Spotlight on Meetings and Conventions

Age of the image

It’s easy to get lost when trying to determine the photo needs for an event and find the right photographer for the job. Though it may seem simple enough, capturing an event in pictures comes with its own particular challenges. Marc-Antoine Jean, Photographer, shares his top tips to assist meeting and event planners successfully carry out this project and how photography is an integral part of event success.


Demand for photography has been  steadily increasing for a number of years now. Nearly everywhere you look, there’s a photo or image.  It’s especially true in our modern communication-driven world in which social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, provide us with a ceaseless stream of information and updates. Advances in digital photography and the evolution of the cameras used by amateurs and professionals have a lot to do with the accelerated mass con-sumption of images. Every day on Earth, more photos are taken than over the course of the entire 20th century! Event photography, like all the rest, has been affected by these developments. 

What’s at Stake?


Why hire an event photographer? There are several advantages  to getting good coverage. First of all, like it or not, image quality  has come to stand as an indicator of the calibre of a company  or event. A business that consistently presents professional looking photos will always be taken more seriously than a competitor that uses pictures taken with an iPhone, for example. We tend to associate good pictures with  success, regardless of the size of the convention, symposium, banquet, conference,  party, etc. Having a photographer on hand has become a given—a necessity, even. It’s something that organizers and participants alike have come to expect. 

Participants want to see pictures of themselves on social networks; Facebook’s identification system makes this an extremely low-cost form of advertising that can provide exponential returns. But the utility of event photos doesn’t stop there. You’ll be able to use the pictures to demonstrate the size and success of the event, of course (since a good photographer makes any event look like a smashing success), and for documentary purposes.

Event Photographers: A Field Guide


Although digital photography is now available to virtually anyone, the ratio of supply and demand remains somewhat unchanged. There are certainly more photographers than there were ten years ago, but there is also a greater demand for pictures. When it comes to professional event photography, things are a little different. More and more people  own professional digital cameras—a boon for retailers —but the number of skilled photographers who  specialize in covering events hasn’t followed the same curve; events don’t have the same appeal as portrait photography for newcomers. 

Covering events isn’t just about having the right equipment and supplying clear, well-lit shots. It also  means having certain soft skills. Event photography  happens in the midst of people, and can even be excessively intrusive. Sometimes it’s the only way to  capture a special moment. That’s why event photo- graphers will take risks, be patient, and be charming.  Good event photographers have strong personalities and are likeable. They’re generous enough to draw people in while retaining a sense of tact and professionalism. 

Like photojournalists, event journalists are fast and efficient. They’ve mastered their techniques and don’t leave much to chance. But there are differences between the two. Photojournalists are looking to show and tell facts. They can represent a certain point of view, but they’re  looking to portray reality so that media outlets can sell  more copies. Event photographers, on the other hand,  represent a vested interest, usually corporate, defined  by the person or organization that hires them. They’ll  always try to show the scenes at hand in their best light. It’s not a matter of fudging the facts, but of  concentrating on the elements that present a positive  image of the contracting party. 

Who to Choose?

When hiring the right photographer, it’s important to choose someone with strong references and a great-looking portfolio—someone who knows the game. Even for photographers who know all the ins and outs of event coverage, you’ll need to supply a project brief that sets out, in detail, the scope of work, the company’s expectations, and the images required. An experienced photorapher will add to the brief by making suggestions before and during the event or even antici-pating needs the client may have forgotten. Good photographers see and capture certain elements that will add value to the image of your gathering—a well-placed handshake, a participant interacting with a promotional piece supplied by a sponsor, a wink or smile or spontaneous reaction that brings life and emotional depth to your event. These images can be hard to include in a brief or proposal, but with a skilled, experienced photographer, they should be in the bag. 

Trends in Event Photography


When it comes to event photography, there are definite trends. These tend to draw on what’s being done in nightlife, culture, sports, and wedding photo- graphy, and are adapted to a corporate context, to the delight of event organizers. For the past two years at least, photo booths have been very popular. Whether you use an actual booth or a temporary “photo studio” for your evening activity, these setups give your guests or participants the chance to cut loose and get silly in front of a camera, maybe even with accessories related to the event. The resulting photos are unfailingly fun and highly personalized, which makes them ideal for social media—and even as Facebook profile pics. The only downside is that, while they highlight participants, they aren’t taken within a larger context, so they can’t be used editorially to showcase the size or feeling of an event.

Personally, I’ll always recommend the photo studio approach, since the photographer creates a relationship with the person being photographed and can also make better lighting choices, which is to everyone’s advantage.

The Going Rates


Hiring a good photographer is something you should budget for.  Most photographers charge by the hour or day. Expect to pay a  minimum of $150/hour for a skilled photographer on this type of  job, and know that they’ll probably charge a two-hour minimum.  Some will ask $200 or even $250 an hour; this often reflects the  quality and professionalism of the work. The price can also vary depending on the type of event. There aren’t any hard and fast  rules, but in my case, a wedding anniversary, for example, doesn’t command the same fee as an inter-national conference with a thousand participants. The fee may also vary depending on the complexity of  the brief (often defined in the call  for proposals). 

As you can see, being clear and specific in your call for proposals is of the utmost importance. Final file format(s), hours of work, image processing requirements, deadlines, ownership (rights, licensing), as well as the types of images—all these details should be crystal clear before you agree to the contract. The same thing goes for service proposals submitted by photographers. They should be clear, and you shouldn’t hesitate to add clarifications or specifications. Over time, you’ll develop solid relationships with different photog-raphers, which will make communication that much easier. 

Good event photographers have strong personalities and are likeable. They’re generous enough to draw people in while retaining a sense of tact.

Of course, photo booths and temporary photo studios need to be booked in advance and included in the photo budget. Rates can depend on several factors, and not many photographers offer a full photo studio experience.
In 2016, photography has become both a challenge and a necessity when organizing an event. It’s important to take the time to ask the right questions and find the person who can truly meet your needs. At first glance it may seem like a costly service, but remember: photography is an investment that will help you build your reputation and credibility as an event planner. Images are enduring witnesses of your event that will last long after the closing ceremony. That’s something to think about.

This article is from the Québec City Convention Centre's magazine, Québec Centre.

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