The Importance of Event Lighting

Mayor Kevin Faulconer speaks at the podium for the 25th anniversary of the San Diego Convention Center.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 - Event photography by William Morton Visuals Event photography by William Morton Visuals.

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 speaker. Event photography by William Morton Visuals.The 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 – the folks at Isagenix and CG Creative Studios do this exceptionally well. (See photo 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.

Terry Watson speaks to the CAI conference at the San Diego Hilton Bayfront. Event photography by William Morton of Morton Visuals.One other consideration is backlighting. Speakers are often in dark suits or dresses and standing in front of black curtains. Photographing them from the front makes them blend in to the background. Note the  photo at right. Although the profile shot makes the speaker stand out, you can see that he has no backlighting to separate him from the background. In the image of the speaker at the podium at the top of this article you can clearly see great lighting on his face and rimlighting behind. This helps separate him from the background in photos — in my opinion, a great improvement. (The crew at the San Diego Convention Center know how to do it!)

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!

conference speakerconference speaker Event photography by William Morton VisualsThe 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 alongside this paragraph.

Stage lights often include a color wash on the background, which can overpower the subjectOne other thing to be wary of is the popular colored light wash on the stage background, particularly if you have a light colored stage background. These lights are too often too bright, and will cause blown-out highlights in your event photos. More often than not the frontal lighting on the stage isn’t bright enough to compete with these colors, so a photographer isn’t able to expose for both ends of the spectrum. Exposing for the backlit subject will blow out the background, and exposing to show the color in the background will yield a silhouetted subject. If you are planning on this please let your photographer know – he or she may want to bring in additional flash to help light a dark subject on stage.

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!

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

Event Portraits at a Holiday Party

Morton Visuals had the opportunity to provide formal event portraits of the employees of the San Marcos Costco for their post-holidays Christmas party. This event was held in the Crystal Ballroom at the beautiful Grand Tradition in Fallbrook, CA. This event was a well earned chance for employees to celebrate a hectic holiday season – and William Morton was able to capture everyone dressed to impress on this occasion. I have to say, this is a great group of people – and we had a great time with the Costco team!

Event portraits ("Prom portraits") at a holiday party
Bobby & Tiffany Radovich

The Crystal Ballroom’s most prominent feature was the beautiful staircase at one end. The first steps provided the best opportunity to position couples and groups for formal (“prom style”) portraits. Filled to capacity, there wasn’t much room to set up camera and lighting as the tables were tightly arranged and filled all but the dance floor. A main light was positioned against the wall between the first two tables at camera left. A (tightly gridded) fill light was positioned across the room against the wall at camera right. We were able to place a gridded hair light at the top of the stairs, which was out of sight of the camera. Thankfully we had PocketWizard radios to fire three of our Dynalite power packs. Overall I think the “remote lighting” setup worked, and we were able to produce some really nice event portraits at this occasion. What do you think?

 

Ringing In The New Year, Mardi Gras Style

New Year’s Eve is always a fun time, even if you’re working. This past Saturday night I had a chance to work with my friend Mark Hays of Grins 2 Go. Mark is a franchise owner in the Temecula area, and we spent New Year’s Eve photographing portraits for . The theme was Mardi Gras – always a great opportunity for colorful costumes and accessories.

We set up two sets to share a common background – a New Orleans French Quarter street scene. Both sets were shooting and printing photos on the spot, to be framed by the Promotions Center and made available to Players’ Club members within two hours. We even did a quick reset in the middle of the event to accomodate a formal group portrait of 30 employees decked out in their New Year’s finest. The group shot – a logistical challenge given a 10-minute window – went off without a hitch, and turned out magnificently.

William Morton Poses Guests at New Years Eve Celebration
William Morton gives posing guidance to his portrait subjects

William Morton shows previews prior to printing event portraits
Guests approve their portraits before printing

Best wishes for the new year, and I hope that your 2012 is your best ever!

Morton Visuals Photographs Santa

Portrait of Santa and Mrs Claus
Santa and Mrs Claus

This weekend Morton Visuals photographed Santa (and Mrs. Claus) for My Kid’s Dentist in Vista and Murrieta CA. The staff at each office made a party of it, serving Christmas cookies and drinks and giving tours of their dental offices. Christmas movies played on big screens in the lobby as well as on small screens in the dental exam rooms. And the kids got to sit on Santa (and sometimes Mrs. Claus’) lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas! Morton Visuals photographed the kids and printed 4×6 photographs on the spot, so each child left with a picture of them with Santa in a nice white folder. The Murrieta location added a mini-fair outside, with a huge inflatable slide, a DJ, and tables for other nearby vendors. Hot toddy (or hot chocolate) was also on hand, so everyone could warm up from the windy chill. At one point they even got a fire truck to stop by! It was surely a day to remember, and spending a few hours with Santa will really get you in the Christmas spirit. Thanks to My Kid’s Dentist for a fun weekend!

Carrier Classic Comes to San Diego this Veterans Day

Mark Larson MC's the introduction of the Carrier Classic at the Hall of Champions
Mark Larson of KFMB Radio

William Morton of Morton Visuals event photography was on hand for last night’s press conference for the inaugural Carrier Classic. Mark Larson, radio personality from KFMB radio, served as the Master of Ceremonies and introduced executives and organizers from Morale Entertainment as well as ESPN representatives.  Mike Whalen of Morale Entertainment Foundation fittingly announced the details of this unique sporting event at the San Diego Hall of Champions in Balboa Park.

Mike Whalen of Morale Entertainment Foundation talks at the Hall of Champions about bringing the Carrier Classic to San Diego on 11/11/11.
Mike Whalen of Morale Entertainment Foundation speaks to the crowd

Carrier Classic 11-11-11On 11-11-11, the University of North Carolina mens basketball team will take on Michigan State onboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in San Diego, CA. The Vinson just returned home this past week from extended operations in the middle east, most notably conducting the burial-at-sea of Osama Bin Laden. A basketball court will be built on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, now docked at Naval Station San Diego. Approximately 7,000 are expected to be in attendance, consisting of mostly military members and their dependents. ESPN will televise the event on Veterans Day, the official first day of the 2011-2012 NCAA basketball season. The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Wounded Warrior Project, the San Diego Air and Space Museum and the San Diego Sports Commission are assisting game organizer Morale Entertainment Foundation with various elements surrounding the event. As described by Morale Entertainment executives Ken Kinnear and Mike Whalen, the purpose of this event is to call attention to Veterans Day, to the sacrifices made by our veterans and service-members, to thank them, and reward them for their service.

Morale Entertainment Foundation and ESPN executives for the Carrier Classic
Carrier Classic organizers pictured from left to right: Tom Lee (Morale Entertainment), Nick Dawson (ESPN), Ken Kinnear (Morale Entertainment), Mike Whalen (Morale Entertainment), Coach Don Casey (Morale Entertainment), Dave Miller (ESPN) and Mike Rowe (Morale Entertainment).

 

Color and Light in the Photography Pro Speaker Series

Morton Visuals‘ owner William Morton was one of the featured speakers at the Pro Speaker Series held at San Diego City College’s Career Technology Center on Saturday. Organized by Tony Amat of A/R Event Photography and Thom Hiatt of TBC Creative Multi-Media, this third edition of the series featured three primary speakers. A great turnout of about 70 enjoyed the seminar, complete with lunch provided by NIK Software. Photos below by Johnakin Randolph for A/R Event Photography.

William Morton, Jane Mitchell, and Tony Corbell of the May 28th Photography Pro Speaker Series seminar at San Diego City College.
William Morton, Jane Mitchell and Tony Corbell pose for a group shot after the seminar. Photo by Johnakin Randolph.

26-time Emmy® Award-winning broadcast journalist Jane Mitchell, author of One on One – My Journey with Hall of Famers, Fan Favorites and RisingStars, opened the program. Her new book chronicles a selection of famous athletes’ stories. As described on her website, “No one else has interviewed or done in-depth personal biographies on this particular collection of athletes.  For some, the One on One program is the only in-depth and comprehensive story on their life.  As the television programs have become a part of the sports archives and landscape in San Diego, this book, with Jane’s unique experience sharing their stories, serves as a little slice of history beyond the replays of the TV shows.”

William Morton speaks at San Diego City College during the Photography Pro Speaker Series seminar
William Morton by Johnakin Randolph.

William Morton presented a segment on “Color – Get it RIGHT!” William identified the three major segments of a digital photography workflow and the importance of properly managing your color throughout the entire image-making process. With tools such as the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport, you can calibrate your camera to ensure that the initial image capture renders accurate colors. Then tools such as the Datacolor Spyder3 Studio can take you the rest of the way through the process, profiling your monitor and your printer (for each ink/paper combination). Once everything is profiled you can start a new image-making session with a known good color target to ensure that you start with (and maintain) good color.

Tony Corbell was the day’s “keynote speaker.” Tony’s accomplishments are extensive, and he has become a well-known photo educator. He has written articles in every major photographic magazine in the U.S., Japan, the U.K. and China. He is currently one of a select few Approved Photographic Instructors from the Professional Photographers of America…and he’s the biggest Beatles fan alive. Tony’s presentation on light was all about understanding the quality of light and utilizing light in all of its forms. He definitely kept the audience’s attention throughout, with many of the students seeking him out afterwards to pose for photos with them.

Lorenzo Gunn was on hand to showcase some of the beautiful photo books from Burrell Color Imaging, Phillip Abel was showing off the cool toys from Mamiya America Corporation and promoting their awesome MAC on Campus program, and Matt & Matt of Bongo Bytes were on hand to show software and lots of cool gadgets. Many thanks not only to all those involved but to all those who came out on a Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. It seemed like everyone learned a bit, and hopefully got some inspiration as well.

William Morton Judges SkillsUSA State Competition

William Morton of Morton Visuals photography in San Diego was selected as a judge in the 2011 SkillsUSA California State Conference  in San Diego yesterday. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA’s mission is to help its members become world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens.

In the photography category, contestants demonstrate their ability to use digital SLR’s, image editing software (Adobe Photoshop) and professional studio lighting. Students perform on-site photography, portrait studio lighting & posing, process and print digital photos and submit two 11×14 or 16×20 mounted & matted photographs in advance of the contest to be judged and displayed at the competition. Contestants are evaluated on their mastery of entry-level job skills. William, along with Professional Photographers of California (PPC) Executive Director Roger Daines, PPC President Phillip E. Abel (Regional Manager with the MAC Group), and industry expert Lorenzo Gunn of Burrell Color Imaging, interviewed 22 finalists from all over California in order to select two student photographers to go on to the national competition in Kansas City this June. This challenging process took approximately 5 hours, with the entire judging panel agreeing on the photographers that were the best choices to represent California this June.

SkillsUSA logoSkillsUSA serves more than 300,000 students and instructors annually. The organization has 13,000 school chapters in 54 state and territorial associations. More than 14,500 instructors and administrators are professional members of SkillsUSA. To learn more about this very worthwhile program, visit http://skillsusa.org/about/infoform.shtml.

Hot Photos by William Morton

A small fire broke out just after 7:00pm last night in the 3200 block of Sports Arena boulevard tonight. A three foot high pile of tree trimmings piled against the Glasshouse Parking structure was ablaze, filling the parking structure with smoke. Engine 8 arrived and knocked down the fire within minutes, then began cutting up and separating the smoldering brush to ensure that it was fully extinguished. No cause of the fire was immediately apparent.

Three witnesses grabbed fire extinguishers from the parking structure in an effort to combat the blaze initially, but none of the extinguishers worked. At least one showed an inspection tag dated 2007.

Photographer William Morton was driving by immediately after the fire started, and captured the accompanying images.

Firefighters fight small brush fire on Sports Arena Blvd
The first firefighter attacks the blaze
Firefighters knock out a small brush fire
Firefighters knock down the fire
Smoke fills the parking garage as firefighters put out a small brush fire
Smoke fills the parking garage
A dead fire extinguisher, last inspected in 2007, is useless against the fire
Expired fire extinguisher proves useless

William Morton MC’s Professional Speaker Series Premiere

William Morton of Morton Visuals served as the Master of Ceremonies for the premiere of the Professional Speaker Series at San Diego City College on January 19th. Presented by Tony Amat of AR Event Photography and Thom Hiatt of My Twin Bees, this educational event featured photographers Laurie Rubin Shupp of NIK Software, concert photographer Alan Hess, Pixel Boot Camp instructor Mickey Strand, and renowned color expert Marc Aguilar of Color Critical. Additional speakers included David King and David Eichinger of City College’s vastly expanded Photo Department and Thom Hiatt of TBC Multi-Media Creative & Consulting. Approximately 50 people attended this inaugural event, and 20% of net proceeds went to the City College Photo Club. It’s good to give back! Photo below is courtesy of Tony Amat.

 

Emcee William Morton introduces the speakers
Emcee William Morton