The value of event photography - you get what you pay for
By Jonathan Taylor, director, Aniseed Event Photography
Wim Wenders, the film director recently went on record to say that iPhones have killed photography, that photography has been devalued because so many more photographs are taken each year, but hardly any of them are even looked at, let alone printed.
We are a visual industry – full of very clever and creative people who can turn their amazing ideas into real life. But the transient nature of events means that they are just a moment in time, and unless you can capture an event with a camera, it is gone for ever.
Images help captivate, to entice, to tell a story and of course to sell. The event organisers that I work with hire a professional photographer because they need great images to help sell their event the next year. To these event organisers, professional photography isn’t a ‘nice to have if we can find someone to do it for free’, it’s an essential part of their event and the marketing process. Without quality images they can’t show how great or busy it was, they can’t show specific elements to potential sponsors, delegates and speakers.
Contra deals are another way in which photography gets devalued. Again, would you expect your dentist to work for free – just for the exposure? Or your lawyer to do the conveyancing on your house for free – just because you can introduce them to your friends who’ll be moving soon? I could work every day of the year in this way, but I politely decline such generous offers because contra deals don’t pay the mortgage (photographers have bills to pay too!).
To go back to Wim Wenders, everyone has an iPhone now so that must mean that everyone is a photographer? I guess that is true but it doesn’t mean that they are any good. My cousin Ethan can rustle up a mean quiche but I’m not going to ask him to cater for the next conference I work on. So why do organisers think that just because Steve from accounts owns a camera (or an iphone), he can take a good photograph? Photography is a skill that takes years to perfect (even I’m still learning), and event photography is a separate skill in its own right.
Every organiser has a budget for AV, for catering, for the venue… so why not include some budget for professional photography? We really aren’t that expensive, and your client would be able to see the benefits of having their event captured for posterity.
I do a fair bit of press photography and my friends at Conference News tell me how refreshing it is to receive a great photograph. If you are even attempting any form of PR you need quality images. Every story needs an image – and if it’s a professional one, it will get you better coverage, especially in print. A dull low res image may be just about ok for an online story, but for print they need really powerful, high res images. A leading editor tells me “We’ve had so many stories that might make a good interview piece or cover story but we can’t run them because the images are either crap or there isn’t one at all.”
It’s high time that event photography (and videography) was taken seriously and given its rightful place in the event marketing mix.