Picture Perfect – Tips on Working with an Event Photographer
An investment in great photos just keeps on giving. Photography that successfully tells the story—and captures the emotions of an event—pays dividends for years on end, in everything from printed collateral to social media to future promotions and presentations. The best photographers anticipate when the big moments and best reactions will take place, and position themselves accordingly. But good images come from more than just a photographer’s artistic eye, technical skill, and instinct for human behavior. Good images require preparation as well. That’s where you can help. We asked our own professional event photographer, Andrew Shafer of Andrew Shafer Visuals, for advice. These eight tips will help you get the best results from your event photographer.
Find the right fit
After you’ve studied a photographer’s portfolio and like the style, it’s time to see if you “mesh.” Even the most casual conversation can give you a feel for whether he or she can become a good, if temporary, extension of your team. There is real value in hiring someone you and your attendees will feel comfortable with— and the results will show in the end product. A good event photographer needs to be a good listener, assertive enough to ask good questions and seek out great moments, friendly enough to coax genuine smiles, and calm and confident enough to be a positive force in a group of people. Look for signs of flexibility, too, since weather, venues, speakers—anything—can change in an instant during an event. If you have a reticent group that may be challenging to engage, make the effort to find a photographer who is up to that task as well.
Negotiate the price
For a three- or four-hour event, you can expect to pay an hourly rate, which typically ranges from $115 to $195 an hour. But for full-day and multiday conferences, photographers will usually give you a day rate for a better deal. After all, the photographer’s day may span coverage of the 6 a.m. team-building hike all the way through the midnight after-party. Between scheduled events, the photographer will likely shoot empty venues and details to flesh out the story. In such cases, an hourly rate can be a budget buster. You’ll also want to avoid pricing based on the number of photos shot or required. Events have too many variables to think you can capture the story in a predetermined number of shots.
Consider the small print
Determine incidentals in advance. Is food and beverage included? If not, expect to see it in your invoice. Think about travel expenses, including airfare, ground transportation, and gas. You may want to minimize travel costs by using your company’s existing airline or car rental partnerships, for instance. Also, ask about the photographer’s insurance coverage. A standard $1 million policy might shield your company from liability in case of an accident. And here’s another not-so-small point: Determine your rights to the photos. Most event clients want full image ownership, as established by “unlimited usage rights.” Ask for this, particularly if your event will debut products and ideas you don’t want to disclose publicly.
Spell out your needs
Every event is unique, and stating your specific needs up front will yield the best results. Discuss the intent and purpose of the images. Photographers, being visual animals, often like to imagine the “story” of your event, how it unfolds in print, a Facebook gallery, or a YouTube video of still images. A good photographer can discuss all the options and their requisite needs. If the primary use will be Web and video, the photographer will want to shoot mostly horizontal content. But if your particular print materials require lots of vertical images, let him or her know. Are there specific shots you really need? Want? Want to avoid? Make a list.
Plan ahead for overlap
You can’t expect your photographer to be in two places at once. If you need a press wall or head shots at the same time you need coverage of a breakout session, tell the photographer well ahead of time. He or she can likely bring in help for those few hours. Relying on your chosen photographer to assemble the team will yield better results than if you bring in an unknown quantity. After all, this person must be willing to work in concert with the lead photographer, and to take direction on where to be, when to be there, and what to shoot. With the exception of using a videographer or second shooter for overlapping events, stick to one lead photographer. Dueling photographers scrapping it out for prime position at key moments won’t produce good results.
Nail down delivery dates
Along with the types of shots you want, be sure to discuss when you’ll have them in hand. For a multiday conference, 10 to 14 days is reasonable for the bulk delivery. But you may also want subsets of the images. For example, if you’d like the photographer to cull 25 images from the previous day’s festivities for a breakfast slideshow the next day, be sure to make that known—and expect some additional cost for computer time at the end of the shooting day. The extra expense, however, may be more than worth it for the impact. Surprising attendees with fantastic candids can generate new excitement and keep the momentum high throughout your event.
Communicate your expectations
Discuss arrival times, appropriate attire, parking, and arrangements for food and beverage, then acquaint the photographer with all of the event venues on the agenda. This is also a good time to underscore your open communication policy by exchanging cell phone numbers and e-mail contacts for instant on-site access. Let the photographer know he or she can reach out to you anytime with any questions or suggestions.
Show your support
Once onsite, give the photographer a walk-through of the event locations, following the agenda. Point out any changes to the agenda and offer an initial (even if brief) introduction to the CEO, VIPs, and speakers. It will give the photographer a sense of their personalities, body languages, and gestures. In fact, an introduction promotes a more comfortable shooting experience for both sides. Onstage, for instance, the speaker will see the photographer not as some stranger buzzing about with a camera, but as a friendly face and part of the team.
For the past ten years Andrew Shafer of Andrew Shafer Visuals has traveled the States and beyond to create eye-catching imagery of corporate events. Working as an extension of each host’s team, he deftly captures the unique qualities of each event, whether for groups of 150 or 1,500.