I’ll never forget the day I shot my first corporate event. I rented a Nikon D2h and an 80-200 2.8 lens. An hour into the shoot my neck was already killing me and the client had already told me to stand in the back because my camera was “making too much noise.” It was there, at some Economist Conferences Event, that my life as an event photographer began.
In a sense, I “cut my teeth” in wedding photography by shooting corporate events.
Corporate functions such as a “lecture style” event can be very difficult to shoot because of the limited aesthetic range and the rigid situation. Finding an artful way of representing them with the camera can be a real challenge. By taking the time and energy to make art out of each event, I was preparing myself as a wedding photographer. It was the persistent search for art in every event that I shot that has helped shape me into the wedding photographer I am today.
With that said, here are some of the things I’ve learned from corporate events that can easily be applied to just about any type of event photography.
1. If you’re not early, you’re late. Leave enough time to get to the job so that you’re not stressed once you arrive. You’ll also impress the client and even the staff/various vendors associated with the event, who may hire you later.
2. Be prepared to muzzle it. By now you’d think our expensive DSLR’s wouldn’t make as much noise as they do, but they do. I hate shooting with the blimp on my D3, but I do it when I have to. And the client and everyone around me appreciates it. Check out the one I have.
3. Look sharp. Never look sloppy. Your own appearance influences how others see themselves in your photos. Your safest bet is to wear black but don’t be sloppy just because you’re wearing black.
4. Shoot an 85 1.4. Before the Nikon D3 I shot with a D200 and a D2h (cameras not necessarily known for their low light greatness!). So shooting at 1.4 was the name of the game, but from doing it so much I got much better at composing, focusing, and even manually exposing shots – partly due to the lack of “quick moving” objects and situations. Have no doubt, the 85 1.4 is my favorite lens to shoot, period, and should be in any event shooter’s camera bag. If not the 85 1.4, be sure to have a long lens that shoots 2.8 all the way through, and perhaps even a monopod (your back will thank you).
5. Get in, get down, and get out! Be respectful of those around you by shooting from a low perspective (from your knees, or even sitting right on the floor). You won’t block people as much and they will appreciate that! Plus you never want to be viewed as a “distraction” so by shooting low, you’ll disappear a lot faster.
6. For heaven’s sake SHOOT RAW!! Even if for white balance freedom alone, shoot raw!
7. Make sure you send an invoice immediately and be prepared to wait 30 days (or more) to be paid. One of the worst parts of the non-wedding world is that it takes time to be paid for corporate work. Don’t fret and don’t lose your mind if you aren’t paid even beyond 30 days. Be nice about it, because chances are the person who hired you is not in accounting, and understands fully where you are coming from.
8. Know who it is you are actually shooting! You should know something about every main person you are shooting. Either ask the client for descriptions or research them on your own. But either way, come prepared.
9. No matter what, smile and have fun. We’re lucky to love what we do, and it should show when we’re working. This will very naturally put people at ease around us and contribute to making successful photos at the events we shoot.
10. Strive to make art in every situation. Be able to take anything you want and turn it into art. However you know how, just do it. If you have to manipulate a scene by moving yourself, do so. Change lenses, shoot from a different angle. Whatever you need to do to take a scene and make it into art… This is amazing practice for the wedding world, especially when there isn’t so much to shoot (like at a corporate event).
Written by Brian Friedman
New York-based photographer Brian Friedman started out as a road manager for the legendary jazz drummer Roy Haynes. But it was during Haynes’ 20-city tour, that Brian began photographing Roy and discovered his passion for image making that put him on a road to a new career. Since then, he has sharpened his skills and his eye to become recognized as a photographer of choice by noted entertainment personalities, politicians, corporate leaders, event planners and of course, brides and grooms from all over the world.