Posted on Thu 30th May 2019 at 1:07pm
We talked to internationally acclaimed photographer David Edwards about his work for Showlite, the challenges with lighting at exhibition venues and getting to wear a hard hat and harness …
When I was asked to write this blog I looked at the title and thought… there is no such thing as a day in the life of… it is days in the life of!
Preparation is key. I take a look at the show website and images from the previous year. Very quickly I can pick up the vibe of what the show is about and the scale of it. More importantly I can judge what the lighting is going to be like… natural light or venue lighting… time of year and weather will all play a role.
My interaction with Showlite starts with what’s being built… I will get CAD images of stands and feature areas to photograph before the show and the aim is to shoot photographs in the same orientation, although that doesn’t always happen – other stands or the venue can impact on the angle the shot is taken from.
Equipment is next. It doesn’t define you or make you a better photographer, but it does make a difference to the output. Plus, how much equipment can I feasibly carry?
Almost all the images I take are shot on medium format digital cameras. The much larger sensor sizes allow greater latitude when shooting in less than ideal conditions and can also provide images with greater detail. I pack a range of lenses to cover all eventualities as well as a back-up camera and system just in case! Additional lighting only appears if I have a new Showlite team member to photograph… there are one or two I haven't yet tracked down! This lighting is specific to corporate portraits and not to light the stands.
The single most important piece of additional kit is my sturdy tripod… as most of my stand shots are single or multiple exposures with a longer than usual shutter speed, this allows more light in and gives a better and more even exposure.
As mentioned earlier, lighting in venues can be challenging - The NEC actually has a nice balance of daylight and artificial light, Olympia’s main halls with glass arched roofs provide fantastic coverage, although the areas behind that rely on artificial light is a big challenge. Shooting Passenger Terminal Expo at ExCeL recently had to be the most challenging. With very high ceiling and low powered lighting, lighting on the stands was critical.
In theory my shoot day starts at 7.30-8am on opening day at the venue and finishes somewhere around 4pm the same day. Passenger Teminal Expo was different… the number of bespoke stands being constructed by the Showlite team was huge… 35 stands to be precise and I decided having not shot at ExCeL that I would do a recce the afternoon before. This has its pros and cons - the client wants you there but doesn't want you to interfere as they are concentrating on the build. However, the years I’ve shot for Showlite including doing the company headshots, I’ve become part of the team and this really helped as the team managed to get me into an onsite cherry picker to view the show from up top complete with hard hat and harness – all in a days’ work for a show photographer!
The aim is to get into the show as early as possible and shoot in the 2 hours before the show starts but for Passenger Terminal Expo I needed an extra hour. Meeting the organising team and getting assurances for access from them was a necessity but I now had a window that started at 7am!
You might ask why I need to start so early… it's actually quite simple - the stands need to be shot clean without people on them. There is also a phrase "the best laid plans of mice and men"… anyone reading this from a show background will understand that it is sometimes a fight to the finish… a computer monitor hasn't arrived on site or a venue fork lift driver isn't as careful as they might be and drives over part of your client's stand and there is a race to get it back up and running for opening time. It all adds pressure to my job as I am sometimes the last ‘team’ member at the stand before the show opens.
Once I have all the stand and feature images I then photograph with people to get a flavour of the show. These lifestyle shots, in addition to the stand images, assist going forward as they can be used to show potential clients what Showlite can provide, both organisers, venues and exhibitors. My images are used in a range of marketing materials including website, newsletter, emails, brochures, social media and content pieces. I fully maintain that a well-executed image can make the difference between winning business and not winning business.
As I said previously I finish taking photographs at 4pm but that’s not the end of the day. This is the start of the journey home. Depending on when/where I am in the country and the time I get home I will at least start the download of the images from digital cards from the cameras to the computer and back them up. I'll then usually spend half a day editing images and upload them to a portal where Showlite can access them in various size formats. Half a day editing is about the norm which is built into the project. Very occasionally it doesn't work out like that and I can spend a good few additional hours photoshopping and editing to get the best results.
An additional extra I do is contact the companies the day after opening with an image of their stand and the compliments of Showlite. It’s often the little things that make a difference and part of the reason Showlite turn to me time and time again!
David was commissioned by Showlite to photograph a series of shows including Passenger Terminal Expo, The Security Event, Farm Shop & Deli Show, PPMA Show, Independent Hotel Show, Restaurant Show and Big Data and create a stunning portfolio to showcase their work. View a selection of images from the shows here.
David is always happy to discuss projects with new clients. http://www.image61.com/interiors/.