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Three Steps to Creating Photogenic Events

By Jim Vetter, and

Having photographed events since the 1990′s, I’ve seen it all – from high budget corporate events that photograph terribly, to low budget weddings that look amazing – and everything in between.

Event professionals need great photos of their work to show prospective clients, so why not plan in a way that will enable your event photographer to produce the best possible images for you?

Let’s assume that you already have a great event photographer. If you don’t, we’d be happy to talkAnyway, your photographer may not be advising you about how to make your events more photogenic.

Here is what the photographer needs from you:

1. Something Worth Shooting:

As an event professional, you make your living by helping your clients create and execute events that move them toward their goals by making a great impression on the event guests. Regardless of service you provide, keep in mind the eye of the audience who will see the photos after the event. Give the photographer something to work with that highlights your individual style and sets you apart. Find a way to stand out visually and always look at today’s work as a way of creating tomorrow’s business. The better the raw visual subject matter, the better the photos can be and the better they will represent you.

If you’re a planner, focus on making your visuals and props contextual to your event topic or theme. Place your signage and props centrally so they will be featured within the context of the event and not against a wall. If you provide food, décor, or other products that are seen in the venue, request that the planner design a layout that features your work contextually. Contextual subject matter in the photos will more effectively communicate to the viewer what the event was about and the happy client will have more useful photos of your great work.

2. Good Light:

Good light is the most important thing needed to make your event more photogenic. If you’re a planner and your photos are important to you, put some budget toward professional lighting. If you don’t have direct control of how your work is lit, be sure to encourage the planner or client to use professional lighting to make your work, and the vent overall, look better. This will ensure that photos of the space have dimension and texture.

If the space is too dark, people lit by flash in the photos may appear to be floating in outer space! There will be no dimension or texture, and no context either. If the room is too bright with even light everywhere, there is not mood. So how do you create dimension, texture and mood?  Use up lighting on the walls of the space to define the perimeter and provide dimension. But please do not use oversaturated colors for the lighting. Oversaturated lighting forces a good photographer to use so much flash that the mood of the space is lost in the photos – and it forces a poor photographer to deliver terrible images. 

Use floodlights, spotlights, or pin spots to highlight important subject matter. Focus these lights on key people, displays, art, table centerpieces, signage, etc. Spot lighting is a great way to tell the viewers of the photos – as well as event guests – what you really want them to see. It also gives the photographer the perfect ambient light in which to photograph the important features. NOTE: Spot Lighting should never be colored/tinted because it is meant to show the subject matter with accurate color. They should also not be too bright compared to the surrounding ambient light.

For dance floors, (stay with me) you may consider using LCD light panels similar to those we first saw in Saturday Night Fever from the Disco era of the 1970′s. I’ve shot events with this lighting and the images of guests on the dance floor are incredibly well lit compared to a dark floor. And of course, they are just fun!

Today’s best cameras are getting amazingly good at capturing great images in dim light. (My newest Nikon can shoot at ISO speeds up to 400,000!) While this may sound like magic that makes flash obsolete, good photographers will continue to use flash for a plethora of creative reasons.

3. Adequate Time and Space to Shoot the Event Well:

Make sure the event space and your work is completely setup at least 60 minutes before guests arrive.

We all know that too many events struggle to get the room ready by the time the doors are supposed to open. Encourage your client to give you ample time to setup. If you think you need two hours to setup, ask for three so that your setup looks perfect in time for the photographer to shoot it. Planners, you should set these expectations when you hire the vendors. Most events have staff running around the space until the last minute, which makes it very difficult for the photographer to get clean room and detail shots. These are the shots that all vendors will want to use for their own promotion. So please give your photographer enough time to shoot them well. The larger the space and the more details you have, the more time is needed to get great photos.

Nearly all events have some formalities on their agenda. These may be speeches, presentations, performances, demonstrations, dances, etc. Ensure that these special moments are photogenic by making them clearly visible to your guests and to your photographer. Use spotlights, stages, or risers. Put them in good light.

You can further help your photographer by planning the event’s special moments such that there is plenty of time to move from one area to another as the moments unfold. Of course, be sure to share a detailed event timeline with the photographer well in advance of the event day.

A good photographer will offer advice regarding the timeline, lighting, and arrangement of the space. Don’t plan your event without consulting your photographer about what they need to do their best work for you.

A good event photographer will go out of their way to shoot all of the vendors work and will offer to share the images with them. However, don’t take it for granted that such a photographer will be shooting your event. Don’t be shy! Find out who the photographer will be and reach out to request that they grab some images for you and share them with you after the event. Also, be sure to introduce yourself to the photographer at the event and thank them for whatever shots they can share with you.

Follow these simple tips and you are certain to create more photogenic events that represent your work in the best possible light!