Great event photography pleases clients, flatters donors, and can help tremendously with garnering press. But great photos don't just happen willy-nilly—even with an exceptionally skilled photographer. “From an ability standpoint, your event photographer may very well be the second coming of Ansel Adams,” says Ben Hindman, C.E.O. of Splash. “But if he doesn't realize the goals of the event and the potential R.O.I. of the photographs, you are lost.” It's important to have a clear and thorough shot list before the event, as well as a solid plan to make sure that list is executed. Here are tips from event planners, photographers, and PR reps on how to direct event photography.
1. The group shot
Stephanie Krol of Chicago-based SKPR asks all committee members to come to an event early so that there's time for a group shot. “Designate a time and location prior to the event,” she says. That way, you can “get the magic photo before the event madness kicks in.” And if there's a celebrity or media personality present, Krol suggests asking that person to pose with the event chairs—but be certain it's kosher first. “Make sure you're working with a celeb who's approved [posing for] photos prior to the event.”
2. Sponsor activations
Krol suggests snapping sponsor activations before guests arrive, then taking photos throughout the evening to show partygoers interacting with products or services.
3. Crowd and overall shots
Sam Saifer Berngard, director of events at The Chicago Sun-Times's Splash, always requests crowd shots. “The close-ups really do not convey the big picture. No pun intended.” Michel Guyon, owner of Line 8 Photography, agrees. “Perhaps due to their primary focus on details and emphasis on design elements, the one thing planners often forget to mention on the shot list is an overall view, a photograph taken from a higher vantage point that will give a unique idea of size and scope of the event. Whether it takes climbing a latter, a rooftop, a tree, or a food truck, we always go to great lengths in order to capture that image,” he says. “It makes a huge difference.”
4. Location shots
Make sure to request photographs of the venue. “I always like to have our photographer capture location shots for archival use,” says Katharine Greis of Jack Morton Worldwide in Chicago. “These are great tools for debrief meetings; it gives us a great foundation for discussion.”
5. Liquor sponsors' drinks and signage
Hindman gets plenty of shots for liquor sponsors. His shot list includes: close-ups of sponsored cocktails and drink menus, guests drinking sponsored spirits, guests posing with sponsored bottles, and hero shots of sponsored beverages. But be careful with those guests-drinking snaps. Hindman insists on “absolutely no shots of guests appearing visibly drunk and/or partaking in excessive drinking.”
6. Program and event collateral
Images of the event program and collateral can help tell the story of the event to someone who wasn't able to make it in person, says Marcy Manley of WPI Event Partners in Chicago.
7. Award winners and presenters
“During an award show, get a picture of every presenter and every winner on stage,” says Javier Velarde, executive producer and creative director of Triton Productions.
8. “Grips and grins”
Greis says: “I always give our photographer a list of the most important ‘moments’ that will take place at the event: a handshake between dignitaries, a large-scale ribbon cutting or a major award presentation—these shots are always full of emotion and excitement.” Manley simply refers to such moments as “grips and grins” and is sure to add them to every shot list.
9. Guests from different regions
“We always try to get a couple shots of people per city or region, if applicable, to send to those cities' local papers,” says Molly Neville, events director at Boston's United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.
10. The line outside
Hindman also makes sure to capture the event entrance with the line outside.