By: Tiana and Thomas Kubik
Owners, TK Photography
As photographers, we know that great images can make or break a memory or experience. Professional photography is a great investment, but it is one that becomes a do-it-yourself (DIY) project when budgets get tight. Especially in the day of fast paced social media, even when a photographer is present, cell phone photos are often the first images to hit the web as a representation of your event. With that, here are some tips on how to make these first images as strong as possible:
Guidelines for interesting photo composition
- Avoid empty chairs or spaces! Make the event look “full” by shooting between people. Use their heads to frame the speaker and hide empty chairs. Find a cluster of people and shoot them in the foreground to create a scene that looks like the room is full.
- Choose a subject for the photo. Taking a room shot is great, but then choose things to focus on. You can tell from an image when someone just ran around the room snapping shots versus when they actually chose something to shoot.
- Come from the level of what you are focusing on. This can be straight on or from above or the side, but try to come from their level not yours. Is your subject a bit shorter or a bit taller? Adjust to get eye-level with them. Another option is from above, high enough to make them shift their head position. Anything in between will look awkward.
- Be cognizant of the perspective. Depending on the event, are you taking a shot from the perspective of an attendee or the organizer or of a child, or from the balcony of a space? Think about this when taking the photo – and be true to that perspective.
- Limit the backs in your photos. You want to photograph people having a great time! You don’t want photos that are mostly of attendees’ backs.
- Don’t be afraid. People will likely expect and look forward to having their photo taken. Ask them to get together for a group pic. Make the photo-taking part of the fun.
Secrets for getting great smartphone images from your team at the resolution you need
- Invest in a smartphone with a good camera. This is CRUCIAL. We shoot with our professional cameras AND our smartphones, providing a more immediate turnaround for the fast pace of Social Media. Professional photos are necessary for future advertising, digital collateral, etc., and we work to share our professional photos with clients during events. But until those are available, we encourage cell phone photos for real-time sharing. Thus, having a great camera phone will save time and money in the long run.
- Make sure every camera is set to the highest resolution that a phone will allow. This can be adjusted in the Settings of the phone.
- Create a Shot List to set expectations. Send those to your team BEFORE the event to allow them time to change settings and prepare shots, or give them ample time to tell you that they are not going to be able to comply. Asking people for anything detailed on the fly is going to leave you disappointed. Professional photographers can work on the fly and in the moment but your team might not have the same abilities when it comes to photos, so give them time to process.
Tips to trouble-shoot common photo problems before they happen
- Bad Lighting – If the venue has bad lighting and it is difficult to judge the best lighting, scan the room for whose face looks well-lit and try to get people into THAT area.
- Downlights – For areas with heavy downlights, look for a spot that is not lit. It may be a slightly darker photo but it will at least be evenly lit. You can always try to bring the brightness up in post-processing.
- Orange Skin Tones – Nobody has an orange skin tone so if your images make people look orange, this is a white balance issue. A good cell phone camera has the ability to change the white balance to match your setting (fluorescent, day light or incandescent).
Do’s and Don’ts that will save time (and money) on Photoshop work later
- Take the photo you want. “I can photoshop that” is reserved for rare cases. Take the time to change your location for better lighting, move the subjects for a slightly nicer background, or wipe the hair away from the subject’s face. Taking 30 seconds to pause and reset will save you AT LEAST 10 to 15 minutes in editing later.
- When shooting a diverse group of people with uneven lighting, put darker skin tones closest to the light source. With events this means even ambient lighting. You will be able to brighten the photo more if the fairer complexions are in shadow than if they are already being blasted with light.
How to integrate Professional Photography into your Budget/Planning
- For repetitive events, there is no reason to hire a photographer for every occurrence. If you have a bi-weekly mingle, have a photographer come quarterly to capture key components. Then use DIY photos for the remainder of the events.
- Offer Headshots during the event. Negotiate to add headshots at your event, then offer the images ala carte to attendees as a value add. In the process we also usually snag a few event photos and pass them on to the organizer. it didn’t cost the organization anything, but the photographer likely makes money on the headshots.
- Ask about packages. Often if you book several events at once, a discounted package can be created.
Exposure is not considered currency in paying for professional photos, but partnerships and sponsorships are often priceless. Ask a photographer what kinds of opportunities they are looking for to see if your attendees/events create a great opportunity for them to consider a discounted rate or an in-kind sponsorship.
TK Photography is a contemporary family photography studio in Chicago, IL. We have a team of photographers who love photographing children and families in our studios or on location.