In the quiet, in the shadows at the back of the hall, I do a lot of thinking about what it really takes to do this job well.
What do I look for when I bring others to work with me? What would I value most as a client, hiring an event photographer?
There are some givens, of course: that the equipment will be up to the job, and that there’s a good grasp of what the client really needs.
But if I had to boil it down to three things that really matter, I’d go for…
I’ve seen great photo sets wrecked by the inclusion of the wrong photo. It might be beautiful art, but the lonely, stressed delegate playing with their phone in the beam of sunlight in the long, empty corridor isn’t going to sell next year’s event. That couple performance-snogging at the office party: definitely the flamboyant life and soul of this wine-fuelled bash? (No, really, no.) Knowing when a tear-stained face is ok, and when it’s intrusive. Remembering what dignity means, always. Balancing the photographer’s professional desire to deliver the goods (and justify the fees), with the needs of speakers and guests to get through the evening without a constant machine-gun shutter-rattle and strobing flashes. Six minutely different versions of the same thing? Seriously? Pick the best. As often as not, it’s the stuff you don’t see that means a skilled observer has been at work. Making those calls about unflattering angles, brands and logos crashing into the frame, and yes, zits. And calling them right.
The ability to walk into a room and know immediately what shots will work. To know where to stash your kit so it’s safe and not an eyesore. To find the quick routes through the venue (by trying every single damned door). To check whether there are another five rooms that nobody mentioned that will also need covering. To spot the things that nobody else would spot, and to know why they’ll look interesting when you’re done with them. To find a running order even when nobody seems to have one (amazingly they’re often on a website…) To know when to start. To know when to stop. To know who doesn’t want to be in the pictures without them needing to tell you. To have an eye for culture, tradition, protocols and…politeness. A mixture of observation and common sense – yup. That’s awareness for you. Assuming nothing. Seeing everything.
It’s quite important to be able to use a camera as well.
Judgement. Awareness. Technique. In that order.