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!

Event Photography Holiday Charity Drive

William Morton, owner of Morton Visuals event photography in San Diego, CA, has announced a new holiday charity drive today. 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.

St. Jude Children's Research HospitalThe 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.

Based in Memphis, Tennessee (near where Morton trained during his service in the US Navy), St. Jude treats nearly 6,000 children per year. St. Jude is aligned with two local San Diego institutions: Rady Children’s Hospital and the University of California, San Diego (where Morton previously taught photography workshops).

Wounded Warrior Foundation - Freedom StationThe 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.

The Warrior Foundation~Freedom Station assists four main groups of warriors: the Seriously Injured (SI) just returning home from war; those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI); those undergoing physical or occupational therapy, and warriors who have been medically retired and remain in our community. To serve this last group in particular, Warrior Foundation~Freedom Station pioneered a new approach and opened Freedom Station – a unique recovery transition center and housing facility that provides injured warriors with the acclimation time, guidance and resources to successfully make the transition from military service to civilian life.

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 those in need. St. Jude’s and the Wounded Warrior Project each exemplify this vision, dedicated to giving children and veterans a chance for a better tomorrow.

Morton Visuals is a San Diego-based photography business specializing in commercial, corporate and event photography. Photographing anything from “guys in ties” to large-scale conventions, Morton Visuals delivers high quality images with an enjoyable photographic experience. Owner/photographer William Morton works quickly and efficiently to minimize the imposition on the time of busy executives, and strives to provide an entertaining presence for party guests at corporate or consumer events. Morton Visuals operates throughout Southern California and is available nationwide. Additional information is available online at http://MortonVisuals.com.

 

Best Use of Your Event Photographer

Since I am often asked this question, I wanted to provide some answers here. How can you best utilize your photographer at your event?

  • Documentary Photography
    Documentation is the most popular use of an event photographer. Images often get reused next year as groups show potential attendees (or sponsors) how much fun last year was. And it helps remind us of who was there, particularly important at events like family gatherings.
  • Public Relations Photography
    • Media/P.R. – If you have a celebrity making an appearance or an employee receiving a “Top Earner” award. Community Service events are often publicized in the media, garnering valuable PR for a company or organization.
    • Internal Publication – Often companies showcase their conventions, events, award winners, and the like on their company Intranet or in internal publications. This use often builds camaraderie and encourages future participation from others.
  • Live Entertainment
    • “Live Photography” can capture guests arriving, celebrating, and indulging in the event’s activities – and simultaneously be displayed for the enjoyment of others. For example, guests arriving on the red carpet can have their images displaying on a projector or big screen inside the event just moments later. So the guests become part of the entertainment!
    • Event Showcase – Images captured throughout a conference or convention may be merged into a slide show that is displayed at the beginning of an awards banquet on the final night.
  • Portraiture
    • Formal Portraiture – This is the perfect time for a formal portrait of the group, and for individual executive portraits. Major events like a convention or annual conference may be one of the few times an entire Board of Directors can be able to be together (with a photographer available). Other key personnel may usually work out of different offices. Not to mention the fact that formal events like awards banquets often allow guests to enjoy a “prom photo” with their significant other dressed up in their finest!
    • Green screen photography is quite popular at a casual event, particularly if there is a theme to the party. These are always fun, and a great way to enhance the celebration.
    • Printing on-site – The ability to print immediately, and hand your guests a print to take home with them, is huge! Not only do they now have something tangible to hold on to, whether it’s a keepsake courtesy of the company or a memory that they purchased at the time, this simple portrait print lives on. At a minimum this provides ongoing advertising for the company or sponsor, as the event name and/or sponsor logo can be part of the image.

These are but a few examples of how you can use your Event Photographer. Do you have any other ideas? If so, please share them with us by commenting below. Subscribe to this blog to see others’ ideas as they are posted.

Morton Visuals Goes On Location For The Pink PartyPhoto courtesy Tom Yip Photography.

William Morton is a commercial and event photographer based in San Diego, CA. Shooting professionally since 1991, William began focusing on event photography in 2004 and now shoots for clients nationwide. To see more of his commercial and event photography, visit MortonVisuals.com.

Corporate Convention Photographers Cover APA

Corporate Convention Photographers photograph the 2010 convention of the American Psychological Association.

Corporate Convention Photographers, based out of Studio J, covered this year’s convention of the American Psychological Association held at the San Diego Convention Center. The busy schedule included numerous meetings and presentations, as well as notable speakers such as former First Lady Rosalynn Carter. A major topic of the convention was marriage equality, particularly well-received here in California after recent court rulings. The San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus lightened things up with a performance on opening night.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter speaks at the 2010 APA convention
Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter
Dr. Carol Goodheart speaks during the opening session
Dr. Carol Goodheart opens the convention
Attendees listen to discussions on marriage equality
Attendees hear speakers on marriage equality
The San Diego Gay Men's Chorus performs
San Diego Gay Men's Chorus performs