Chicagoland & Nationwide

A 5-Point Checklist: Working With An Event Photographer

A 5-Point Checklist: Working With An Event Photographer

Here in Chicago, there are an innumerable amount of corporate events that happen throughout the year.  My assignments have ranged from small christmas parties at a brewery along the Magnificent Mile to international conventions hosted at McCormick Place that last nearly a week.  In each case, the parameters are always incredibly different but the way to go about preparing for the job to completing the assignment are essentially the same.

The first thing I like to cover once the client(s) and I come to an agreement on the rate and usage is to go over the event in detail.  I have a list of to-do’s and questions that I go over with my clients just to make sure we are all prepared.

1. First, we develop a schedule of the event that includes where I need to be and when in addition to any attendees or speakers who are of particular importance.  This way, I am where I need to be when I am needed most and focus on who might need more photographic coverage.

2.  Discuss the dress code.  Yes, this may seem obvious and of course the look always needs to be professional but it is also crucial to blend in.  The key is to be unobtrusive, so wearing a business suit may not be the best idea when covering a golf outing or walkathon.

Chicago Event Photographer

3.  Take some time to scout the location together.

  • This is a must and really can take just a few minutes.  The key is to find the perfect spots where I can get the best photos while at the same time being as unnoticeable as possible.  As each assignment varies, it becomes very easy to anticipate if there is room to move more freely or if I need to stay put.

4.  Photographing corporate events can be inherently difficult as the lighting from room to room can change greatly and in some cases be almost non-existent.  In this case, I rely on on-camera flash.

  • Technically, I prefer to use flash as I can then change my ISO settings to a lower sensitivity which consequently produces images that are less grainy.
  • As flash can be distracting, it is imperative for the client to know, especially when photographing meetings, that flash will be necessary but I am also careful not to  allow too much use to become invasive.

Chicago Event Photographer

5.  Be accessible at all times to each other.

  • There is always something that comes up that may have been unanticipated.  A key moment that defines the event itself.  So, always keep your cell on hand, on vibrate, just in case.  I could be in another room finishing up some general promo shots when the keynote speaker is having a moment with the CEO.  I can always be reached and it helps to know I am not far when the next photo opportunity presents itself.

Chicago Event Photographer

The key to providing exceptional corporate event photography is not only to cover this checklist but to anticipate our clients’ needs and adapt accordingly.  This is what sets commercial photographers apart.

A Short Review of Photographic Copyright

A Short Review of Photographic Copyright

As a Chicago Corporate Photographer, I get to work on some interesting assignments.  Awhile back, I had the chance to shoot for an aviation company that was looking rebrand their website and marketing collateral.  We spent the day in their warehouse facility in Chicago photographing their product line as well as several scenarios that illustrated their the efficiency of their maintenance and customer response capabilities.  Both the Creative and Marketing Directors were super excited with the images we produced and I began to incorporate some of the shots into my marketing materials, including postcards and e-mail blasts.

Soon after, I received an e-mail from the Marketing Director who had received one of these postcards saying that I was not authorized to use the images in any of my collateral as they owned the copyright.  Of course, I immediately pulled up our agreement to review the terms and finding that this was not the case, decided I needed to do a little bit of educating on photography copyright and usage terms.

It really comes down to this…..when you hire a photographer, you are not buying the images they produce rather you are renting them.

Chicago Commercial Photographer

As copyright continues to be a hot and very misunderstood topic, with the internet making it easier to infringe, here are a few things to keep in mind when hiring a commercial photographer. (Source PPA).

  • Copyright is a property right.
  • Just because you buy a print does not mean you have purchased the copyright.
  • Professional photographers are the smallest of small copyright holders.
  • Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, photographs are protected by copyright from the moment of creation.
  • Photographers have the exclusive right to reproduce their photographs (right to control the making of copies).
  • Unless you have permission from the photographer, you can’t copy, distribute (no scanning and sending them to others), publicly display (no putting them online), or create derivative works from photographs.
  • A photographer can easily create over 20,000 separate pieces of intellectual property annually.
  • Professional photographers are dependent on their ability to control the reproduction of the photographs they create.
  • It affects their income and the livelihood of their families.
  • Even small levels of infringement—copying a photo without permission—can have a devastating impact on a photographer’s ability to make a living.
  • Copyright infringements—reproducing photos without permission—can result in civil and criminal penalties.

When I am gathering information from potential clients for estimating, one of the essential questions I consistently ask is “How will the photos be used?”  For my editorial and magazine assignments, the usage is typically one-time print publication with concurrent web usage.  However, in the case of corporate photography assignments, the terms of use vary greatly.  With that in mind, one of the best usage explanations I have come across was written by the former Director of Photography for Men’s Journal.  The article is extensive and includes a glossary of terminology that is useful when deciding on the budget range you have to work with as well as how to negotiate where and for how long the images you produce can be used for.

Corporate Headshots vs. Environmental Portraits

Corporate Headshots vs. Environmental Portraits

Corporate headshots are a crucial aspect of every companies’ public relations profile. They are both necessary and yes, oftentimes delayed, avoided and occasionally dreaded.   Maybe it’s the oversimplification that resembles our high school portraits we were not so fond of even back then. Remember?  The posture set at 90 degrees, face turned to 6 o’clock, hands in lap and the detached expression.  Just add a power suit and we have the standard corporate headshot…..or do we?  I think not.

It is imperative that the way the corporate head shots are photographed matches the essence of your branding, from the lighting to posing and clothing to expression.  With that in mind, there are a few questions to consider.

1.  What image is your company trying to project?

  •  Are you a part of an established law firm that needs to convey authority?  Or perhaps you are a start-up design firm that would like to showcase its’ creativity?

Once you decide on what these portraits need to convey, it is time to consider all of your options.  Within the last several years, I have found that there has been a move away from the standard head shot with a backdrop to a more environmental portraits.  Here is the difference:

Chicago Commercial Photographer












Keep in mind, in both cases, a skilled photographer can work the lighting and colors to match your branding and capture your personality.  But if you are leaning towards one portrait style over another, consider this:

2. How much time does the photographer have to shoot and how many people need to be photographed?

  • In the case of high volume portraits for larger companies, there is limited time to change the lighting. With the standard headshots, we are fixed in one place, with one backdrop and have been able to complete as many as 40 corporate head shots in one day.
  • With environmental portraits, we can stick with one location.  But we can also change it up a bit and find additional places in your office that make for an interesting background.  This requires us to move our lights and dial in our settings once again.  All of which takes some time.

Always feel free to ask questions of your photographer.  They understand the timing and what is required to move from one location to the next.  In my case, I am always happy to do a location scout prior to the shoot to check out all of the options we have.  This way,  we can create a solid plan for each scenario together.

3.  Consider the budget range you have to work with.

  • Most commercial photographers do not have a set day rate but rather their fees and expenses are unique to every assignment and dependent on the complexities of each shoot.
  • If there are 5 people in the office and you would like 5 standard corporate headshots using a backdrop, this will run less than doing these same portraits using a few different locations within your office.

The most important aspect of planning for headshots is communication.  My job is to make your job easier so always feel free to ask questions, bounce ideas around and ask even more questions.  

Eight Tips on Selecting a Commercial Photographer

Your business is your livelihood and so much more, so being meticulous about your choice in a commercial or editorial photographer is a necessity. You trust someone to help you create your brand, so you definitely want someone confident and experienced.

When you interview a potential photographer for your corporate or commercial photography, you can learn a lot by asking just a few questions. Help yourself out by browsing through the tips below, before you select your photographer.

  • Browse through his or her portfolio, even if they’re well-known or highly-recommended. You must be sure you like their shooting style before moving further.
  • If you like what you see, set up a portfolio showing, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  • Observe his or her behavior, is your potential photographer’s attitude professional?
  • Ask if your photographer has previously shot an assignment similar to the one you requested. Hiring a general photographer isn’t a bad thing, especially since some are versatile and quite talented. However, when it comes to commercial photography, you want to look for someone who specializes in this field, as there are many things to consider with each shot.
  • Notice the photographer’s plan; see if he or she asks the right questions. These questions will show whether or not your photographer is prepared for your session and requests. It shouldn’t be a one-way interview. Your photographer should ask you a myriad of questions as well.
  • Pay attention to your photographer’s priority. Some photographers may address  concerns by saying “we can fix that during post-processing”. While post-processing does touch up and fix some photos, nothing replaces a perfect shot in the perfect location done right in the camera.
  • Ask about his or her backup plan. Every seasoned photographer will have back-up equipment in the case of camera failure and other technical issues.
  • Do your research! Read reviews and ask previous clients if they were satisfied with your photographer’s work.

Commercial Photographers Tips for a Successful Shoot

A successful photography session must include communication and organization. Regardless of the style or theme, most commercial photographers can adapt according to a client’s needs. For larger shoots, the demand for details increases, and the need for organization and logistics increases as well. Clients love a versatile, prepared photographer that can handle their requests.

Meet up with your photographer before the session, in person or via internet, but work together to get a clear understanding of the goal. Have a list of  questions, and obtain as much information as you can; use this information to make a shot list. The goal is to ensure that we produce beyond your expectations and to make this possible, it helps to:

  1. Create an outline of the overall plan. Visualize the end result.  If possible, ask for a sketch or a well written description of the photos you need to see.
  2. Think about the variations like color change, location, angle, and lighting. Consider a few options so that you have multiple options from which to choose.
  3. Ask about the wardrobe! You may need a stylist to help with the clothing. Whether it needs to adapt to the scenery or change, a stylist will know how to match the wardrobe styling the theme of the shoot.
  4. Confirm. Confirm. Confirm.