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How to Work with Professional Photographers at Your Organization’s Event

November 25, 2013
Photo of the Moth's Los Angeles Grand Slam by

Photo of the Moth’s Los Angeles Grand Slam by

Even in the age of digital video, good still photography is a vital part of your organization’s communications. Sure, you could buy a good camera for your staff to use or rely on participants to take cell phone photos to document your event. But good professional photography can make your work stand out in our media-saturated world. Sometimes you need to invest in the expertise of a professional photographer. A public event, like a fundraising dinner or a conference, is one of those occasions.

Based on my experience working with photographers over the years, I created a list of suggestions below. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

  1. Budget for good photography. Most photographers charge around $1000 for a full day and $500 for a half day. Also budget for retouching and/or color correction.
  2. Find a trusted photographer well in advance of your event. Word-of-mouth is ideal but if you don’t have a referral, try resources like American Society of Media Photographers or National Press Photographer Association. Visit the websites of photographers that you find in your area and check out their portfolios. Make sure they have experience taking event photos (yes, weddings count!).
  3. Determine your goals with the photographer. Why are you gathering images from your event?  What’s the final product? If you’re making a slideshow, you might want only landscape (horizontal) images. If you’re planning to make text overlay macro images, you’ll need lots of empty space around the speaker. Specify how many photos you’ll need (i.e. a 3-minute slideshow needs at least 100 photos). To make sure you’re on the same page, draft a contract that covers deliverables, rights to the photos and a payment plan.
  4. Choose your event space carefully and create a good set. Good lighting is key. Outdoor daytime events or spaces with lots of natural daylight are ideal. But if neither is possible, be sure that there will be adequate stage lighting like spotlights. Otherwise the photographer might need to use a flash that could be disruptive to your event or conflict with any video recording. “Step and repeat” backdrops (banners with multiple logos) are all the rage for the entrances to events. But don’t use them on stage. Complex backdrops might make it difficult to create good images of speakers (especially if you want to make text overlay images).
  5. Ask permission of your subjects in advance. For speakers, ask them to sign a release form as soon as they agree to participate, well BEFORE the event. If they’re unwilling to sign the release, you might reconsider having be part of the program. Here’s the release form I use [PDF] . For event participants in the audience, put prominent signs at the entrance to the space. Here are some samples I found online: PDF1 and PDF2 . For participants who don’t want to be photographed, consider creating an area for them to sit in, i.e. in a particular section or at a certain table. Putting a mark or sticker on their name tag is too difficult for a photographer to see while they’re working.
  6. Create a game plan. With the photographer, draft a shot list of ideal images you’d like to have, i.e. particular people, certain action shots, etc. Before the event, show the photographer existing photos of people you want to photograph (i.e. from Facebook) or, at the event, point them out. If you’re using a combination of professional photographers and volunteers, assign different roles in advance, i.e. capturing speakers vs audience action shots.
  7. Pre-plan an easy way to share photos immediately after the event, i.e. WeTransfer or Dropbox. The day after the event, you might want to share 5-6 of the best pictures on social media.
  8. Create an archive of your photos. Where are you going to store the photos after you use them? Label the images and put them in an accessible place on your organization’s server so you can easily find them again in the future.

What do you think of this list? What did I miss? Or what do you agree with? Let me know in the comments below.

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