I photographed a week-long tennis tournament last week for the event organizers. The media relations folks were, as always, fantastic. They were friendly, helpful and always available. They answered every question, sorted out every problem, had all necessary tournament information available and arranged every interview. They even handed out free pizza and beer at the end of each day. On very hot days, they’ve been known to hand out ice cream!
The media work space was perfect: an air-conditioned room with tables, chairs, power, Internet access, refreshments and large comfy chairs for some folks to have a quick afternoon snooze. Did I mention that some days ran 14 hours?
The number of people in the photo pits was controlled to ensure that each photographer had enough elbow room and could get the pictures they needed.
The result was that photographers were able to concentrate on photography and were able to quickly transmit many pictures. This meant lots of coverage for the event and its sponsors. The tournament organizers fully understood the purpose of having media coverage.
By contrast …
In two weeks time, Toronto’s annual photographers’ hell starts up: the Toronto Film Festival.
This event has no media work space, no tables, no chairs, no power, no Internet access. The media/PR staff are usually unavailable and no one knows anything. Except for media credential pick-up day, the rest of the week is nothing but grief from the film festival staff who think photographers are nothing but an in-the-way nuisance.
Photographers are jammed into spaces with enough room for maybe one-third of them. There’s no control over the number of photographers, so photographers have to line up for many hours to get into some photo pits, most of which have no protection from the rain and no washrooms.
Lack of work facilities means missed deadlines and reduced coverage, especially for those of us who shoot for European publications. Late evening coverage also gets lost except for publications in the later western time zones.
If you’re planning an event and expect media coverage, please consider the following:
• Photographers need electricity and Internet access (except for short events). In today’s World Wide Web, there’s a deadline every minute. The sooner a photographer can edit and transmit pictures, the more likely your event might get coverage.
• Make sure your people are available to answer questions. Specifically they should know the correct names and titles of everyone who is photographed. If a person can’t be identified then that photo won’t be used.
• Photographers need actual physical access to the event. The further away a photographer is from the action, the worse the photos will be and the less likely they will get published. If you want good picture play then allow the photographer to get good pictures.
• Getting picture play is far more important to you than getting just a word write-up. Professional photographers never go to an event for their own amusement. They go because they’re hired to do a specific job. If you understand this then you’re already a few steps ahead.
• Good picture play assumes good pictures are available. Talking heads, cheque presentations, ribbon cuttings, and sod turnings with executives wearing hard-hats never make for good pictures. News value comes from real people doing real things.
If you hired a photographer to cover your event then consult with them ahead of time to figure out what might make for a good picture. Remember that “good” is defined by the news value and not by the number of visible corporate logos.