Being a Belfast photographer I am asked to cover Belfast events, the two go together. One of my favourite things to photograph (besides portraits of people) are large scale events. The CIPD Awards 2016 would tick this box for sure. I would class an event as large if its got 100+ people in attendance. This years Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD) awards in the Titanic building in Belfast had 350 guests attending so it was a pretty big gig. I have worked with the CIPD team several times since I started this business back in 2008 so I knew the team, I knew the event format and I knew what they needed from me in terms of photography.
Events like this usually follow a fairly standard format. Its not like this is a bad thing but when you’ve got so many people turning up to one place things have a tendency to run as they have before, if its not broke don’t fix it. Usually the first thing to happen is the guests turn up for a drinks reception. At this point I would grab guests as they come through the door and get some shots of them behind a corporate backdrop. Repeat this with as many guests as possible to get a good selection of pics.
After this the guests are invited to go and sit down for dinner. The only thing you’ll usually do here is get some shots of the speakers welcoming everyone in and making opening remarks. After this point thats it until the actual awards section of the evening. I always make sure I get some wide shots of the room and maybe a few shots of guests enjoying their dinner but I wont take a lot of pictures at this point, its best to leave people alone to their food.
Once I see deserts being finished I usually go around and check all my lights are properly placed, turned on and ready to go. Theres nothing worse than when you go to take a picture and you’ve forgot to turn your lights on! Its during the awards section of the evening were you really earn your money as photographer. In Titanic Belfast they tend to hold the awards ceremony at the bottom of the steps in the ball room. This means you’ve gota stand in the middle of the dance floor with 350 people staring at you whilst you take the pictures! I always try to take at least 5 or 6 images per group to make sure I’ve got at least 1 picture with everyone’s eyes open.
This is the point when paying for someone like me to take your even photos makes complete sense. No matter who you are, if you’re standing in front of 350+ people nerves do kick in. What hiring a professional means is that I can control those nerves and not let them get the better of me when I am under pressure. The people who are receiving the awards are full of adrenaline, they’re excited and their attention is hard to maintain. My job is to manage all of this excitement. I have to organise them all to make sure the photo looks professional. Even little tiny things like having the award visible and the right way round makes a massive difference. When you’re in this situation it can be easy to rush it as you feel like you’re getting in the way of whats happening. The difference between an amateur and a professional is this very point. You’re not getting in the way, you’re paid to be part of the event so remember that!