Planning, patience and fast lenses produce memorable conference photos

Trade shows, conferences and corporate seminars that bring together diverse crowds are often effective ways to showcase an industry. Organizations wanting to promote the success of their conferences frequently use photography as a means of documenting who attended and what transpired. Unfortunately, unless the person capturing the images is a seasoned professional, conference photos often lack visual impact and are largely uninspiring.

Whether or not your company hires a professional photographer to capture images for documentation and marketing purposes, several time-honored tips can help produce extraordinary photos. All that’s needed is a good camera, fast lenses, a little planning and a lot of patience.

Light is everything in photography. However, most conferences are held in hotel convention centers, which are notoriously poorly lit rooms with competing light sources. As such, photographers have several choices for capturing properly lit images: blast away with a flash and hope for the best, create custom white balances using color-correcting gels on flashes, or turn off the flash and shoot the available light at higher ISO speeds.

Most of today’s higher-end digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras can record quality images in very low light. Armed with a fast lens – one with a larger maximum aperture that delivers more light to the focal plane – photographers can shoot in just about any setting.

According to S&A Communication’s Chief Photographer Jonathan Fredin, “Even with perfect lighting, conference photography must tell a story. Just like a well-written article, quality conference photography should tell who, what, where, when and why.”

Must-have shots for these events usually include speakers, vendors and attendees. However, capturing how these players interact with each other in their specific environments are factors that can make average photos memorable.

Several photographic story-telling tips include:

  • Watch for gestures, such as hand movements or facial expressions.
  • Wait for and anticipate reactions from people. Always be ready to shoot a smile!
  • Look to incorporate signage and juxtapose it with people to show where they are.
  • Watch for incongruities.
  • Follow lines and graphic elements, including architecture and screen projections.
  • Shoot silhouettes and vibrant colors.
  • Focus on the subjects’ eyes.

Author: Glenn Gillen, APR
Glenn Gillen is our Senior Account Manager.

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