Six Tips for Photographing Meetings and Conferences

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Sandesh Rai (leaning forward), 5, and his mom Sapana Rai (in yellow) wait for a health worker from Care Development Organization to conduct a nutrition education seminar in Bandarkharka, Nepal, on Friday, April 27, 2012. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

Sandesh Rai (leaning forward), 5, and his mom Sapana Rai (in yellow) wait for a health worker from Care Development Organization to conduct a nutrition education seminar in Bandarkharka, Nepal. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

A couple weeks ago I ran a storytelling training session for an NGO client. One question that came up a few times was, how can I better photograph meetings? Here’s my advice after shooting dozens of meetings, seminars and conferences:

  1. Photograph at either the beginning or end of a meeting so as not to distract people.
  2. Move around the room and change your camera angle.
    Pick four points in the room from where you’ll shoot at least two photographs each. Get down to at least eye level with the people you’re photographing.
  3. Think about your background.
    Are there poles, trees, lamps, plants or other objects sticking out of peoples’ heads? Take a step to the side or get down lower to hide the offending objects. That said, sometimes content trumps aesthetics. Here’s a famous picture with a pole sticking out of a person’s head: http://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/06/23/kent-state-shootings/
  4. Fill the frame with your subject – especially for the web, where photos often run small.
    Move in as close as possible to fill the frame with your subject and force unwanted details out of the picture.
  5. Try to wait for a moment to happen.
    This moment can be as simple as a person smiling or laughing or looking especially engaged in what the speaker is saying.
  6. Think about light and shadows.
    This is a tip for more advanced photographers: where is light falling and what is it highlighting? When looking at a photo, the eye goes first to the brightest part. If you use your flash, will it reflect against surfaces (glass, mirror, shiny table)? Are you close enough to your subject that the flash is likely to adequately light up his/her face?

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