TODAY’S EVENT PHOTOGRAPHERS DELIVER MUCH MORE THAN GLOSSY PRINTS
Back in the darkroom era, event photography was not the instant-gratification enterprise it is today. Turnaround time was measured in days, not minutes, and few could have anticipated a future when images could be posted instantly to social media, prints could be churned out within 20 seconds of the click of a shutter and 3-D selfies would be garnering buzz as the next big trend.
Today, everyone with a smartphone is a photographer of sorts. But regardless of how high the megapixel count or how sophisticated the media-sharing app, smartphones aren’t equipped with professional expertise when it comes to conveying a corporate brand, amplifying an event, laying groundwork for future marketing or fulfilling other roles expected of today’s event photographers.
Robin Rinehart, an independent meeting and event planner with Rinehart Design and Consulting in Citrus Heights, considers an event photographer to be a critical component of any corporate gathering, and not just for immediate needs. A shot list of “must have” images—presenters, awards, entertainers—is basic, she notes, while green-screen setups, photo booths and step-and-repeats in front of company logos add fun and pizazz to large gatherings. Thinking beyond the obvious, she adds, can reap additional rewards for planner and client alike.
For example, Rinehart says overhead shots and before-and-after venue layout shots can be useful in ways not immediately apparent. “Sometimes we do timeline shots to document an event from setup to cleanup,” she says. “Clients will turn this into a time-lapse video, and planners can use it to say, ‘Here’s an example of a front-to-back event I did.’”
These days, of course, the ability to print on-site and post immediately to social media is an expected part of the package. Post-event online galleries and cloud-storage sites like Dropbox take over. But while online storage has its place, Rinehart finds that links often expire before clients and attendees can work their way through the images. That, plus the fact that downloaded galleries can hog a lot of space on a computer, is why she always asks for a photo-loaded thumb drive or CD on top of other means of delivery.
Rinehart works frequently with Curtis Tarpley, owner of Sacramento-based Express Event Imaging, who has ridden the front end of the technology curve since going digital in 2002. Despite the changeover from film to computer, Tarpley says, business basics haven’t changed all that much. When asked what new clients are most interested in, he’s quick with a response: “Budget, budget, budget.”
That’s where experience and business acumen comes in. “One of the things I do when a new client calls is ask a thousand and one questions to determine the exact services that they really need,” Tarpley says. “Especially when it comes to conventions, I have to educate people on what’s available for them, the best way to maximize their dollars and how to make their company look good.”
When it comes to pricing, Tarpley prefers to negotiate a flat-rate, all-inclusive package rather than itemize every detail. “I focus on developing relationships for the long haul and am not going to nickel and dime the client,” he says. “I offer unlimited prints, for example, whereas others put a cap on it. I don’t charge for Internet access [the fee is built into the base price], as some do. I try to base everything I do off of $250 an hour—but there are variables, of course, depending on the size of the event and what the client wants.”
Besides a busy schedule of conventions, trade shows, award galas, product launches, sporting events and executive portraiture that take Tarpley and his team around the country, he does fan-zone work for the Sacramento Kings, LPGA, PGA, NHRA and shoots corporate events for the San Francisco Giants. Geography, he notes, often plays a role when it comes to budgets.
“I know from experience that if a company is meeting in Palm Springs or San Diego, there’s more of a budget than if they’re coming to Sacramento or Stockton,” he says. “And I know from experience that if I come in too low for a quote in Silicon Valley, I will not get the job; people look at it as though it’s too cheap.”
Riding the Red Carpet
Got celebs? Know the ropes.
Matt Randall is a Los Angeles-based photographer experienced in shooting celebrity-studded events. Now he also deals with the logistics of managing photographers and public relations. The former Los Angeles Times staffer/manager is a partner in Pro Photography Network, a consortium of former newspaper photographers. Randall spoke with CAM+E about logistics and etiquette at celebrity events.
>> Nine times out of 10, the reason a photographer is allowed to shoot a celebrity is because they have an upcoming event and want it promoted. Photographers (and the planner who secured the job) need to know what that event/movie/charity is about and research it ahead of time.
>> The amount of time the photographer will have with the celebrity is quite often only 10 to 15 minutes. Planners should find out if the photographer can go to the location early to set up.
>> Be on time—better yet, be very early. It’s okay if the celebrities are late, and nine times out of 10, they will be. Planners and photographers should not show any irritation.
>> Everyone in the room should act is if they have done this 100 times. Watch the over-talking. Just be direct and do the job.
>> Never, ever ask for an autograph. That goes for any athlete, celebrity, musician, etc.
FIVE THINGS EVENT PHOTOGRAPHERS WANT PLANNERS TO KNOW
Gene X Hwang is co-founder of Orange Photography, a San Francisco-based, full-service photo/video agency offering services locally, nationally and abroad. CAM+E spoke with him about what planners should anticipate when hiring an event photographer.
1. ON-SITE CHALLENGES WILL ALWAYS ARISE: The complexity of an event can vary, Hwang says, with large events requiring skillful handling of logistics, security and VIPs. “Some challenges are technical, but often times the biggest ones arise when there are lots of moving pieces and you have to adjust on the fly,” he adds.
2. GOALS DETERMINE OUTCOME: Clients should know what the goal of the photography is and who the stakeholders are, Hwang says. “If there are immediate PR needs, we need to know what kind of shots might require a quick turnaround for social media, etc. And we need to know when and where special.
3. WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW TO ASK CAN HURT YOU: One item sometimes overlooked by planners is venue-required liability insurance for photographers, Hwang says. Policies, which vary in price according to event size, type, duration and venue, typically cover third-party bodily injuries, property damage and advertising injury claims (for example, copyright infringement). While policies can usually be turned around quickly, same-day requests can cut into set-up time and cause delays, Hwang notes, adding, “Clients should also ask what the backup plans are [in case a photographer gets hurt or sick].”
4. HOW TO LEVERAGE THE TRENDS: Photographers can suggest many ways to help make events more exciting, and new trends and gizmos are emerging all the time, says Hwang. “Photo booths and headshot booths are big hits right now,” he notes, “and we can create social mediaready environments branded with logos and lit nicely so that people can take selfies to post and share online. We can also create a game based on a hashtag that people can submit or that we can curate leveraging Instagram. And we can tie that into an Instagram print station so people get an actual physical print of something they shot. The funny thing we’ve seen is where someone will post a photo to Instagram, then pick up the print, then take a photo of the print and repost it—very meta!”
5. WHAT KIND OF “EXTRAS” CAN BUMP UP A BILL: “Most common are unanticipated calls for a quick turnaround or a need for extended hours,” says Hwang, who prefers to negotiate a flat rate for services. “We ask questions about these types of things up front so that people aren’t caught unaware.”
What an Event Photography Contract Should Include
The most important thing in hiring an event photographer, says Robin Rinehart of Rinehart Design and Consulting in Sacramento, is “to have clear and concise expectations.”
That means having a contract spelling out terms for each event, even when the planner has a longstanding relationship with the photographer. Here are Rinehart’s pointers for areas to be addressed.
✔ Date of service; dollar amount of contract
✔ Event schedule: beginning and end times for the photo shoot
✔ Clear understanding of reimbursable expenses, such as travel costs
✔ Clear expectations of service
✔ List of key shots
✔ Media type (video, digital, prints) and how and when images will be delivered and purchased
✔ Pre- and post-production editing: understand process and costs
✔ Payment schedule
✔ Cancellation, rescheduling and backup policies
✔ Permits needed, such as video for public broadcasting
✔ Copyright policies
✔ Model and public photography releases
✔ Location limitations
✔ Limited liability insurance
✔ Photographer’s policy on reproduction
✔ Exclusivity: Is this the only photographer hired for the event, or will others be roaming the floor? If so, what are their jobs?