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What should you expect from a conference photographer?

We are often asked to quote to provide a photographer for a conference. And that's it. It seems the only thing the conference organiser is interested in is learning how much we will charge. They don't ask any other questions. And therein lies their error and the possibility that they could get a photographer who charges less than we do but will not provide such a comprehensive service. And photos that are not as good.

We don't expect conference organisers to be experts in photography, but there are a few things they do need to think about. One of the fundamental questions is what camera will the photographer be using. The reason this is important is many conferences we shoot are held in venues where little thought has been given to the lighting and it is often so dim as to test the top professional cameras currently available.

If the photographer is not using the latest technology in their choice of camera body, then it is likely the image quality of the results will render the pictures extremely noisy, unusable if shooting with available light or just extremely dark. The latest technology enables a photographer to gain high quality results in very dim conditions. The camera specification that determines how dim the lighting may be and still gain good results is the specification of the maximum unboosted ISO rating. For instance, the maximum unboosted ISO rating of the current top Nikon D5 is ISO102,400.

The photographer using older technology can always provide enough light for the camera by resorting to flash. But there is nothing more that disturbs the natural flow of a conference for the speakers or the delegates than the constant use of a flashgun. Some speakers will ask that no flash is used during their presentation because of this disruption. If this is the case and you have a photographer that has no choice but to use flash, you will simply not get any photos of that particular speaker. Your carefully designed set is also likely to be dark and dismal in the final pictures. But if you don't ask the question, this the result you could end up with.

Instant photos for social media

Social media is an integral part of most conferences we shoot nowadays along with a dedicated Twitter feed and hashtag. We have the facility to email selected best off photos with seconds of them being shot to the person providing the Twitter feed for the conference. This enables them to liven up a text only feed with images of the day and means they can tweet pictures of each speaker together with quotes whilst they are still speaking. This process is enabled by the photographer using the latest wifi enabled cameras. As images are being sent unedited straight from camera it is equally important to use a camera with exceptional in-camera image processing, so ensure the images being sent are useable.

conference tweets

Ask the vital questions

So next time you are tasked with getting quotes for a conference photographer, it is vital to ask certain questions before you even think about asking for a quote. Ask what is the maximum ISO rating of the camera they will be using. (You are looking for an answer of ISO12800 minimum here). Ask if they have the capability to send pictures straight from camera for instant emailing for social media. Ask to see examples of pictures they have shot at other conferences. Here are examples of our conference photography.

If you get the positive answers you are looking for, finally ask how much the photographer will charge. Remember, the saying that 'You get what you pay for' is often true. These are our rates.

First published 20/03/2015