How to Photograph a Conference

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I'll be honest that it usually takes me an hour or so on the first day before I feel comfortable walking through the crowd and photographing the people around me. This is partly from my self-conscious-I-don't-want-to-intrude-and-be-rude personality, but it's also because the participants are getting used to me as well. I need them to forget that I'm there, so that I can do my work by capturing them at their most genuine moments.

(5) Be Patient.

People don't look good with their eyes in a half-blink while giving a speech. So when photographing speakers, I like to frame the shot and spend a while observing their patterns of speech and gestures before clicking the shutter. You'll be surprised at how much you can learn about someone from just observing them through a viewfinder. The best kinds of shots are those when they're laughing really hard, gesturing (fist pumps and high-fives) or reacting to the audience. WAIT for those moments to present themselves, then click.

(6) The real photograph happens after (or before) the "money shot".

My modus operandi is to capture people at their most candid, but for those occasions when a group shot is called for, I like to photograph multiple frames: Before, During and After. I especially like the "After" phase, when members of the group think the shot is done and relax, or start joking with someone else off-camera. Now THAT is the money shot.

(7) Get enough rest.

You will be moving around a lot, to get images from different perspectives, as well as walking from one event location to the next. You need to be in tip-top shape, mentally and physically, so the preparation for the event begins even before you get there. Get enough sleep in the days leading up to the event, and during the event itself, make self-care a priority (as much as possible), by taking baths, having massages, naps, etc. You can't pay attention to your surroundings if you're not 100 percent present, so the quality of work totally depends on how much you take care of yourself. Happy photographer, happy client. Simple as that.

(8) Get Fit.

Run, walk, swim, do pilates, yoga, taichi, lift weights -- whatever it takes to build stamina and strength because it's tough to carry around a heavy camera body (or two) and set of lenses for about 12 hours a day. The fitter you are to start with, the easier it will be.

(9) Wear Good Shoes.

Flat, thick soles in black. You want sensible shoes so that your feet stay happy. Leave the three-inch heels at home.

(10) Have Fun.

All events have an element of surprise, so a degree of openness is required. It's hard to think of having fun when it's the end of two long days and you still have 2,218 images to process in Lightroom by the next morning, but it's imperative that you take time out to breathe, observe and smile. Because that will influence what you see, and what you capture, and what images you produce. So, work hard, but don't take it too seriously, and have fun. Let the magic happen.

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