The Importance of Event Lighting

As a longtime professional event photographer, I am regularly hired to cover corporate events of varying scale, in most every type of venue – and under every type of event lighting. A large stage with multiple spotlights and huge projection screens on each side makes an impressive presentation, but just as often I find myself in a dimly lit hotel ballroom or a small meeting room with only recessed lighting. Sometimes the speaker will request that no flash photography be permitted, as it can be distracting – particularly if the speaker is looking at a teleprompter. But it’s only fair to advise my client on the effect of their lighting choices, particularly since it’s been ordered in advance and already set when I arrive. I’d like to introduce a couple of considerations for those organizing events.

keynote speaker WM2_8180

Let’s examine two scenarios, beginning with a stage presentation. With a larger stage presentation there are typically two ways to light the stage. One possibility (in some venues) is to use ceiling mounted lighting, sometimes permanently mounted. The advantage is that the venue may have fine-tuned their lights to wash the stage evenly. However, the risk is that the lighting may be at too acute of an angle to properly light the person on stage, particularly in rooms with very high ceilings. Lighting that is too high will give that midday sun look, with the speaker’s eyes being in shadow and looking like dark holes. See the example image at left. Adding flash can help mitigate that issue, but that will only work for closer shots from right in front of the stage. And not all speakers like having a flash go off repeatedly right in front of them.

CEO speakerThe alternative is to bring in additional spotlights on trees or trusses. This provides the ability to get the lights down lower so that it can illuminate the eyes of anyone on stage, particularly if on a tree. See the example image at right. Trusses will do this if they aren’t too close to the stage, and they allow you to spread the light evenly. The drawback to this option is the placement of the lighting in relation to seating for guests. If the layout of the event permits it, I highly recommend this option.

keynote speakerA good question to ask your A/V team is whether or not they will be able to make the stage lighting comparable to the projection screen(s) that may be on either side of the stage. Similar illumination levels will be easier on the audience’s eyes, and allow your photographer to catch images that show the speaker and the screen to which they’re referring. See the example at left. If they are able to use daylight-balanced lights, or gel the lights to be closer to the color of the projection screen, it will help. And I love it when the lighting engineer can tell me the color temperature of their lighting!

The second scenario is a meeting room or ballroom, usually lit with only downward facing recessed (or “can”) lights. This lighting creates hot spots directly under a light and comparatively dark areas in between lights. Anyone standing under a light will have the same dark shadows in their eyes and usually a bright (overexposed) forehead and nose. Definitely not a flattering look! Since this is typical for events with many breakout sessions in individual hotel meeting rooms it usually isn’t cost efficient to bring in lighting in all those rooms. But your photographer should be able to provide a well-placed flash to tightly illuminate the speaker without irritating all the guests. See the examples below.

conference speaker conference speaker conference speaker

Since I’m being hired to cover an event it’s safe to say that the images captured are important, and will likely be used to advertise (and attract potential attendees to) next year’s event. Should your hire Morton Visuals to handle your event photography I would be more than happy to help you coordinate your lighting with the A/V contractor at your venue. After all, it’s in my best interests to do everything I can to help us capture great images of your event. Please feel free to email us with any questions, or feel free to post any comments here. And of course the sharing of this article is greatly appreciated!

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Free* Commercial Photography in Dallas

Now that William Morton has relocated Morton Visuals commercial photography to Dallas, he is updating his advertising portfolio with new images designed to make people stop and look twice! Always up for a challenge, William is looking for something different – something unique. Not just a professional headshot on a white background, but an interesting location and/or an unusual or exciting concept. Here’s a few examples:

  • Law enforcement (or security officer) by a patrol car with flashing lights at twilight
  • CEO or executive standing in the bucket of a front end loader
  • Concert pianist in tuxedo sitting at a grand piano on stage in a large theater
  • Bartender with colorful bottles in the background and colorful drinks lined up in front
  • Paramedics loading a patient in an ambulance at dusk (flashing emergency lights)
  • Scientist or doctor in a lab full of test tubes or electronics
  • Executive in/boarding/deplaning a private jet

Three charter planes and a luxury car are staged and photographed by William Morton for advertising use in Long Beach, CA.
Michael Gonzalez does a jumping workout with the support of Crossfit East Village grinder at work

Does your company have something exciting that you’d like to showcase? Email Morton Visuals and tell us what you have in mind. If your pitch sounds challenging enough and interesting enough, we may do it for you for free!*

*Fine print (yes, you know there must be some): Morton Visuals is offering up to three photo shoots, awarded to the most interesting ideas we receive. Sell us on your concept! Photography fees will be waived provided we collect appropriate releases to allow us to use the images in our portfolio and marketing as examples of our photography work. Expenses not included. Client receives unlimited usage of primary/first image; additional images may be licensed at a minimal rate. Photographer retains copyright and all other rights.

 

 

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The Acquisition of Photography for Your Business

In our previous post we discussed the value of photography. Today we will talk about about how you can acquire quality photography for your business.

If you need images for your business’ use, you can follow one of three avenues:

  1. Take your own snapshot – Do It Yourself
  2. Use a stock photo
  3. Hire a professional photographer to create custom images (which only you will have)

The type of imagery needed and your budget can help determine which is the best course of action, of course, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind as you make decisions for your business.

Snapshots vs Professional Photography

William Morton, IT Manager and Staff Photographer for Camera Ready Cosmetics Studio portrait of photographer William Morton

Hopefully everyone can see a clear difference between the images above. The first image looks more like a dreaded driver’s license photo, or the “Employee of the Month” you sometimes see posted in a grocery store. The second image is clearly a studio portrait showing a person “in their environment,” and illustrates what they do.

The examples below show the view an audience member may get at an event versus what a professional event photographer can capture.

photography from the audience professional event photography by William Morton Visuals

Stock Photography

Many businesses consider stock photography to be an affordable option, as stock photography prices have dropped significantly over the last few years. If you want a generic image of a telephone or a computer, or a random customer service operator, then stock photography may work. However you won’t likely find images of your employees, and it’s even less likely you’ll find images of your management team. Likewise with any public relations events – stock images won’t be of your event, or your people.

Stock photography is also pretty recognizable. It usually features ridiculously good looking models in perfectly pressed clothing, always in solid (and usually bright) colors. For this reason it’s less believable. And recent studies have shown that customers are 1/3 more likely to purchase based on an ad showing a real person rather than a stock model.

Stock photography is, by definition, stock – meaning anyone and everyone has access to use the same images. This can cause confusion, and embarrassment, when the same model shows up in ads for your competition. Don’t think it can happen? Check out this article on Stock Photography from the American Society of Media Photographers. It’s not just the small businesses – even giants like Dell and Gateway can use the same model in the same outfit and the same setting for Back To School ads during the same month. Oops!!

dell stock model
Gateway stock model

The girl pictured above is one of the most popular stock models in the world. See just a few examples of how often her image is used in advertising and you can start to see some of the confusion that could arise if your competitor is showing that she “switched to X brand” after your ad had run.

Hire a Professional Photographer

A professional photographer can ensure that you have high quality images customized to your exact needs, and images that only you will have. We have previously shared 10 Reasons to Hire a Professional Photographer, which is a great start. Key points are that a pro will have the experience and the means to ensure that your photo shoot is successful and meets your needs, on time and on budget. The pro knows how to make you look your very best, both photographically and with professional retouching.

The photography portfolios on this site show a variety of photography now available in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, including commercial photography, corporate portraits, and event photography . Another valuable resource that we recommend for photographic talent nationwide as the American Society of Media Photographers’ Find-A-Photographer database. The ASMP site allows you to search by geographic location as well as photographic specialty – and features many of the best professional photographers in the country.

Have any questions? Please feel free to give Morton Visuals a call (toll-free) at 888-239-6213, or email us. We’re happy to help! Have any comments or suggestions? Please feel free to comment here. And of course please feel free to share this article on your social media!

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The Value of Photography to Your Business

I recently had an opportunity to do a presentation for my Farmers Branch Chamber of Commerce, and I decided to focus on the value of photography for the business owner. In the first of two parts below we’ll talk about the value of, the need for, and the types of photography relevant to most businesses.

How Prevalent are Photos?

Some basic numbers, which will be quickly outdated (if they aren’t already):

  • Facebook has 1.5 billion users, 2/3 of whom use it daily
  • 56.5% of the US population are on Facebook
  • Facebook has over 400 billion photos, with 400 million being added every day
  • Every day 1.8 billion images are posted online
  • Instagram has amassed 400 million users, 40 billion photos, and adds 80 million photos every day
  • Instagram has grown so quickly that Facebook just bought it for $1 billion.
  • YouTube has more visits each day than Facebook, and it’s the #2 search engine in the world (behind Google)

Why Are Photos So Popular?

Life moves at a much faster pace today than in decades past. Our shorter attention spans are likely born of our information overload. The advent and pervasiveness of smartphones and mobile devices have changed the way we not only receive information but also how we communicate. We want immediate gratification. We don’t want to leave voice messages, so we text – allowing responses even if someone is in class or in a business meeting where they can’t talk. Business is now about information availability and speed (and ease) of transactions. And of course “a picture is worth 1,000 words.” I believe that this last point is the key. We don’t have – or take – the time to read anymore, but rather take in our information in imagery. Thus the rise of the Facebook meme.

Types of Photography

More to the point of the presentation, there are many types of photography of benefit to businesses.

  • Portraits represent people
  • Advertising represents a product or brand
  • Marketing and P.R. represent events

A few of the types of photography offered by William Morton Visuals.

What Can a High Quality Image Do For You?

  •  Put a face to the name
  • Change you from an impersonal corporation to a friendly neighbor
  • Show your style (see our prior blog post on Does Your Image Represent Your Company Culture)
  • Personalize your business
  • Illustrate what you do and how you do it

studio-setting business photography Comerica Bank manager photographed by William Morton Visuals business photography by Morton Visuals for First Bank annual report office group portrait of Labrum Wealth Management

 Other benefits include:

  • Highlighting key moments of events for marketing next year’s event
  • Public relations: awards presentations, community support events
  • Social media content – build your brand
  • Entertainment, particularly at events
  • Take-home advertising for ongoing marketing

Do images affect sales?

According to MDG Advertising, 67% of online shoppers rated high quality images as being “very important” to their purchase decision, which was slightly more than “product specific information,” “long descriptions,” and “reviews & ratings.”

Recently Sports Illustrated magazine released their annual swimsuit edition with three different covers – and they weren’t the first to do this. The magazine industry well knows how important the cover image is to that month’s sales on the newsstands. National Geographic photography is famous for the power of their images, a driving force in their success.

Images are king in social media. Aside from the fact that more and more social media channels are primarily image-based (Instagram, Snapchat, 500px, Flickr, etc.), statistics show that even text-based social media channels show a significantly higher ROI with the inclusion of photography. Adweek reports that SHIFT measured 5 times the engagement on Twitter postings with pictures vs text-only tweets.

In our follow-up blog post we’ll discuss the acquisition of photography and how important that process is to businesses. Until then, please feel free to share this article via social media, and add any comments here!

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White Seamless Doesn’t Have to Be Plain or Boring


Morton Visuals photographs fashion models on white seamlessOf all the photography commercial photographers shoot, the white seamless background is the most common. It’s definitely a fashion photography mainstay. A white cove, or “cyc” (short for cyclorama) in a larger studio, is booked at our north Dallas rental photo studio 20 times more often than any other studio, and provided seamless papers in varying colors are only used about 10% of the time. Why is this so popular? Quite simply because it’s easier to drop out the background in your images if you are dropping the subject into a print layout. Catalogs and the like will often feature text wrapped around a subject, and current design trends favor a subject blending in with the page rather than being constrained by a box. Likewise a baseboard on a background wall would be distracting when the focus of an image is on a model or clothing.

Carolina Guanabara by William Morton. Makeup/Hair/Styling by Mary Erickson.Since fashion and catalogs often show an expressionless model “just standing there,” as some describe it, some feel that a white seamless background looks plain. There’s no color, no texture, and essentially nothingness. If the photographer doesn’t light the white background it can look like a shade of gray (as pictured here). This example shows the model “in a box,” which a designer may not want in the layout as compared to the example above. But either way you still have a subject. And a subject doesn’t have to “just stand there.” You can always concentrate on bringing out the model’s personality and featuring it.

Below are a few examples of images we’ve captured on a plain, boring white seamless background. The background of these samples have been adjusted so as to not “float in midair,” so that you can see the image frames. Adjusting for the effect of the top image (of the two young models) in this post is easily achieved in processing. As you can see, once the photographer has built rapport with the subject or subjects, they can collaborate to create some fun, interesting images.

 

Cassie Kociemba jumps for joy (on white seamless)  The St Johns get interactive
Tony Mandarich shows a little humor with his girlfriend on a white seamless background

What can you think of doing with a “plain white background?” Anything that ties in with your job, activities, or interests – or anything that is “you” – can help make your images much more dynamic. And dynamic images sell!

Have some ideas? Leave a comment! Want to talk about how Morton Visuals can help you look dynamic? Give us a call! We’d love to show you what we can do.

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Chamber of Commerce Group Portrait

Morton Visuals is proud to be a new member of the Farmers Branch Chamber of Commerce! Last week we were invited by Chamber President Nanette Foght to join the luncheon at the Brookhaven Country Club. Morton Visuals agreed to provide pro bono event photography of the meeting, including the induction of the new Board members. Afterwards we also captured a group portrait of the entire Board of Directors, now led by newly installed Chairwoman Marilyn Kolesar-Lynch of Brookhaven College. We look forward to working with the Chamber over the coming year and meeting more of the Farmers Branch business community!

Group portrait of the Board of Directors for the Farmers Branch (Texas) Chamber of Commerce are photographed by William Morton of Morton Visuals at the Brookhaven Country Club on 12/08/2015.
Farmers Branch Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
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Mixing It Up with Tobin Ellis and Perlick

Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with Perlick at the NAFEM trade show in Anaheim. I haven’t shot there in a while, so I was quickly reminded of how large the Anaheim Convention Center is. Fortunately they have great staff, and the greeters helped me find my way with a friendly attitude.

Perlick taps display highlight some of the premium bar and beverage equipment available
Perlick bar equipment

Perlick manufactures a wide array of both commercial and residential bar equipment, and they had tons of it on display. The stainless steel was everywhere – just what a photographer looks forward to seeing. Particularly when the show is open and active, and you have lots of people browsing. I used my new Nikon D750 here, and it did a great job on the shiny, contrasty stainless steel in a massive fluorescent-lit room. (A color meter helped me verify the ambient light, so I could gel my fill-flash to closely match.)

Tobin Ellis' Signature Cocktail Station display by Perlick for NAFEM  Tobin Ellis' Signature Cocktail Station by Perlick

One of their big attractions on this day was having the renowned Tobin Ellis, owner and principal of BarMagic, demonstrating how to work a (ideally configured) bar. I learned quite a bit about bar efficiency during this short demonstration – just one of the many reasons I love my job! “Perlick’s new Tobin Ellis Signature Cocktail Station is a breakthrough achievement in underbar design resulting from an ambitious collaboration between 6-time national bartending champion and celebrated bar designer, Tobin Ellis and the award-winning engineering team at Perlick.”

Tobin Ellis Mixologist Tobin Ellis Bartender Tobin Ellis

Tobin definitely “wowed” the crowd, demonstrating a couple of different signature drinks and how bartender efficiency can greatly improve a bar’s profits. A variety of images from many angles in a crowded event — one of the reasons Morton Visuals excels!

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Are The Profoto B1s Really That Good?

Having worked with the new Profoto B1 strobes for a short while, I’ve finally challenged myself to ask this question. The B1 brings a lot to the table – self-contained monolights, remote control, 500 watt-seconds of power, and TTL control. Not to mention the expansive Profoto lighting modification capabilities. But how well do they work in the real world?

Being somewhat “old school,” I still prefer to meter my lighting to place my light sources in desired ratios. I’ve been doing this with the B1 lights as well, but recently decided to test the TTL accuracy of the equipment in which I’ve invested. The below portrait of a patient and accommodating Nancy Grab is an example.

Executive portrait of Nancy Grab for Five Star Professionals' feature
Nancy Grab, Union Bank mortgage banker

After placing my main light in a 45” white umbrella I added my hair light with a 20-degree grid. I set the Profoto Air Remote to TTL and fired my first test shot. To my amazement this is the result I saw. I was able to start working with my subject and concentrate on expressions and angles that would flatter her rather than fussing with lighting and interfering with her workday.

TIP: With the Air Remote and the B1 lights, you can take your first shot in TTL mode. Then when you switch the remote to Manual mode, the Profoto system remembers the power setting of the lights it just fired. So you can easily adjust individual groups up or down to tweak the balance to your liking from your initial TTL exposure. In the above example I didn’t make any further adjustments, and merely switched to MAN and left it there for the remainder of the shoot.

How important is this? In my world, I photograph executives and groups of business people and time is of the essence. I don’t want to keep a CEO or a $400/hour attorney waiting for me to get my lights right. So this system has helped me greatly reduce my setup time, and being able to adjust the lighting from the camera (while I’m shooting) helps me get the busy executive in and out so that they can get back to doing what they do best. Not having to look for electrical outlets (and then tape down extension cords and power cords) is another huge time saver.

On that note, and in the spirit of the season, this final image was a portrait of a man who is quite busy right now. I had the opportunity to photograph him with the employees of the Omni San Diego and a hundred very excited children. He definitely appreciates efficiency!

Two Profoto B1s set up to light Santa
Lighting setup for Santa — no wires!

Santa is ready to greet children at the Omni San Diego
Santa is ready

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for a joyous holiday season!

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Does Your Image Represent Your Company Culture?

I’ve recently had an opportunity to work with a client photographing a number of different companies for a magazine awards feature. As I met and interacted with the executives and their staff I noticed significant differences in their personalities. Of course the executives and the staff had different personas, but the collective “vibe” is what struck me in particular. Since the companies were all financial planners and wealth managers they all had a sense of seriousness and professionalism. But a few stood out, which led me to the question: does your image represent your company culture?

Below are two different companies and their group portraits. Aside from the differences in offices and demographics, each group definitely had its own style.

office group portrait of Labrum Wealth Management
Jason Labrum and staff

executive group portrait of Epstein and White Retirement Income Solutions
The office of Epstein and White

On the left is Jason Labrum of Labrum Wealth Management, a Carlsbad-based firm. His team exemplifies modern, hip, casual and comfortable. Their single-story open office space reinforces this progressive style, and they project a team environment. On the right is David Epstein and Bradley White’s La Jolla-based office of Epstein and White Retirement Income Solutions. Their individual offices are located in a high-rise opposite University Town Center, and they exude an independent, professional and traditional environment. Their more formal style is apparent in their boardroom portrait.

As you think about your own company’s culture, does your office image match the personalities of your staff? Do you have individual portraits that showcase each valuable member of your team? What’s your style? If you aren’t projecting the image that you want for your company, find out how Morton Visuals can help you! Comments are welcome.

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2014 Holiday Fundraiser

Morton Visuals photographs holiday parties and events
William Morton directs two ladies’ pose at the Omni San Diego employee holiday party

William Morton, owner of Morton Visuals event photography in San Diego, CA, has announced a new holiday charity drive. For every holiday event photographed between Thanksgiving and Christmas, 10% of all sales will be donated to each client’s choice of two favored charities: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or the Wounded Warriors Foundation. (See a listing of holiday event photography services.)

The national philanthropy of Morton’s Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity, St. Jude’s goal is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Founded by noted entertainer and TKE frater Danny Thomas in 1962, St. Jude’s mission is one where no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.

The Wounded Warrior Foundation – Freedom Station vows to be the leading force in assisting, honoring and supporting the military men and women who have so bravely served and sacrificed for our country. We are committed to supporting our warriors in a variety of ways, providing quality-of-life items and numerous support services designed to assist them and their families during recovery.

Morton’s personal philosophy of “it’s not what you get in life, it’s what you give that’s important” encourages him to look for opportunities to better the lives of others. St. Jude’s and the Wounded Warrior Project each exemplify this vision, dedicated to giving children and veterans a chance for a better tomorrow.

To book Morton Visuals for your holiday party, please call (858) 964-4664 or email William at MortonVisuals.com today. Remember that there are a limited number of dates available for holiday parties!

 

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