Photographing corporate events can be a steady source of income for any photographer. Although not as exciting or artistic as some other forms of photography, there is often ample room to take great shots and please a client.
How should you photograph a corporate event? Here are 12 essential tips:
Due to how important corporate event photography is to clients, how much you can get paid, and the unique challenges it comes with, it can be daunting to take on this task. Despite this initial fear, it is well worth the limited time it takes to get used to shooting for corporate events. The pay is great, clients often offer repeat business, and you can easily make connections with others at the event if you are charismatic.
Here are 12 essential tips for getting started in corporate event photography, covering the whole process from establishing the gig to following through with the client.
The first step in photographing corporate events, or taking any photos for a client, is setting up a proper contract. Taking this step will ensure that both you and the client are on the same page before the event starts.
Especially if you are starting out, it is easy to fall into the thinking that discussion of money and specifics can come later. If you do not set up a contract before any work has been done, you are likely to not get paid at all. Talking about money can be difficult for photographers and clients, so some tips to make it easier include:
The common advice that you get what you pay for holds true here as well. If you can prove, through talking with the clients and your portfolio, that you are worth the price you set, they will be willing to pay.
Once clients agree to a price and scope of work, get it all in writing and signed. Then, get a deposit so that you will receive some compensation even if the event is canceled. Normally, a deposit should be between 10 to 50 percent of the total price.
Now that you have landed a gig and have a contract secured, congratulations! The next important tip is making sure you have access to all necessary information.
You will do your best work at photographing the event if you know all information beforehand. Questions to ask the clients at this point include:
All of these questions are meant to ensure that you do your best work, and that the client will be satisfied with the photographs you take at the event. Coming into the event with a clear list of photos to take and important tasks will optimize your workflow and make the event easier for everyone.
To prepare for the event, scout out the location before it starts. This can often happen an hour or two before the event itself starts, while staff are setting up tables and adding the finishing touches. The earlier you can see the place, the better.
Being able to see the location and layout before you arrive is key to being prepared. Things to look out for during the initial scouting include:
Positioning and angles are some of the most important qualities of any photo. Being able to take extra time to decide on these will be a great boon to grabbing high-quality shots that will please the client.
Bringing a variety of lenses and accessories is essential for getting the best photos possible. Often at events, you will not have much time to switch between lenses and accessories. Because of this, zoom lenses tend to be the best for this work.
If you have multiple camera bodies, keeping a prime lens at a good focal length, such as 50mm, on one is a great idea. That way, the second can be switched out for specific uses.
If you have the opportunity to scope out the environment before bringing your gear, it is even better. You will know how far you will be from most subjects and can adjust accordingly.
At a bare minimum for gear, bring a long zoom lens and a short zoom lens. In combination, these are usable for portraits, speaking photos, candids, details, and group photos.
Bring backups and spares whenever possible, especially if the event requires you to travel. Being unable to finish photographing an event because your gear broke is unprofessional and will not inspire confidence. Essential backups include:
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Blending in while shooting a corporate event is key. No one wants to have a photographer show up in flashy clothes, or running around and distracting attendees from the event.
Occasionally, clients may ask you to dress in a specific way. Always feel free to ask what the dress code for the event is if they do not tell you. If the average attendee is going to be dressed in a suit or dress, it would be unprofessional and distracting of you to show up in a t-shirt and jeans.
Blending in will also help you tremendously when trying to get candid shots. The best photographers often blend into the background so well that attendees will not notice them until the photographer speaks up or the flash goes off.
Blending in is about more than how you dress, however. As the photographer of the event, it is easy to get into the mindset of grabbing the best shot at all times, causing you to run all over the place and block sightlines. Do not block off what guests can see while you are taking photos. The occasional step is fine, but if you notice people are annoyed at your presence or constantly trying to get by, reevaluate your methods.
Often, corporate events will not have great lighting. To ensure that subjects show up well and are captured in good lighting, a flash extension for your camera is essential. Talk with the client to ensure that flash is allowed at the event, and use your best judgment.
It is best to leave the flash on your camera at all times, even if you end up not using it often. Most of the time, you will not use the flash. This is preferred, and produces more natural photos that disrupt the event less. Still, keeping the flash available allows for more freedom. This way, if a picture comes up quickly that requires the extension, you are ready to go. This can commonly happen with portraits, group photos, or speaker photos.
If you are trying to grab candid photos, or in an area where you need to stay more hidden than normal, do not use your flash. It will immediately make guests aware of your being there, and could even distract the speaker at the time if it is sudden.
It is always best to grab photos of essential people and set pieces as early as you can. This way, you will be freed up to take pictures of other happenings in case something unexpected arises that you want to photograph.
Do not rush the photos in the name of getting them done quickly.
The point of grabbing photos early on is so you can concentrate on making your work even better. For instance, if you take a photograph of the CEO of the company while he is walking but later get an opportunity to take a better photo of him speaking, do both. All of your bases will be covered and you can later determine which fits best.
The list of essentials to hit will change for every event. Still, there are some common essentials such as:
Discuss with the client early on to see if there are any other things that they really want the photographer to capture.
This is more of a common courtesy than anything else. Talking with guests and attendees before taking their photos will almost always result in the person being more comfortable and willing to be photographed.
A simple introduction stating who you are, where the photo will be used, and that you were hired by the event will open most people up immediately. You may run into a very small minority who did not want their picture taken, and that is OK - simply move on and take pictures of another guest.
If you try to sneak in photos of guests, outside of candid photos during key moments, they can often become uncomfortable and sneak away from the camera. This will result in multiple negative effects; your photos will be the worse for it, your reputation and ability to gain these people as clients will be tarnished, and others at the event may not want you to take their photo as word spreads.
In addition, be considerate when taking photos at the event. Your duty is to capture the event as best you can, but preferably not at the expense of the attendees. If you notice someone having a bad time, trying to keep away from the camera, or generally being uncomfortable with events, do not photograph them. It is best to find another angle to a shot in cases such as this.
This is a general photography tip that proves even more useful in fast-paced environments such as corporate events. Knowing how to quickly adjust your camera’s various settings to achieve the best shot possible across settings is key to grabbing everything there is to see at the event.
During your initial scouting of the event location, it is a good idea to develop a basic setting that fits the room. This way, you can quickly switch back to this base if you need to adjust the aperture or any other setting. Most cameras have a way to quickly save a group of settings toward this purpose.
If you have a high-end camera that can save multiple setting configurations, consider making basic groups for common photos. These could include settings for:
The quicker you can adjust your camera’s settings, the better you can capture great photos.
This is a fairly obvious one that can occasionally go overlooked - do not photograph the meal portions of any event. Nobody enjoys getting their photograph taken during mealtime, and open mouths, in general, are almost always tough to photograph.
Instead of taking more photos at this time, start editing through what you already have. Culling down the bad photographs and applying quick edits to the final product during meal times is a great way to increase your delivery speed.
Editing on the go during corporate events is an essential skill that will develop over time. You can use not only meal time to start editing, but also any lulls in the event schedule. So long as there is not an activity happening at the moment, it is normally acceptable to sit in a corner and start going through your photos. Staff on hand can also help alert you when the next thing is happening, allowing you to focus on the tasks at hand.
In addition, especially if it is a long event, take time to rest and eat yourself. You can often request a meal during the contract negotiations if the day will be long. Otherwise, bring a snack or other small food that you can regain energy with. Your photos and professionalism will suffer for it if you do not.
There are lots of photographs that you will have to take during the event. In addition to whatever essentials a client may outline for you, there are some key people and happenings that you should capture to the best of your ability. These include:
This may seem like a lot, but this is over the course of a whole event. Take your time and line these up properly and interestingly, as these will be the shots that clients look back fondly on. Take multiple photos of each essential so that you can choose which looks best later on.
In addition, these shots are most likely to be shared by the corporation online. This is a great way to get your name out there more and possibly set up future events to photograph.
This is the most important tip for continuing to get corporate event photography gigs; deliver the work quickly. Speed of service is vital in photography, but even more so with corporate events. With how many there are, companies need to have photos up and out there to garner interest as fast as possible.
Corporations and organizations will expect a rapid turnaround - at most, the delivery of photos should take no more than 24 hours after the event. Any more than that and clients will lose a lot of use for photos. Whenever possible, deliver the photos at the end of the event itself. Editing on the go is an essential skill toward this end.
If delivery of photographs will take longer than anticipated, be sure to alert the clients. Staying in communication will help smooth over issues as they arise. If the problem grows into a large one, consider offering a discount on your services as remedy for the issues on your end. This should only be done as a last resort!
Discuss with clients early on to figure out how they would like the photos delivered. Often, a file transfer is the best bet. Whether through a physical drive like a USB stick or a private album uploaded online, make sure that companies can easily reach high-quality versions of the photos you took.
Provide all the photos of the event that you think are good, or that the company has use for. They can then pick and choose what to share on their social media pages. Once you have delivered the photos, send along the invoice for your work and thank them for the opportunity.
Check out these articles to learn more about the need for a model release for event photography, and how to get into Event Photography.