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Fake pine trees are stacking up at target and eggnog has returned to dairy shelves at the grocery store, and that can only mean one thing: it’s time again for the annual holiday party.
But, this year, you’re hoping to do a bit better than settle for one big iPhone shot of the company in front of the chocolate fountain. You’re bringing in a professional photographer, and your friends are Snappr are here with four tips for ways you can help get the best pictures of the evening.
I know what you’re picturing - a room full of your colleagues mingling and having fun. They be circled up in convenient groups of 5-8 people who will be thrilled to pull together for a group portrait when the photographer walks by. Hell, they’ll probably lean out and grab the resident shutterbug, shouting “Take our picture!”.
Won’t happen. It never does. Between the people dancing, the wallflowers, and the folks too engrossed in a conversation to take a picture break, impromptu group photos are not reliable.
That doesn’t mean that people don’t want their pictures taken - far from it. Today’s selfie-addicts are more talented than ever before at hamming it up for the lens. They just need a little heads up.
That’s why every holiday party needs what I call the “photo corner”, a designated spot where the photographer will be set up for a couple of hours. You can either set up a background with the company logo, or just pick a spot with an interesting background. Go for something dark, like wood or stone. Avoid glass, which will reflect flash bulbs.
For a guaranteed good time, set out a few props - funny hats, fake moustaches, wacky signs, the sort you see at every country fair photo booth.
Set your photo corner up by the door to give attendees a good reason to stop by on their way to the bar, and you're bound to hit your quota of smiling happy group shots from the big event.
I believe that great party photographs are a team effort between the photographer and the subject, and that team spirit rarely springs up spontaneously. It normally takes a few minutes of mental preparation, and an extra check in the mirror on the way into the event.
In other words, people make better photographs when they know they’re about to be in front of the camera. Haven’t we all been there, slouching over a plate of hot wings from the snack station, slumming it in the company hoodie, when a photographer pops out of nowhere and asks for a picture? Uhh, no thanks.
Give your guests a heads up that a photographer will be attending your event. This is a great practice for a few reasons. It gives them time to mentally prepare to smile for the camera, informs them ahead of time that the bloke running around taking pictures is a friend, and may even elevate the status of your party in their minds. After all, who hires a photographer for a simple happy hour?
There is one way in which the best parties and the best party photographs don’t mix - the best parties usually seem to happen at a light level somewhere between murky and pitch black. It’s the eternal temptation of event planners to make up for a lackluster venue or miniscule decoration budget by karate chopping that dimmer switch until there’s barely enough illumination in the room to distinguish your best friend from the bartender. And whatever light there is usually comes from a combination of lasers and disco balls.
Everyone loves a little mood lighting - except your photographer. Dim light and fast moving subjects makes for the worst possible photographs, and you should know ahead of time that even Annie Leibovitz wouldn’t be able to get satisfactory shots in the abyssal plane of a dark bar party. The best they can do is pop off strobe lights like a summer lightning storm on uppers which will give you mediocre results, at best, and will wildly displease any epileptics in the house.
The proper compromise is to plan for a portion of the night to be "photo friendly". It takes a couple of hours for parties to get swinging anyway, so keep your hands off the lights until the photographer has had a couple of hours to work his or her magic.
Every party has VIPs. Sometimes it’s the boss, sometimes it’s the guests of honor, sometimes it’s just the most popular people at work. You can either admit that there are people whose pictures matter just a bit more than average, or you can tolerate the risk that you’ll open up the photos from the night a few days later and find that your VIP didn’t make it into any of them. Your choice.
That’s why I always advise event hosts to take a little extra time to make a face book, the old fashioned kind, for your photographer. Pick the 10-15 people whose pictures at the party will be most useful to you. Get their names, titles, and photos over to the photographer so they’ll be able to target those people specifically during the party.
If there just isn’t time, consider sending someone on your time to be the photographer’s assistant for a half hour. They’ll be able to recognize your VIPs and point them out for the photographer.