5 Great Tips for Photographing a Conference

Charley Stoney, Group Managing Director at Alternatives addressing the CMO Summit in the Google Foundry Dublin

If you’re about to photograph your first conference, then you should realise the honour bestowed on you. You’re playing an integral part in a company’s functioning. Here’s a fact: As well as your job being about helping everyone remember the good times they shared, you’re also helping businesses to build a brand and good customer relations.

So, to help you out with photographing these types of events, we have compiled some top tips for great conference photography:

1. Do Your Homework

You’ll be surrounded by people for the duration of the conference so you’ll have many subjects to capture. But random pictures may seem a bit chaotic. You need to know what to focus on and in which moment.

Ask for the agenda so you know when there will be speakers, activities or prize givings to capture. You can position yourself in advance so you don’t miss a special moment or a good shot.

2. Don’t Disturb the Audience

Yes, your photographs are an important part of the day; but not the most important.

Conference attendees want to give or receive information, not smile for cameras. Don’t ask them to pose unless the client instructs you to because even such a little thing could affect their overall experience of the day.

Conference organisers put a lot of time into creating user friendly activities. You need to be part of this and remember:

  • Don’t make any noise during a speech.
  • Don’t use your flash where it will distract people.
  • Don’t stand in front of the audience just to get a good shot.

Remember, you may also have to get into some awkward positions to get excellent shots. Who said a job is always going to be easy? It’s time to get creative.

3. Ensure You Have the Right Equipment

If you’re used to corporate headshots it won’t necessarily help you in this niche. Remember your subjects won’t be standing still.

Firstly, unless your client asks you to take posed photographs of conference goers, it’s not a good idea to ask the guests to stop for a picture. The attendees want to take in the conference information and your requests may be unwanted interruptions. And don’t think the speaker will stop and smile on stage so you can get an easy shot.

You’ll have to be prepared with fast lenses that can take quality photographs even if the subjects move about. Also, be prepared for a long day of shooting so the lighter your equipment the better. Try to not use a flash as speakers may find it distracting.

4. Remember Back Up Plans

You don’t want to tell your client that you missed out on a perfect photo op do you? He or she might expect a stunning image of the closing speech or perhaps they want a huge group photo when everything is over. It will be very awkward if you can’t take it.

This can easily happen when you take too little resources with you:

  • A very busy day can consume all your battery life so remember to bring a spare one.
  • You also don’t want to run out of memory. The conference is not the place to decide which photos to delete just so you can make space for more. You may delete some of your best work when you’re in a hurry.
  • Bring extra cables & chargers

A good photographer is creative but also prepared for all eventualities.

5. Can You Edit Fast?

What do you think your client’s timeline is? Will they wait for their images for a week or more?

Photographs of a conference are usually going to be used afterwards as marketing material. And this material gets old very fast. The company who you are taking the shots for will need to post images on social media, websites and printed media within days of the event.

This means you may need to burn the midnight oil to edit and deliver quality conference photography images. But your hard work will pay off. A happy client will use you again or pass on the word about your skill and dedication to the project to someone else.