Event Photography Case Study: Corporate Event with Holograms
Type: Multi-Day Corporate Event
Location: Bellevue, Washington (Seattle)
Event Size: Medium
Difficulty: Advanced (on stage hologram during Keynote)
Elements: Keynotes, General Session, Holograms, Breakout sessions, Trade show
Skills: Experienced photographer, Challenging/Changing Lighting Conditions,
Challenges: On Stage Holograms, Travel, New Venue, Scouting.
Fun Facts: Travel to Seattle, Working with Microsoft, Cutting Edge Hologram Tech
I was hired by a client to travel to Seattle and capture a unique presentation for an internal Microsoft Event. This was my client’s
first time using a Hologram on stage during a live presentation and they asked me if I thought I could capture the hologram photographically. I said yes, and then went about figuring out just how I was going to do that. I arrived in Seattle the day before the event and after checking in to a nearby hotel, headed over to the Venue to scout the location, figure out parking and get a general idea of the layout of the event center. I decided to go ahead and shoot an exterior shot while I was there and the lighting was good. I walked the perimeter and found the best angle to capture the building and waited for dusk when the sun has set but there is still some color in the sky. This was a longer exposure than you might expect and a tripod was used. Experiment with different times after sunset until you find the right balance of natural and artificial lighting. If you shoot too early, you won’t get the deep blues of the sky and the artificial lighting will not be as dramatic or pronounced. If you shoot too late, the sky will be too dark or black and the street lights become too dominant. This kind of shot is great to add to the images you deliver to your client because it adds context to the event and helps tell a story.
I arrived the next morning about an hour before I was scheduled, to grab some coffee and establish a home base for my equipment. I was also asked to take a few images throughout the day and shot the above photos inside the event center on the first morning of open registration. This is probably the busiest and therefore the best time to capture registration. Your clients want to show a successful event and nothing says that better than full registration lines. Timing is important so make sure you are available day one for these shots as lines tend to get smaller quickly after the initial rush. Elevated shots are always good so look for opportunities where crowds are expected.
I asked about rehearsals and made sure I was available to check lighting and test how the hologram of BB King would look in digital capture. I researched holograms beforehand and looked for examples but was unable to find anything definitive so I knew I would need to figure it out for myself. As I stated, my client was very keen on me capturing their full-sized hologram alongside live performers during the live event and there wouldn’t be a second chance to get it right. Having a chance to get my exposures tuned in ahead of time made the whole shoot less stressful for myself and my client.
Here are a few observations about holograms. First, they are not sharp by nature so getting a crisp, sharp life-like image, in-camera of a hologram that is dynamic and moving, is difficult, if not impossible. There are however techniques you can employ to capture a hologram at its best. Proper exposure and color temperature are important. You can capture the best images possible using basic technique. Certain colors and backgrounds can also help. By selecting a background that contrasts and compliments the hologram, you can enhance its appearance and make it stand out. As you can see in the photo above, the hologram colors are similar to the background, and you can see right through it. If you have the luxury of moving around, try to find the best angles for both the background as well as the lighting. Try to capture the hologram when it is still which also works well with live subjects. This particular hologram, though made with light, was not particularly bright, requiring longer shutter speeds. Just to state the obvious, flash will not work on a hologram. Waiting and timing the stage lighting also changed the appearance of the hologram so be alert and use the stage lighting to your advantage when possible. Finally, if you can get close in-camera, a certain amount of post-production will bring the hologram to life as well. Just make sure you have something good to work with before you get to post.
Skin tones of the hologram were difficult and when I got the skin tone close, the entire quality of the hologram’s appearance improved on the photos.
To be frank, when I capture these several years ago at a corporate event in Seattle, what you see in the images is about as good as the hologram looked live. I am not sure what I expected but at the time, the technology was just starting and we were certainly not at science fiction capabilities yet. It was an exciting presentation and the attendees loved it, but my expectations for the photography needed to be tempered with the reality of trying to capture a hologram. I provide this example and info as more of a discussion of the process. Scouting, preparation, equipment, and technique are important aspects of any challenging shoot. Getting lucky won’t consistently get the results you need to be a successful professional.
Less fanfare but just as spectacular was the hologram of the earth. This is a 3D hologram and it rotated slowly as the speaker delivered his presentation. The simpler colors, stage lighting, and dark background made it a much easier hologram to shoot and capture. Being prepared for the most challenging aspects of a shoot, help you handle the easier stuff as well.
When shooting keynotes, general sessions and speakers, well exposed, straight-on shots of the presenters are expected, but look for different angles and alternate lighting to provide some unique images to enhance and excite your client and the attendees.
Getting crowd shots of seated attendees can be challenging. Getting faces and great expressions are important but also having beautiful lighting and interesting backgrounds helps too. Shot from the front looking back, unfortunately, would leave a black, boring wall as a background and make the use of on-camera flash more obvious. In this case, I have balanced the exposure with flash to create a more natural image. The on-camera Speedlite is covered with a tungsten gel, and I have used a wall, camera right to bounce and soften the light to make it seem a bit more natural.
Right place at the right time. This sort of networking shot, with attendees interacting, smiling and engaged is photo gold for event planners and photographers. This kind of illustration can help tell a story of an interesting and informative conference and I find these shots get used a lot. I had dialed in my exposure and flash balance for the previous shot and then I got lucky when these two stood up to shake hands. Lucky, sure, but I was also prepared. What is it they say about luck?
The guitar is also a hologram. I captured the image because they were giving away a replica of the guitar BB King was playing on stage and this hologram that was used to illustrate the announcement. It is a striking image that gets attention. Next to it is a shot of the band that performed during parts of the corporate event. I liked the angle of this shot.
Breakout sessions are an integral part of any corporate event. They are meant to provide information, not photo ops and therefore can be very difficult to make look good. In the case of the photo above, using an interesting image on screen and then placing the speaker in an isolated spot in the frame, I was able to create an interesting image. Don’t forget to look for images on large and small screens that can help illustrate the session or at least provide some color and contrast.
People smiling and willing to pose are always good subjects. Never pass up on the opportunity if your subjects are willing. In this indoor hallway shot, I have exposed for the hallway but also provided a subtle pop of flash balanced with the room light. This helps eliminate shadows under the eyes and helps the subjects stand out. It is preferable that the flash is subtle and not obvious and the background not too dark to create natural-looking candids and portraits. I used the same balanced flash lighting technique on the image above right. Balanced for room light and screen, with a pop of flash bounced off the wall camera left to create a natural, well-lit image of a crowded breakout session.
An elevated position helps convey a crowded trade show of interested attendees. Several other compositional factors make this a good photograph. Leading lines and repetition help lead our eyes towards the people. There is also some color harmony going on with the gold and blue in the displays and screens matching the shirts on some of the vendors. When covering medium size, multi-day or multi-faceted events try to tell a story and capture each element of the event as thoroughly and creatively as possible. If you take this approach to every event, big or small, your clients will become repeat clients. Check out my blog for more tips and event photography info and feel free to check out my event portfolio to view more of my work. Until next time…..