If you are asked to photograph an event orchestrated for a public relations team, you will face challenges and opportunities that you may be unfamiliar with. I’ve photographed many such events; one this week. It dawned on me that there are tips I take for granted that may be of use to you who are slated to do similar work.
I was invited to photograph the Jaguar F-Type launch at a VIP event held at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles as credentialed media.
When I arrived, the PR folk didn’t know what to do with me. For the first hour of the event they wanted to herd the photographers on to a red carpet to photograph celebrity arrivals. They also seemed to think that somehow photographers would “bother” the other VIPs invited to attend so for the first hour, media were restricted to a very crowded, uncomfortable area outside the main area of the event. The second hour, which included the official presentation and reveal of the new cars was open to everyone. At that time, the photographers were allowed to stand in a roped off area with presumably the “best” view.
Here’s my first tip. Try to avoid being branded as part of the herd. It may make you think you’re cool, but it also means you’re going to have lots of competition for every shot.
Tip two: At all costs, avoid being locked into the spot the PR guy/gal thinks is the best spot for a photo. Most of the time, the PR people have no idea where the good shot is.
Tip three: Spend as much time scouting the location while the event is unfolding. Ask production people (not PR people) what’s happening where. At every big event like this, the lighting, sound and video people tend to know what’s going to happen. Sometimes even security will help – but rarely.
I used my status as both an invited guest and media to get the best of both worlds. I spent most of the first hour scouting, asking questions, etc. I didn’t bother anyone or get in anybody’s way. When the festivities got under way I made my way down the line from the herd and was about 25 yards south of them with a clean shot of the cars and the reflections they were making in the pool created for the event. They didn’t get that shot.
I feel like I got some good stuff and I also am sure I didn’t stop anyone else from enjoying themselves. That’s another tip. Be nice. Try to get along with the other photographers, PR people, security, fans etc. But in addition to being nice, be firm. You need to get your shot. So that takes priority. But if you work at it you can almost always get the picture and still avoid being a pain in the butt.
I want to note that I don’t think the PR people are the enemy. I just think they are more interested in controlling things than helping the media and even in situations when they do want to help, they rarely possess the skills necessary to do so. Most of the time they seem to look at us as a necessary evil. I promise, the feeling is generally mutual.
When you’re assigned an event, you and you alone are responsible for coming back with the great photographs. Nobody will care what obstacles you faced. If you fail, you will be unlikely to get a second chance so remember. Be fair, be polite, follow as many of the rules as you can, but be firm. Get the shot. It’s all that matters.
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