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Company parties. Special galas. Nonprofit fundraisers. When someone asks you to shoot one of these events, you aren’t exactly leaping for joy, right?
Corporate event photography can get a bad reputation among creatives, mostly because it sounds like an unglamorous style of photography. While it is true that many aspects of corporate event photos can be very rote, these events actually a huge advantage that can lead to even more creative expression. Here’s why: There is almost always a set structure and schedule to corporate events that rarely deviates, meaning it is incredibly easy to build a shot list to get your essential shots out of the way very quickly. That means you have more time on your hands at the event to get creative with the way you choose to take these shots. Whether you’re a budding event photographer, or taking on an event as a favor, use these tips to build an effective event photography shot list that will make your clients happy and maybe even lead to other photography opportunities with them down the road!
At least in my experience working with west coast corporate clients, most of them can’t give me a clear answer when I ask how many photos they need, what they need shots of, etc. While this may seem frustrating at first, bear in mind that this vagueness from your client gives you the perfect opportunity to shine by filling in the blanks for them, because in general, most corporate clients want the same types of event photos.
To answer this question, put yourself in the shoes of the branding or marketing coordinator who put the event together. Often, their whole purpose to having you there to is capture images that show that they did their jobs right by properly setting up the space and making sure the people they invited showed up and had a good time. They want shots that capture:
Be sure to arrive early to capture any event setup shots. It was someone’s job to put everything together, so he or she will definitely want images that show off all of the hard work that went into it. Generally, setup shots should be taken before guests arrive so that everything is still intact.
This can be extremely tricky because often times, you won’t have any idea who the company CEO or big wigs are, even if the event coordinator hands you a sheet with all of their names on it. The best way to handle this is to ask the coordinator ahead of time if there is someone from the company who can accompany you and point out their VIPs and executives on site. Don’t be afraid to ask for help so that you can get your job done right.
As much as possible, get shots of speakers that include branding and signage somewhere in the photo. Also bear in mind that you will not always have a designated spot to shoot from, so bring a telephoto lens and prepare to possibly shoot from farther away. If you’re shooting from up close, make your shots quick so that you don’t block the view of guests.
Try not to capture photos of people (especially VIPs and executives) making unflattering expressions or gestures. It can take some patience, but make sure you get images that indicate everyone was having a good time. If you captured any goofy expressions or moments, you might be able to submit them, but be sure to flag them as optional outtakes.
While it might still be valuable to include full room shots where only half of the seats are filled, you’ll want to pull out your zoom lens and focus in on larger clumps of people to provide shots that indicate the event was well attended.
While event photography can in many ways feel like photojournalism, this is not the time to take too many images that are overly honest. Bear in mind that many times the photos are intended to be used for marketing purposes, so the last thing your clients want to see are ugly, unfavorable photos. Even though events might be poorly attended and the attendees might not be the most interesting people, it’s your job to make the event look and seem as fun as possible, even if you have to act like a hype person or stage photos to do so.
While there are many lessons and creative inspiration that can be obtained by winging it and thinking quick on the spot, professionals know there is generally more value to preparing ahead of time. One way to effectively do this is to think out every aspect of the shoot beforehand and great a comprehensive shot list. This will help you picture the finished shoot even before you step foot on set, greatly reducing any last minute issues that might arise, and giving you more freedom to take your necessary shots with creativity.
Do you photograph events? Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? You could also read 5 Tips for Special Event Photography here on dPS for more tips on covering events.