Tips for Photographing Conferences

Taking pictures at conferences for web publication requires preparation, the right equipment and the right techniques.

Get Permission

Make sure you have permission to publish your conference pictures before you start taking them. Most attendees won’t have a problem with this; they will probably appreciate it because you’re marketing their project.

But they may want to limit the distribution of the images, so be careful to talk to attendees beforehand about their preferences in this regard.

Use the Right Equipment

Conferences often have poor lighting. If you want to take quality shots that you can use on your website, bring an SLR that can produce acceptable photos at ISO 1600 and an 85mm f1.8 lens.

You can photograph the entire conference with two lenses: an 18-55mm f2.8 zoom to capture wide-angle shots of the venue, mingling crowds and group shots, and the 85mm for the rest.

Your flash will be ineffective in nearly all venues and may annoy presenters. Direct (on-camera) flash always looks bad, so avoid using flash where possible.

Pay Close Attention to Presenters

Some people talk and move in a way that ensures every shot you take is great. These people are rare. Most speakers will have expressions on their face that do not result in good photos, especially when they are snapped mid-sentence or while a subject is moving.

Observe the speaker—he or she will move repetitively. Wait for the right moment, take a picture and check the display before taking another shot.

Try to be aware of guests or video cameras so that you don't stand in their way while taking pictures.

Change Your Angle

Sit on the floor in front of the stage, take a seat in the front row, take pictures from the back and include some guests, take the same with a wide-angle lens and include a lot of guests, walk around and take pictures from the side.

Use Widescreen

Many digital cameras have the capability to take pictures in 16:9 (widescreen) format. This aspect ratio is very close to the picture sizes used in our CMS. Other aspect ratios can cause problems when cropping to our CMS-standard formats, so if your camera can shoot in 16:9, use it.

This is only immediately a concern if your department or program’s site is integrated into the CMS. Even if not, consider using 16:9 photo format to make your site’s transition to the CMS more seamless.