12 Common Photo Fails from Events

With the advent of Instagram and Pinterest and the importance of word-of-mouth marketing, event images are some of your best marketing tools. That’s why you need to ensure you’re not making these common photo mistakes.

We’ve all seen those 1970s professional shots that superimpose one image against the other. Generally, one of them involves a gender non-specific individual with a mullet or feathered hair looking off dreamily into the distance while a front image seems to be popping out of his/her brain.

Today’s conference photography fails are less staged but still unnerving. With fewer professional event photographers used, and more amateur smartphone users capturing the event, it’s important to pass this information along to those who will be taking your shots to ensure that you get the most from your event photography. Here are some of the most common fails that you want to avoid.

12 Common Photo Fails from Events

Everybody In


Newbie photographers of large groups, like conferences, tend to shoot the better part of the room without focusing on a person. This is the visual version of everyone talking at once. There’s so much going on and there’s no focal point. It doesn’t capture the essence of the event. It appears chaotic and not in a good way.

Instead, the photo should focus on one area of the room or event and soften the background so that the story is more understandable and there’s less grabbing for the viewer’s attention.


Being a Photographer Who Sticks Out


A great photographer blends into the scenery. If people see her and know she’s there, they will feel uncomfortable or feel the need to pose, which makes your event shots look more like prom pictures.

It’s best for your photog to float in and out and not be noticed. You don’t want anyone performing for her. Most professional photographers know this but if your staff are taking some of the shots make sure they are aware of this as well.

Taking All Your Shots from the Same Distance


An event photographer should not be a prom or school photographer. You’re looking for someone who can tell the story of your event visually. If the photographer takes the “same shot” of all of your guests, from the same distance, and the same angle, it will look like formal night on a cruise ship.

You want someone who sees the story and is there to capture it. You also want someone who will look the other way when your guests have been overserved.

Not Watching the Background


Okay, so looking at the background of a shot is less important with the invention of Photoshop but not if your photographer (or social media person) is uploading pictures immediately as they’re taken. It’s still important to look in the background of each shot. There’s even a term for background annoyances that distract from the picture – photo bomb. Remember, the beauty of a beach wedding can be ruined by one guy in speedos.

Selfies Gone Awry


Thanks to Ellen’s selfie at the Oscars, group selfies have become huge and they’re lots of fun, getting plenty of engagement. All you need is a selfie stick. But there is a dark side to selfies. There have been a handful of people who are so busy trying to get that shot of themselves and their group that they trip over inanimate objects or worse – take one step too many and lose their footing.

Missing the Before and After


Sometimes the best pics happen at odd times, like before and after the attendees take the floor. Make sure you get the obligatory stage shots if for nothing more than your portfolio. It’s also interesting to see what the place looks like after the fun.

Not Encouraging Crowd Sourcing of Images


Yes, you have a professional photographer. Yes, you have someone (or several people) taking shots for social media but if you don’t encourage attendees to share pictures of their own, you’re missing an opportunity for engagement and increased word-of-mouth marketing. Pictures in social media streams will get noticed and your reach will be much greater if you tell people how to share with hashtags and social sites. Don’t forget to retweet or comment on what’s been shared too.

Not Tagging People

Tagging people on your images uploaded to social media (and encouraging them to tag the people they know in pictures) is a great way to get into someone’s social media stream and get their attention. But don’t tag people who aren’t in the picture just to get their attention, such as your keynote speaker. Unless you have a really good relationship with the person and you know s/he would be interested, a tag that isn’t really a tag is just annoying. Also, never tag someone in an unflattering picture.

Showing the Humanity

Your event photography is not a National Geographic photo shoot. You’re not looking for the humanity of a shot so do your best to stay away from blood, sweat, and tears. Instead, opt to feature shots that communicate the theme of your event in pictures.

The Dark Side Keynote


You want a picture of your keynote but often these shots are terrible. They’re either too far away, too bright because of being under the lights, or the face is backlit because s/he is in front of a giant screen. Sometimes shifting your position a few feet to the left or right makes a difference in the lighting. Also, don’t forget the wide angle shots that capture not only your keynote or session leaders but the reaction of audience members’ faces as well.

Not Encouraging People to Get the Shot


Photo booths and props are all the rage at events. It helps loosen people up and encourages fun. Those type of pics bring out a vitality in your event that gets noticed. If you don’t have opportunities for fun photo shots, you’re missing out.

Social Fresh, a marketing conference held in Florida every year, not only provided funny props and backdrops for attendees to take their own shots, they encouraged them to upload the pics using a specified hashtag as part of a photo-taking contest. That action ensured people uploaded them in large numbers.

Everything’s Blurry


A common problem picture arises when you’re taking a long shot of the room with no focus. Your camera will pick up on the item closest to you, which is usually someone’s head. We’ve all seen session shots with a blurry screen in the far distance but an up-close-and personal angle of the back of someone’s dome. These shots convey nothing. You can’t see the information and everyone looks the same from the back.

Instead, pick a focus in the room (not someone’s head) and let the rest be blurry.

In Conclusion

Pictures are some of the most attention-getting pieces you can use for your event. They work beautifully on social media and in your portfolio, and garner attention from a variety of sources. Make sure you approach picture taking in several ways including hiring a professional, working with your own staff to document the event, and encouraging attendees to share their shots. After all, your event oughta be in pictures.

About The Author
EventMB Team
This post is brought to you by the EventMB editorial team.   
Comment Policy Comments
Julius Solaris
Editor, Julius Solaris

Plan awesome events & boost your career

How often should I update you?

Join over 60,000 subscribers that use EventMB to stay on top of How to's, Trends & Event Technology.