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7 Things to Ask Before an Event

When photographing an event, you don’t have a chance to go back for reshoots. Before you walk in, you should have these answers in mind so you can deliver a top-quality product to your client.

  1. What are my key shots? This is probably the most important question of them all. I need to know if Barack Obama and the ghost of Elvis are going to be at the event, and that they need to be seen together eating a special brand of chili. If I know this is important to my client, I can either wait for the shot, or drag them together at some point to stage it. If I don’t know, then it’s just going to be luck of the draw. If my client was secretly hoping for a shot like that and didn’t get it, then they’re going to be disappointed. That’s not ok. Wherever possible, ask your client for a shot list, or a list of individuals they would like to see photos of specifically (especially if it’s a big event).
  2. Who are the most important people at the event? This goes hand in hand with #1. At a wedding, you know you’re going to be looking for a bride, a groom, or two brides and two grooms. At a corporate event, you’ll see a ton of suits, and you won’t know which ones are the key attendees. Ask someone who can help you find and identify these people or ask for headshots or candids of them in advance.
  3. How are the photos going to be used? Social media? Submitted to the media? Used in a newsletter? Your client’s uses could be any number of things, which is why you will want to know who the important people are and what the key shots are going to be. If the CEO wants a photo of himself with the former Mayor to frame in his office, then getting a really solid shot of the two of them with good lighting and tight framing is going to be what I want. If that photo is going to be in a newspaper, then selling the place and context of the photo is going to be critical, even if it means sacrificing the perfect lighting or ideal framing of your main subject.
  4. What are the no-no’s? Be sure to ask if anything or anyone is off-limits. Typically this isn’t an issue and it’ll be up to your best judgement how to keep a low profile. It’s probably not a great idea to block the aisle as the bride walks down it, but that should be obvious. Sometimes though there are people and times when photography or at least flash photography are out of the question. Be sure to ask if there is anything or anyone you can’t shoot or if anything specific is off-limits. Be sure to watch out for video crews at the event as well, because your flash will degrade the quality of their footage. If you ruin news coverage or video your client paid for, it’s safe to say you won’t be hired again.
  5. How soon are these photos needed? This is a big one for me because I shoot a large number of corporate events. I have a standard 48 hour turn-around policy but that doesn’t mean I can’t finish them faster or that they won’t be needed sooner. Some events, like restaurant openings and corporate anniversaries, have media value. Once the event is over, the client needs to get photos and information out to the media quickly at the risk of losing newsworthiness. Make sure you know how quickly the photos need to be in your clients’ hands and be absolutely sure your workflow can support it.
  6. How does my client want the photos delivered? I’ve found Dropbox to be an amazing thing, but just because I like it, doesn’t mean my clients do. Ask beforehand how they want to receive the photos so that you know exactly how to deliver, and you can discuss any additional costs (like purchasing a thumb drive or mailing a CD) with the client way in advance.
  7. How am I going to get paid? Some large corporations require you to register as a vendor in advance. Some clients may want to put your shoot on their credit card. Know your client and make sure they know what the terms are with what methods you accept and what timeframe you expect to be paid in.