My Toughest Photo-Shoot Yet


As an event photographer I have a recurring nightmare where I turn up to an event only to realize that my camera won’t switch on, I’m at the wrong event and I forgot to put my trousers on… it wakes me up in a cold sweat!

My blog posts are usually full of tales from events which have been great to go along and photograph, so today I thought I’d share an experience from recent weeks which whilst not as bad as that recurring nightmare, I would with all honesty describe as my toughest shoot to date.

Hired by an industry magazine, I headed off to a conference dedicated to trench-less technology, to you and me that means getting pipes, cables and such underground without digging up the entire road to do so. It’s a 3 day event but experience has told me to go to these events on day 1 as it’s normally when the most people turn up and the buzz is at it’s utmost because it’s often a new experience for visitors and exhibitors alike.

As I arrive at the event around midday (I’d only been hired to be there a couple of hours) it becomes apparent that the early morning mist / fog hasn’t lifted and any outdoor photography just isn’t going to work. Having shot at Peterborough Arena many times I know that these conferences usually take place as a mixture of indoor and outdoor, so I’m fairly safe in the knowledge that I can shoot all the indoor shots first and hopefully later in the day the fog/mist will have moved on.

I collect my badge from the registration area head into the event and wonder through the 25 or so indoor exhibition booths and am immediately hit by the realization that aside from myself there were only about 10 other people walking around. Where is everybody I wonder? As I head outside to try and find out where everybody is, they could all have very well been hiding in the fog… I don’t know, I couldn’t see them.

Ok, I’ll crack on and photograph the indoor booths the magazine wanted I think, so I pull out my brief and the reality of the situation hits me, aside from the magazines stand itself, everybody else they want photographing were out hiding in the fog. I wonder by the magazines stand and given there were very few visitors indoors I was unsurprised to find the people running it sat around not doing much – very much like all the other exhibitors.

2 hours later and the fog has lifted, there wasn’t an army of people hiding outside either, the event is just quiet. I’ve taken a few shots of the indoor stands and the people running them but I don’t have anything like the photo set I would want to send any client. I’d stalked the few people that were wondering around and chatting to the point that they were probably about to get a restraining order out against me and I realize it’s just not going to happen today.

If it was a one day event, I’d have had no choice but to stage photo’s, get stall owners to go and talk to other stall holders and pretend to be customers, it would have been the only way through the event to come out the other end with anything that was usable. Luckily it was a 3 day event, so I gave up and went back the following day to find it was so much busier, the buzz I’d expected on that first day was there the following day and normal service was resumed.

I’d been paid for 4 hours of event photography in Peterborough and ended up spending the best part of 2 days on this shoot, but what could I do? I’m the type of person who always wants to send their best work. I’m my own worst critic and I know it, every photo could always have been better if I’d just done this or that. I was pleased with the end photo set I sent them and got good feedback from the magazine, so it was all worth it in the end!

I’ve since chatted this through with a number of photographers to see how they would have handled it and I’ve had a 50/50 response. Half would have taken what they could on the day and sent them to the client, the other half would have gone back the following day. I don’t know who’s right or wrong in this situation, but I do know I’m happy I went back!


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