Have you considered jumping into the world of corporate event photography, either as a new business venture or to diversify what you already do, and would like some event photography tips to help get you started and avoid some of the pitfalls?
If so, you’ll love what I’ve got here for you!
This article is intended as a broad overview of corporate event photography for photographers who are interested in this exciting specialty.
I’ll cover a variety of event photography tips, such as:
- The type of assignments that fall under the umbrella of corporate event photography…
- How corporate event photography differs from shooting weddings and social events for a consumer market…
- Finding new clients…
- Pricing for corporate event photography…
- While the focus is on the business end of things, I’ll also touch upon some of the equipment and technology…
Without further ado, let’s dive in…
The Corporate Event Photography Business
Event photography is a huge business, and there seems to be an ever-expanding number of event photographers out there, particularly wedding photographers, for which the market is enormous and highly lucrative.
While the event photography space is extremely competitive, the barriers to entry are fairly low, since virtually anyone can throw up a website these days and call themselves a professional photographer.
You don’t need a degree or license and, even with minimal experience, you can shoot weddings for friends or relatives and offer your services for low or no-cost at the beginning in order to build up a portfolio and gain invaluable on-the-job training.
It’s no surprise, then, that many professional photographers focus primarily on weddings, or perhaps weddings along with complementary fields such as portraits, family photography, newborns, and so forth.
But, aside from the consumer market, there also exists a vast other world of event photography, which you tend not to hear about as much. That would of course be the corporate event photography market.
So What Is Corporate Event Photography?
The field of corporate event photography covers a wide range of assignments, such as:
- Cocktail receptions…
- Trade shows…
- Marketing events…
- Political events…
Companies also host gala celebrations, awards dinners, product launches and other public relations events, as well as employee functions like company picnics and holiday parties.
Corporate events can also include photography for charities and other non-profit organizations, such arts and cultural institutions.
Magazines (particularly large national publications) also hire photographers for events, which are distinct from their normal editorial work.
Most corporate events tend to be held during the week so if you’re primarily shooting weddings on the weekends, branching out into photographing corporate events can be a good fit and a way to increase revenue.
Where Does Corporate Event Photography Fit Into The Big Picture?
There is, of course, a whole other world of corporate and commercial photography that’s quite distinct from event photography but is outside the scope of this discussion. That would include advertising photography, photography for brochures, annual reports, company newsletters, etc.
This certainly doesn’t mean that if a photographer shoots corporate events they cannot do any other types of corporate work, but this is broad territory. For example, an art director for an ad agency probably won’t be terribly interested in seeing event photography on a photographer’s website.
One type of assignment which is complementary to corporate event photography, on the other hand, would be business headshots and portraits. This is another large market, and if you’re already doing corporate work, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll get inquiries for headshots. Unless it’s really not your thing, it would serve you well to include business headshots and portraits on your website and your marketing efforts.
Event Photography Tips: Your Skill Set
If you’re already experienced at shooting weddings and other social events, photographing corporate events requires pretty much the same skill set.
It’s just the subject matter that varies.
On the other hand, if this type of work is completely new to you, these are just a few of the skills you’ll need to master:
- Complete familiarity with your camera gear…
- In-depth knowledge of composition, lighting, and exposure…
- An ability to move around quickly and (in many cases) quietly…
- A keen awareness of your surroundings and what’s happening in every direction…
- Presenting a friendly demeanor that people respond to positively…
- Need to think on your feet and adapt quickly to changing circumstances…
How To Find New Clients
Finding clients, on the other hand, is another story.
For starters, you’re not dealing with a consumer market, which is an entirely different mindset from that of the corporate clientele.
Also, while there’s a market for wedding and family photography just about everywhere, that’s not going to hold true to the same extent for corporate event photography.
The Pros And Cons Of Small And Large Markets
The truth is, if you’re not located in or near a major metropolitan area, you probably won’t have as many opportunities for this type of work, so it might not make business sense for you to pursue. However, even if there’s a limited amount of work, you’ll probably face a lot less competition than professional photographers in the major markets.
Photographers in major cities may even choose to target a particular industry based on their interests and passion. I’m thinking music or fashion, for example. Developing a highly-specific niche specialty that you’re known for can serve you well in terms of both personal satisfaction and from a business standpoint. This would not be as easy in a smaller market where you don’t have a huge client pool to draw from, or where a specific industry may not even exist.
So How And Where Do You Find Clients?
In some instances you’ll be hired directly by the company holding an event, but do keep in mind that business can come from many different sources.
Depending on the type of event, large corporations, in particular, work with event planners, event production companies, marketing companies, and PR firms.
More often than not, a photographer may be hired on the client’s behalf by one of these other vendors, or at least recommended by them. As with wedding photography, cultivating relationships with caterers, venues, and other event-related vendors wouldn’t hurt.
In fact, if you do weddings, you may very well get corporate business from some of these same people.
Therefore, you should research your market and cast a wide net.
If you’re a typical photographer with limited resources, juggling a million different things to run your business, it may be impractical or an ineffective use of your time to try to target individual companies in your area on a large scale, since that in itself would be more than a full-time job!
One of the best even photography tips, and a better and a more fruitful way is to target event companies and planners, etc. who do corporate work.
In fact, this is often where you’re going to land the biggest clients. These are the people who can (and will) hire you over and over again if you do good work.
If like me, you’re in a major city, keep in mind that clients can potentially come from all over the world. For example, I’m often hired to photograph events in New York that are sponsored by companies that aren’t headquartered here. In some cases they’re even from overseas.
This is where having an effective website and paying attention to SEO are crucial to getting found by the right people.
For more in-depth information about search engine optimization, check out the SEO For Photographers Made Simple guide.
As an example, if you’re primarily a wedding photographer and you want to attract corporate event clients, it’s going to be difficult with a website geared for the bridal market.
That raises the question of whether or not you need two different websites and is something every photographer has to wrestle with and decide for themselves, based on their particular circumstances and goals.
But don’t let that stop you!
If you’re more of a generalist, and cover a wide variety of events, not just weddings, you can definitely get away with having some wedding work on your website. These days, as a professional photographer, there’s no stigma attached to covering weddings the way there used to be, and having a wedding gallery on your website isn’t really going to scare corporate clients away.
In the end, it’s more a question of the overall message and design of your site, and a much trickier issue for photographers whose sites are aimed squarely at brides.
Keep in mind that hiring a photographer is not an emotional decision for corporate clients in the same way it is for a bride.
Corporate Event Photography Tips: Your Portfolio
Your corporate event portfolio should show a mixture of people shots (staged and candid) as well as still images (room shots, décor, products, branding etc.).
I tend to show a lot more staged images in my corporate portfolio than I would for weddings. It’s a reflection of the fact that many corporate events require these types of shots, so I always attempt to elevate them as much as possible.
Conversely, many corporate events really allow for a lot of creativity and candid work.
Obviously, it’s important to always keep the client and their needs firmly in mind, and to ask for direction when you need it.
Marketing Your Corporate Event Portfolio
Naturally, in addition to your photography website, you’re going to market yourself with social media and all the other online marketing channels. But, if you’re trying to reach a corporate market, it’s better to direct your efforts in the right places.
Facebook is therefore going to be a waste of time.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, can be a great place to find potential clients in your area. Contacting them directly and unsolicited on LinkedIn may not be the best approach, but the platform is a great place for research. There are also a variety of groups you can join for the event industry, planners, etc.
If you’re in a major metropolitan market in the US, another great website to use for research is BizBash – an online magazine and website devoted to the event industry. They also publish various publications and directories, as well as hold trade shows.
Aside from keeping up on industry trends, BizBash is extremely useful for researching event companies, planners, and vendors. You can search by the type of supplier and geographical area, and there are pages and pages of listings with contact information.
They also have a group on LinkedIn called BizBash – Event Planners Gather.
Event Photography Tips On Pricing
This is always a tricky subject, and it would be foolish of me to attempt to tell you what to charge, because it depends on so many factors!
But I can still give you some tips and general guidance.
To begin with, keep in mind (as mentioned earlier) for a corporate client, hiring a photographer is not quite the emotional decision that it is for a bride. We all know that wedding photographers who do truly exceptional work and are great at marketing can command really impressive fees. The range of pricing you see when searching for a wedding photographer is vast and very confusing. Many photographers sell packages and make much of their money selling prints and albums.
The corporate arena is very different.
First and foremost, your fee must cover what you need to make on the assignment.
The main reason is that, in most cases, you’re not going to be making any additional money after the event, and I’d say for the vast majority of my corporate events these days, the images are only used online.
If a client is having a four-hour event, let’s say, and the average hourly rate for corporate event photographers in your area is $200 – $250, it’s highly unlikely that a client will pay 2 or 3 times that amount just because your work blows them away.
And it really doesn’t matter if they’re a Fortune 500 company with billions of dollars in annual profits.
Remember, it’s not a wedding, and this business doesn’t work that way.
Also, given the fact that everything is digital these days, and event photography isn’t even the same as advertising or other commercial work, you’re not going to be able to tack on hefty fees for licensing.
In fact, I strongly recommend that you build everything into your fee in most cases.
This includes post production and, for a typical event, granting the client full rights to use the images as they like for what I’d term “marketing, PR and in-house” usage (usually on the web and social media).
I usually give clients the full-size, high-resolution files, even if they don’t say they need them. This doesn’t, of course, grant the client the right to use images for print or any sort of advertising/commercial usage, but that rarely comes up for this type of work.
If you try to “nickel & dime” by tacking on extra fees for this, that or the other, you’re likely to lose the job.
Always be very clear and straightforward in your quotes, and make things as simple as possible.
At the same time, you should know what you’re getting yourself into.
For example, some clients need a super-rush turnaround time to get images out to the press.
Where appropriate and reasonable, by all means ask for more money in those cases.
Remember, too, that it’s your responsibility as a professional photographer to ask the right questions before giving the client a quote. Corporate clients are busy and pressed for time, and may not always think of things up front. Worse still, they may simply make false assumptions that could lead to disagreements later.
Some clients do work with professional photographers on a regular basis and understand all about copyright, usage, and licensing. Others don’t, and you may need to educate them.
A lot of corporate assignments are only 2-4 hours in duration, in which case I tend to quote them an hourly rate.
For full-day or multi-day assignments (often the case with conferences), my experience is that you’re probably going to have to offer a significant discount over the typical hourly rate you might charge for a smaller job.
It’s just the nature of the beast.
Corporate event photography is a highly-competitive business, and clients are shopping around and getting quotes from different photographers.
In many instances the person making initial contact with you for availability and pricing isn’t the decision maker. They may be an administrative assistant, for example, doing research for the head honchos.
It really doesn’t matter who they are…
Treat everyone as if they’re the CEO.
It’s just good business practice.
Finally, consider your market, your level of experience, and the type of client.
A rate that you can easily charge a large national or multi-national corporation may be a stretch for a small local business.
Non-profit organizations generally don’t have the same type of budgets as corporate clients, but that’s something that can vary wildly depending on the organization and the type of event.
Getting Paid For Corporate Event Photography
In some cases (particularly with regular clients), you may book a date months in advance, but more typically you might book a corporate event anywhere from a few days to a month or two ahead of time.
For smaller jobs, I almost never ask for a deposit, and I very rarely have trouble getting paid (knocking on wood here!). It’s often too much of a hassle to get a deposit, particularly from large organizations with bureaucracy and red tape. However, if it’s a larger assignment (particularly if I’m being booked well in advance), I do try to get a deposit.
You’ll have to use your judgment around getting paid when dealing with clients.
Accepting credit cards can sometimes get you paid faster, but understand that it’s not unusual to wait 3-4 weeks to receive payment for corporate assignments, but it doesn’t mean the client is jerking you around.
Some clients do send checks out very quickly, but anything longer than 4 weeks is unacceptable in my mind, and is taking advantage of the photographer.
There have definitely been instances where there was an unintentional slip-up. In such cases, always behave in a professional manner and don’t flip out on clients unless you’re absolutely 1,000% justified and certain that they are jerking you around. On the other hand, do follow-up if necessary.
Delivery of Images
These days, corporate clients typically want images in a hurry, even if they don’t really need them!
Not surprisingly they want to post pictures online while the event is still fresh, and you need to be able to deliver files to clients quickly and efficiently, wherever they may be, which in some cases may be very far away.
For that purpose, I create private, password-protected galleries on my website and enable clients to download the files in a variety of sizes. Clients love this, and it’s very convenient for me too, since I don’t have to burn a disc and put it in the mail.
Equipment & Technology
If you photograph other types of events such as weddings, the same equipment will, by and large, serve you well for corporate events.
For great results, speed and efficiency, it’s extremely important to have a powerful on-camera flash and to use an external power pack for instant recycling.
Of course, if you do a lot of corporate events, you’re bound to encounter situations where you’re shooting indoors in low light and can’t use flash. In those situations, you’ll need a camera with extremely good handling at high ISO and low-light performance.
The good thing is, it’s highly unlikely you’ll need to worry about having files that can hold up for printing large prints, so you can probably get away with it.
Having fast professional-grade lenses with vibration reduction (particularly zooms) is indispensable too.
Digital technology and social media have transformed event photography.
Unfortunately (depending on your point of view), there are many corporate clients these days who want things such as photo booths and on-site printing.
I say unfortunately, because this isn’t what I got into photography for.
Providing those types of services is more about having the right equipment such as high-speed dye-sub printers (so prints don’t smudge), someone to take snapshots (next to no photography skills required), and a digital tech person to handle the post production and printing on-site. If you’re like me and not inclined to go in this direction, you can potentially partner with photo booth companies who do these types of jobs routinely.
Clients may also want to be able to post immediately to social media. Again, you may be able to partner with a photo booth company to offer these types of services.
It’s imperative to keep up with trends and technology as things change so quickly.
Last year, for example, I was hired to photograph a Halloween party for Veuve Clicquot Champagne, called the “Yelloween” party and they throw it in different cities.
People are in costume, and it’s a fun event.
The guests are essentially industry people, so you could call it a client event. The company that hired me (who in turn is hired by Veuve Clicquot) specializes in marketing events utilizing RFID (radio frequency identification).
It was a first for me!
They set my camera up with a wireless transmitter and they had guests who had pre-registered wearing special wristbands.
I was then given a cell phone with special software installed.
After taking someone’s picture, I would swipe their wristband with the cell phone and it would transmit the images to a laptop the client had on-site.
From there, the images were uploaded to guests’ Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Fortunately, the client handled that end of things!
It was a bit of a chore, but I was also able to roam around and shoot candids as well.
So watch out for this kind of thing, as corporate clients are always looking to create buzz, so they’re going to utilize whatever cool and interesting tools are at their disposal.
Corporate Event Photography Etiquette
Last, but not least, photographing events is always a balancing act.
You have to strike a balance between getting the important shots, yet at the same time not be overly pushy or obtrusive.
As discussed earlier, sometimes you can’t use flash, even in less than optimum lighting conditions. You may be photographing a panel discussion or a PowerPoint presentation, in which case the flash may simply be too disruptive.
A great skill to master is capturing people without inappropriately interrupting their conversations.
It should also go without saying that you need to dress appropriately for the event, be well-groomed, and look like you fit in!
People who work for the host or event company may also approach you during the course of the event and ask you to take pictures for them, and you may not always know who they are.
It doesn’t matter – always be as accommodating as possible, within reason, and treat everyone as if they’re the most important person.
You never know who you’re dealing with, and a little courtesy can go a long way.
Ready To Jump Into Corporate Event Photography?
So how do you feel now about the corporate event photography business?
Ready to jump in and give it a go?
As you can see from this brief introduction, there’s a lot to it, but the potential rewards are well worth the effort.
If you follow the basic event photography tips I’ve outlined for you here, and you approach the business with a good attitude, there’s no reason why you can’t succeed at it.
So get out there and join in the fun!
Further Reading: Event Photography Handbook by William B. Folsom
With the recent advent of relatively inexpensive digital cameras, consumers are becoming increasingly proficient at capturing important moments on their own.
In order to save their business and stay in front of the curve, professional photographers must proactively build their businesses by initiating new contacts, selecting the best equipment for each job, and enhancing their marketing and promotional skills.
Detailed information on how to be successful before, during, and after the event, including proper professional etiquette, lighting and posing options, and snapping unobtrusive action shots as well as advice on working with both the images and client after a job.