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!

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.

 

 

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 and Gateway use the same stock photography model for competing ads

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!

The Value of Photography to Your Business

I recently had an opportunity to do a presentation on business photography 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)

[Update 2/10/2017: Some new, updated stats are available. Internet Trends 2017. Stats & Facts in the U.S. and Worldwide]

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 photographyComerica Bank manager photographed by William Morton Visualsbusiness photography by Morton Visuals for First Bank annual reportoffice 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!

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.

The Ground-breaking Profoto B1

Yesterday was a very interesting day. I had an opportunity to work with the great people of Right Hand Events and Kaiser Permanente San Diego covering the groundbreaking of a new hospital here in San Diego. Aside from a terrific event with local business and political leaders, I was tasked with capturing a very challenging scene. The actual “shovels in the dirt ground breaking” happened a few minutes before noon – I know, every photographer’s favorite time of day to shoot outside – with backlit subjects and a highly reflective facade above and behind them.

Now in older days I would have brought out an Alien Bee and powered it with a Vagabond battery pack. Unfortunately this setting was the middle of a large parking lot, and I would be unable to ground the battery pack. And 640 watt-seconds was not going to match the harsh sunlight. So I brought out my trusty old Dynalite 800ws pack along with a Dynalite inverter (which doesn’t need to be grounded) and powered a single 4040 head with all 800ws blasting directly from the 7″ reflector. That’s a lot of power, but it was approximately 20′ from my subjects. And did I mention it was almost noon? Knowing the importance of these shots to Kaiser Permanente, I opted for photographic redundancy. I decided to photograph these key moments using two cameras and two lighting setups.

Profoto B1 and Dynalite lighting
Profoto B1 strobes flank a Dynalight pack and head

I added a PocketWizard to my new Nikon Df to trigger my Dynalite pack. A PocketWizard TT5n fired my Nikon D3 mounted on a tripod at a slightly lower angle. Atop the D3 was the Profoto Air Remote, which fired a pair of new Profoto B1s. Their combined 1000 watt-seconds was almost enough to match the sun, even at that distance. With a little adjusting in Lightroom I was able to produce a pretty good image – in the middle of a parking lot in midday sun, with no wires. The example below is from the D3, showing the hard-working ladies of Right Hand Events after successfully executing the groundbreaking. (The key images of the Kaiser Permanente team will need to be approved by their Public Affairs office before they can be shared.)

Right Hand Events' ladies break ground for the new Kaiser Permanente hospital in San Diego
Right Hand Events breaks ground for Kaiser Permanente

The B1s are impressive. Two lights with remotes and chargers fit neatly in a backpack. Their batteries are mounted “in to” the head, so nothing is left dangling and there are truly no cords whatsoever. These units are able to work in TTL mode – although currently only with Canon DSLRs. The Nikon version of their remote won’t be available until late this year. (Note that the strobes themselves are identical, only the remote differs. So even though you can’t purchase a Nikon version of the remote now, you can purchase the B1 strobes – and they will work with the Nikon remote as soon as that is available.) The TTL was impressively accurate in a studio demo with Canon cameras last week. The B1 also has an incredible recycle rate, able to keep up with the Canon shooting at high fps in the studio. Granted that wasn’t full power, but it was impressive nonetheless – and should be of tremendous benefit for anyone shooting action. If you have used these units please feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

If you’re interested, these are now on my birthday list and my Christmas list… ;-)

Happy Holidays from Morton Visuals

This holiday season is always hectic, as we struggle to find those “perfect” gifts for our loved ones. Often it’s easy to overlook the important things, and forget about giving the one thing that money can’t buy — our time. There’s not much that I can think of to ask for from my family or loved ones, so I fail miserably at making the infamous Christmas Wish List. But I DO know what I really want this year, and every year — some quality time with those I love, whether here in beautiful San Diego or back home. This year I won’t be able to make it back to NC for the holidays, so I’m sharing a little view of San Diego.

William Morton photographs the ice skating rink at the Hotel Del Coronado with a beautiful SoCal sunset
Happy Holidays from William Morton Visuals!

This image is one I’ve wanted for four years, and I finally got access to a vantage point to photograph it. This is the ice skating rink set up at the Hotel Del Coronado. Two images were captured, one to lighten the ice skating rink and one to darken the sky. They were processed in Adobe Lightroom 5 and merged to HDR Pro in Photoshop, where the blend was refined and some spot image adjustments were added. Life is Southern California is pretty good! 🙂

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.

 

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!