It sounds simple enough – hire a photographer for your event. How hard could it be? Cameras have autofocus. Digital editing corrects just about everything. Photography is a commodity you can think about after all the other event details are planned, right?
Very, very wrong.
“I’m not a crane operator,” says photographer/videographer and 2015 ISES Metro New York Big Apple Award winner Jason Gardner (http://www.jasongardner.net/corporate-non-profit-events/). “People don’t hire me to use a machine. It takes social skills to get the best photos of people, places and things.”
Gardner, a professional photographer for 12 years and an ISES Metro New York member for the past two years, encourages event planners to bring a photographer in at the beginning of the event planning cycle, with a discussion of the visual outcomes the planner and client want from the event.
“You can helicopter me in and share a run of show at the last minute, and I’ll be fine. That said, the more involved I am upfront, the more I’ll know what you want, like what are the five images you most want from this event,” Gardner notes.
Among the questions Gardner considers in advance with planners are:
Do they want photographs of the people who attend, and do they want those to be candid or portrait? Also, if it is a large event, who are the VIPs, and where will he be able to find them?
If the goal is to document the ambiance of the event, what kind of mood are they going after?
Are the details of the event important to capture – the food, the décor, awards, giveaways?
What else about the event is important to document that may not be apparent – a VIP room, the crew setup, the food prep, etc.
Finding photographers that can shoot all those event elements well is not easy. Each takes a different skill set. Recreating the ambiance of an event usually means interior photos and special attention to color and angles, while portraits demand specific lighting and candid shots require social skills. Gardner puts a “highly curated” team together to match the photographers to the project’s needs.
Gardner refers to himself as a “visual anthropologist.” His orientation is about storytelling through photography. In addition to events, he is hired to shoot advertising campaigns and portraits that tell a story, usually with a documentary or editorial style. In his personal work, he has interacted with everyone from the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans to high net worth humanitarians in Manhattan to executives and small business owners around the country. Gardner recently published a book of photographs on the music and culture of Carnaval in the northeast of Brazil. The book was released to wide acclaim at Lincoln Center, as part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors series.
One of Gardner’s specialties is time-lapse event photography. This technique is especially useful for planners and caterers who want to show the totality of an event, from setup to breakdown, as a marketing tool to attract new clients. One example of this, as seen on his website (www.jasongardner.net/motion/), was the Lowline Anti-Gala, for Newman’s Kitchen, at the Chelsea Modern Skylight. Another visual treat on the site is Gardner’s documentation of the installation in the New-York Historical Society of a 90-year-old Picasso, which was hauled by crane through a window and mounted via scaffolding for a major exhibition.
All of this experience, skill set, and passion for capturing the best images, makes Gardner a valued partner to his clients, instead of merely a vendor, and has been key to the growth of Jason Gardner Photo + Video.