Trade show photography is full of problems. The lighting is usually bad, the action is fast and the space is limited. Sure you might be in a 1000 seat venue but the space between tables is tight. You have to have a lens that can shoot from a distance if you can’t be close or a wide lens when the room setup forces you to be too close to the action.
You need manual flash to work with the reflective and back lit backgrounds most use. Auto flash will read the back light as being bright sun and under expose that must have shot.
If you plan on doing trade shot photos make sure you can shoot in any conditions. You seldom get a second chance and most conventions spend hundreds of thousands so your liability is high if you don’t get good results.
Photographers shooting trade shows need to know the system. Many trade shows have a lot of Generals wanting to be in charge. Know who your boss is and what position they have in the list. This way if you are authorized to take images and under contract to cover every booth then you know where to refer those not wanting booth images. No problem, speak with xyz if you want off the list. It is not My list…I just do what I ma contracted. This makes things a lot simpler.
What to take for Convention and Event Photography
Back up equipment
Double the media expected to use
Double the batteries expected to use
Storage of Equipment
Keep it on your person
Keep in a locked room
If in a staging room lock case to a desk
Step Ladder This is a good option if available but might need prior approval from the convention director. Perfect if you need a higher angle for a grand opening/ribbon cutting. Expect several layers of red tape to secure a ladder and a security person to hold it just in case. I know they are doing it for safety but we are not climbing to the top so not a big risk of falling.
Make sure to take a wide lens at least f2.8 and something longer. A 70-200 is always good to have. Keep a backup lens handy, even a cheap 50mm can save the day in case of damage or malfunction.
Always backup your media before leaving the event. Then keep the media cards away from the backup just in case something happens. At least one set should be safe. The 20 minutes this takes could save you thousands if a bag is lost or stolen leaving the event.
A few other tips
Make every shot look like a full room. F2.8 helps make the background hard to view and hides an empty room. Make sure to get a few different angles and drag the shutter to capture the room ambiance while brightening the subjects face.
I like to do a quick round to get the CYA shots then go back for more detailed work in case the crown leaves fast. No matter what I fulfilled my part of the contract and have a few required shots. Later I can go back and get detailed or more creative knowing the pressure is off.
In many cities trade show and conventions are what make up a big part of the tourist industry. In other places they don’t support this business so you would need to look at other opportunities in your area. Usually the major cities have up to date convention facilities and hotel space ready to be used. For example San Antonio appears to do about 2-3 times the convention bookings compared to Austin just an hour away.
Take a look at the local websites for the convention facility and see what companies are listed for the year. This is only a fraction of the conventions coming to town because many book private hotel space and they seldom want to give away clients names to others in the business.
When researching local events be sure to note the following.
Local or national
Size of the event
Number of days booked
Number of locations
Note any special events
Time of opening / closing sessions
Lets look at the above list and see what each means to a photographer.
Local or national. If a national event that brings in guest from around the country they are usually spending a lot more so the photo budget might be higher. Also if they are from a larger city like LA or New York the normal cost for photo services are higher so take advantage and don’t bid too low.
A small event is not making as much money so the budget will be much lower. Same with single day or multi day events. The longer the event the higher cost to attend.
Moving from one location to another can cost you $40.00 in parking so build that into the budget. This goes for special events where you might have to move equipment. You might need an assistant to setup before you arrive if you are working another section of the convention.
Time of the opening can change parking fees. Many set a day rate for 5-6 hours so your $20.00 a day could double or triple real fast. Plus add that for 2-3 add on photographers and you are now costing yourself a good chink of cash in parking fees alone.
Celebrity entertainment means bigger budgets and higher cost to attend. Don’t bid low. They expect to pay a professional fee for professional quality and reliability. This will knock out the low ball bids really fast. Usually the small local events where low ball offers do get picked up.
After considering the factors make sure your bid look professional. Use a template with your logo and contact information. Include insurance information such as E&O coverage at every contracted event. This will separate you from many of the fly by nights that send in bids and let the company know you are setup to cover major photo shoots.