Talking shop

If a picture says a thousand words, why would anyone want to hear someone say a thousand words about pictures?

This thought did dart through my mind after agreeing to do a turn at a fabulous recent event, about events, for event people.

“Who Stole My Audience?” took a look at creative techniques for audience attraction and engagement, nudging in the direction of conferences, but breaking into lots of new territory as well. William Thomson,


who I’ve respected for a while as someone brave enough to try something new wherever he can, set proceedings within the excellent Bounce venue


– a great, informal space offering plenty of visual stimulation as well as some pretty good leisure distractions in the shape of a couple of dozen table tennis tables.

I kept my structure pretty simple: kicking off with a bit of probing about what people actually want when they say “let’s have a photographer at our event”. Because there are more reasons than you might think. And the desired product can vary an awful lot depending on whether your intention is to make lovely marketing images to attract sponsors next year, to show off the venue, or to entertain your delegates with memories of them having a blast.

Something like this

4 Royal Institution

is a great image to raise the status of your event by showing high production values

but something like this

2 Facepalm

is more about humour-in-the-moment than the dry, formal capture of proceedings.

There are many targets to shoot for, so if you’re commissioning event photography, it’s always worth a bit of extra thought about why: getting the photographer in shouldn’t just become one of those things you just do, out of habit.

Next up: how to get creative through images even if you’re not blessed with the most perfect of venues. Like, if you have no light at all, and end up brigading the City of London to act as your light show

18 Low light presenter by City

or when your people are the most interesting features you have to sculpt with.

24 Hacker

And on to: using a bit of technical trickery here and there to get the most out of event images.

Like a triptych to show off a speaker on body language

25 Body language

or a bit of careful positioning to demonstrate that a keynote speaker looks suspiciously similar to the event logo.

35 Ada Lovelace

This led neatly into some examples of images that really made a stir on social media, and why (in this case, although a less-than-perfect shot, by being probably the simplest, best slide I’d ever seen in a presentation)

37 Killer slide

and then a “how not to do it” example of how it looks when an event organiser decides to just take a few snaps with their BlackBerry and publish them as the official event pics (an example which need not incur further shame by being dragged out in this post – plus I want to do the job properly for them).

All the while, we were demonstrating image creation in action – with the excellent Tracy Howl giving a live demo of low-light, discreet image making. Of me, talking about images. Which is all getting a bit meta.

Anyway, it all looked a bit like this:












I hope my talk shed at least some illumination on the art of event photography. I love talking about this stuff, so if you’d like anything from 20-60 minutes of chat and pictures at your event-about-events-or-anything-else-really, give me a shout.

Download my presentation pack (pdf: 10MB)