Working with your photographer

On April 15th, 2014, I spoke at the International Special Events Society – Calgary Chapter on “Working with your Photographer: Award Submissions edition”. Such great questions were asked by the attendees that we decided to share of it with you. Here is a good question:

What can I, as the event planner do onsite to help the photographer be ready for photos?

Here are my top 3 tips that you can apply onsite to set yourself and your photographer for success.

1. Run a tight ship during set up

Make sure that your entire team of suppliers is on time and that they are not using the photography time (let’s say, one hours before doors) as a buffer to get the room ready. I have enough experience to know that sometimes, delays happen that could not have been foreseen (I remember a venue who lost power for 3 hours during set up), but these are rare instances. If you simply put in your production schedule that décor photos are happening one hour before doors, some vendors may think that this info does not pertain to them. Understandably, everyone is busy and focused on its own tasks. If you really want clean shots of the room ready in all of its glory before guests arrive, it is important to communicate to the rest of the event team that this cue means show time. Here is one subtle shift that will make a world of difference. Instead of:

PHOTO TEAM: Onsite”, try:
ALL: Room Ready for photos”.

The first comment speaks to the photo team only, while the second communicates an expectation to everyone. (If you don’t believe me, ask me how often suppliers welcome me onsite by saying “I didn’t know you guys were here today!” although we are on the production schedule…)
During the day, if you notice that the set up is falling behind, remember that it’s a domino effect. Go to your suppliers and ask them how they may be able to make up the time. Keep a tight schedule so that when time comes for décor photos, the room will be ready and you’ll get the images that you need.

2. Do a quick walk-through

Plan to do a quick walk- through with your photo team 15 minutes before they are planned to start shooting. This can be done by you or by a team member who knows the event inside and out. Point out elements that will be key to capture for your award submission. Identify where the entertainment’s high points will happen. For example, if an entertainer will be making a theatrical entrance into the ballroom, you want to show your photographer. Even if you sent us your show flow and site map ahead of time, they usually won’t tell us which way entertainers are entering and how they are moving through the space, which is really important info to ensure that we will be at the right place at the right time, capturing the moment with maximum impact. Often, I do a walk-through with the entertainment director, as they know the general program as well as the most up to date details of the performances.

3. Introduce the lighting designer to your photographer

Most often, the moment that we start to photograph the décor is when the entire tech team, including the LD, goes on their scheduled dinner break. Make sure that you have the LD speak with the photographer before they go on break. It may be a good idea to set up that break at another time if you’re able to. But at least, make sure that the photographer has what they need to do the photos. Most often, I will ask for the lighting scenario that will welcome the guests as they walk in. If the stage is blacked out as guests enter the room, I may ask for something additional, like a stage wash, which will give the photo more depth and interest. Ideally your LD would stay in the room for the décor photos, but at least have them talk with each other before the LD goes to break before doors.

You’ve invested in a photographer and you deserve amazing images. Try these tips at your next event and let me know how it goes!

Now I know that you have questions of your own, on how to get the most of your photographer, so send them my way and I’ll answer them in a future post. Ask away…I’m here to help!


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