the right manner. As an example, if you simply need to record the event, then a reportage approach, with no face to camera shots will give a ‘fly on the wall’ feel to the pictures.
For a PR campaign, however, face to camera shots are effective at connecting the audience and the subject so, in this instance, small groups looking to the camera is more relevant.
If you need to raise awareness of your brand, frequent use of a logo or slogan within the photos can be done subtly or directly.
On occasion, you may want to portray an event from the attendee’s eyes and a shot that's taken tactfully over someone’s shoulder or through an open door works well.
Photography is not always used to promote the event itself though, perhaps you need images to promote future events… pictures that do not actually feature the faces of anyone can be useful in this instance e.g. a close-up of someone’s handwriting on a piece of branded paper, or a packed lecture theatre from the back of the room. This style of photography can give you options if the attendees do not want to be identified.
Does a planner need to get permission from attendees or apply for a licence?
Permission is crucial. As a minimum, you should always make it clear to the attendees that there is a photographer present who will be recording the event throughout.
The easiest and most effective way to communicate this is to post a clear notice around the venue - especially at the entrance. If there is an opportunity, an announcement at the start of the event can help to remind guests to make themselves known to the photographer if they don’t wish to be photographed.
I would rather be advised by somebody at the time that they don’t wish to be photographed than to have to remove an image later because it has caused upset.
It’s vitally important that the event planner always checks with the venue if there are any restrictions regarding photography, in some venues a licence is required so always make sure this information is shared with your photographer.
What should organisers think about at the venue?
Again, planning is key, could the photographer stop by early for some test shots perhaps?
Lighting, space and restrictions all play a part in what can or can’t be achieved. By being aware of this your photographer can prepare to overcome any challenges. Being able to take test shots within the conditions will allow your photographer to make decisions regarding cameras settings, choice of lens and lighting equipment in advance, rather than on the fly.
Use of flash is an important consideration, some venues don’t allow it. The photographer needs to know if there is anything that could be damaged by lighting equipment or areas that might be off limits. There may be valuable exhibits, artworks, confidential or sensitive information or branding that should not appear in a photograph. Check these things in advance and make sure that the photographer is aware so that they can work with the venue.
Lighting is very important, a flash can distract from the event and disrupt not only the audience but a potential performer or speaker.
While it is usually appropriate to use flash for group or staged photos, it is often not suitable for a presentation or for capturing discreet candid shots.
Where flash is essential, albeit not ideal, a discussion in advance will help the photographer prioritise if the shot or the etiquette is most important.
Is a brief necessary? If so any tips on what to include?
After you’ve thought about the purpose of your photography and having checked the restrictions and permissions required etc., it’s good practice to provide the photographer with a written brief in advance of the event, they too may need to complete permission forms, provide insurance certification and discuss restrictions and protocol with the venue.
When putting together the brief for your photographer consider including the following:
- The itinerary or programme of the event
- Times of the event
- A list of essential shots – do you need a second photographer?
- The names of those who you need a photograph of
- What to photograph
- What NOT to photograph
- The number of images you need
- What the type of images you need – formal, candid or a mixture of the two
Any advice on managing photography during the event?
Discretion is key. From my own experience, I cannot stress enough the importance of being able to blend in at the event. This will always get the best shots.
A good event photographer will interact kindly with everyone they meet. This is the best approach to getting great candid shots, as people feel relaxed in your presence. Some of my favourite images from events are of people’s reactions, for example when photographing a presentation, capturing the audience’s reaction is as important as the shots of the speaker. This can only be achieved by being discreet, polite and patient.
There are occasions where formal shots are required and posing guests is necessary. I prefer to keep groups small, 4-5 people maximum to get over any issues with space, the right background is also crucial to getting a good uncluttered shot.
Attendees like personal photos of themselves; pictures of people in mid-conversation or engaging in activities often deliver the most interesting and dynamic images.
But to capture the essence of your event a good photographer will want to capture more than just candid and formal people shots; details are important too. They should consider the little things that make the event unique and special: the table layout, the registration table, seating arrangements, serving stations, programs, food, signage etc.
What about after the event, anything to think about?
Yes, the editing and selection process, as well as how you are going to view and receive your images. Editing and selection are best done by the photographer, trust in their experience at picking the best shots.
A good photographer will know how to select the highlights. Do you need a statement photograph or a photo to be used for an advertisement or a cover shot? In these instances, detail becomes significant and a photographer might have to adjust the image to remove stray hairs, specks of lint or unwanted clutter in the background.
If you discuss how many photographs of the event you expect to have delivered your photographer can plan the editing process more efficiently, focussing on specific areas to get you the right amount of shots to select from.
I find that software such as Google Drive or Dropbox is useful for sharing and viewing images or for events where attendees may be interested in purchasing images, Pixieset allows the opportunity for digital downloads as well as direct orders for prints.
Lastly, help your photographer by providing them with a reference and always credit the photographer when using the images, with a link to their web site where possible.
If you are looking for a photographer for your event and wish to discuss your options please do get in touch with Damien at firstname.lastname@example.org
See some of the events that he has worked on
Image Credit: Damien Vickers Photography