If you're planning a busy event, consulting with your event photography provider a few weeks in advance can make the difference between great shots and snapshots. We often photograph large events where lots of things are going on at the same time, and we've gleaned a few tips from our experience over the years.
First, consult on timing with your photography provider as soon as you have a rough schedule of the event. This way you can discuss how best to allocate coverage time and exactly what kind of shots you need in each situation. An experienced event photographer can help you anticipate where scheduling bottlenecks are likely to occur and suggest ways to avoid them. In addition, you'll have the opportunity to arrange for additional photographers if there is simply too much going on for one photographer to cover well.
Second, allow enough time for each subject. Our rule of thumb is a minimum of 15 minutes in each room for a single subject. This is because it takes time to cover a speaker from several angles, get wide shots, close-up shots, room shots and audience reaction shots, and make enough photos to ensure that the speaker's eyes are open and mouth is closed. It also helps to wait for gestures to add some visual excitement. This can't be done by just walking in and taking a few shots from the back of the room. Plus, if the lighting in a session room is dim or unflattering (e.g. most hotel conference rooms), it may be necessary for the photographer to set up a small additional flash at the side of the room to supplement the flash on the camera. This helps by lighting the room evenly and preventing unflattering dark shadows under people's eyes. It takes a minute or two and makes a huge difference.
Third, consider hiring additional photographers for peak times. If you only need photos of one speaker in each of three simultaneous one-hour sessions, and if the rooms are close to each other, a single photographer may be able to cover it. However, If you've got multiple simultaneous panel discussions and you need photos of each panelist speaking, a photographer will probably need to stay in one room for the entire session. In this case, you may want additional photographers to ensure adequate coverage of each session.
We know that budgets are tight and extra coverage is not always an option. Consulting with your photography provider in advance enables him or her to ensure that you'll get the coverage you need and quality you'll be happy with.