Aalto Networking Platform

A short guide for creating a great event photoset

by Valeria Azovskaya, February 2020

In this article, we offer a few tips to help you plan event photography and control the results. Furthermore, we share a short downloadable checklist that anyone can use while getting ready for photographing their own event.

The event 

Both an organizer and a photographer should know the basics of the event venue. Planning together helps to minimize certain risks, and to avoid misunderstandings and poor results in photography the organizer receives at the end. These tips have been useful for us and hopefully, they will help you, too.

  1. Event type
    The events organize are various: there are summits, conferences, poster sessions, informal meetups, workshops, lectures, outdoor activities, festivals -- you name it. Discuss together what should be captured, talk about the organizer's expectations, and listen to what the photographer has to offer in return. Does a photographer need to capture the crowd? Or, are there teamwork and facilitation practitioners at the core of the event’s agenda? What types of activities are important to record and catch on film and what is secondary? 
    The main question to ask: what to photograph? 
  2. People
    The number of people in the event can vary from very few participants to a few hundred or even thousands of people. The challenge here is to focus on important personas or internal meetings while keeping in mind the bigger picture and the atmosphere of the whole event itself. Besides that, speakers always appreciate their own portraits presenting in front of a busy audience. Likewise, facilitators will be happy to see photos of themselves during a co-creative session with participants. Finally, team members would love to see themselves working together (this acts as a “thank you” for their participation, too). Moreover, people that have significant importance in the community or special guests should be captured together in relevant surroundings, engaged and happy.
    The main question to ask: who to photograph? 

  3. Location
    Every event has a schedule, and indeed, it can be very handy to plan the photography around it. The size of the venue and the event complexity (when many things are happening at the same time), secondary locations like entrances or backstage -- all these are the potential places for a photographer to be present and working. Also, the staff room is one of the essential locations for a longer event and a secure spot where photographers can, for example, recharge their batteries and download their photos. Keep the schedule ready for a photographer and help them to plan their timing around it.
    The main question to ask: how many activities in various locations should a photographer need to photograph at the same time? 

  4. Future use of the photos
    Why do we photograph the event? What we will need those photos for? It is great if organizers have answers to those questions even before a photographer asks them. Media coverage, personal archives, reporting, advertising for future events and activities, helping participants to remember the momentum -- all of these can be very valuable reasons for having a photographer at the event. Talk about this beforehand and make sure you're on the same page about the copyright for the images, delivering RAW files, and the deadline for receiving a photo set from the photographer.
    The main question to ask: how will photos be used in the future? 

EIT Festival_photo Anna Mathews

Hello photographer, are you ready for the event? 

  1. Gear up! 
    We all have the photo equipment we are most comfortable and confident with, so we won't recommend what's best for you. The same goes for clothes, shoes, and the gear's bag -- they should be comfortable for YOU to use. Spare batteries and memory cards are a must. And it's great if you know how to use an external power flash for your (and your surroundings) benefits. 
  2. Ask the organizer
    It's great if you're self-assured, but don't underestimate the collaborative aspect and someone who knows better what is going to happen at the actual event. Ask them questions. Don't hesitate to ask too many and too specific questions.
  3. Plan
    Do your research regarding the event and the venue's facilities to plan your time there. Ask the organizer about the schedule and what exactly they want you to photograph. Give them some examples, discuss the options, and try to end up with agreed deliverables.
  4. Keep track.
    The event’s to-do (to-photograph) list (example: please see the PDF attached) is a great help, especially for complex events. Moreover, action photos, pre-event photos of early birds, backstage, catering photos, or more personal portrait photos that you can do after a short chat with your model-of-choice can be a great addition to the defined list of the deliverables. 
Aalto Image Bank Javor

Congratulations, you're the event organizer! 

  1. Communicate
    Think about what you need from the event photographer and let them know what it is. Ask for photography examples from similar events and get to know the photographer's style before hiring them for your event. Discuss the event's schedule, ask the photographer to evaluate the workload, and clearly communicate your expectations of the photoset you will receive at the end. 
  2. Support
    Let the photographer ask questions and answer them as fully as possible. Give them a full event schedule, additional contact details of your co-organizer(s), and make sure they have all the information they might need to prepare for the event. 
  3. Confirm
    Create and review the list of “things to be photographed" together with the photographer, and think through the photographer's event journey to see if one photographer will be enough for your event. 
  4. Be clear (again)
    There are things that (might be) tricky to discuss and considered somewhat secondary. However, educating each other on those matters helps to overcome possible challenges, especially if something goes wrong. Remember to bring the following questions up before the event: agreeing on the deliverables, the photographer’s fee, the payment schedule, cancelations, rescheduling, copyrights, RAW files policy, refund, liability insurance (if applicable), and maybe even secure those in a form of a contract. This page will help you to prepare.
  5. Last but not least: we prepared a short checklist for event photography. You can find it in the attachments below the article, print it, and, if you like, share it with your event photographer!

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