By Douglas Gritz
Last weekend I was hired to do event photography for the annual meeting of Cobblestone Hotels. They are based in Wisconsin (my state of birth, as it happens) and brought their staff this year to Denver.
Like most conferences and events, they were based primarily in a hotel and hotel conference rooms, specifically the Hilton Denver at City Center. I’ve shot in this hotel before, most recently last year for the annual meeting of Women in Agriculture. And it happens to be one of the tougher hotels to photograph in. This is because the common area, or where most events have their meals, snack, and mingling breaks, is subterranean, dark, and lit very poorly. In the center of the room there are bright spotlights shooting down from the ceiling, but virtually nothing beyond lighting the rest of the area. So the exposure difference between the middle and the outside is immense — and stark. I’ve had shots where two people are talking with one looking like they are on fire and the other looking like they are standing in a cave. It’s horrible!
Fortunately, Cobblestone made use of other venues beyond that hotel. Every night they had some sort of fun event planned for their staff. The first night was an outing at Punch Bowl Social, a Denver fun spot with a lot of games. The second night was an outing at a brewery in RiNo, which also has a lot of games. So it was nice to “get out of the box” and photograph in some more lively and visually interesting locations, as well as get shots of people doing things besides listening, talking, and eating.
Below are some of my favorite photographs from the event.
I’ve haven’t experienced too many corporate events where you see expressions and happiness like this!
Punch Bowl Social now has a series of virtual reality games. I tried it and was blown away! Definitely worth checking out.
I always try to get an off-angle shot of speakers. The usual front-on are common and every client will expect that. So after I got those shots I look to get something more uncommon. I find the results usually are much more interesting and dynamic.
Here is another example of me trying to find a creative angle. Because these three men were talking to each other as well as the audience, they would be turning their heads to the side, which gave me an opportunity to photograph a rear angle while still getting faces in the shot.
Love this shot. First you see the woman in the front and the tower tipping over. Your eye spends some time there. And then you see the second woman in the back with an equally great expression.
I try to avoid using flashes or strobes as much as possible. They are annoying to the people being photographed and disruptive. This was shot at the top floor of Punch Bowl Social, which was extremely dark. I shot for a while without flash and just was not getting anything that was working. So I went to my strobe to get this shot and others.
How many corporate events do you know that have Riverdance appear?
This might be my favorite photograph from the three days. They are playing a life-sized version of Connect Four. The first instinct is to get a wide shot showing the whole big game, which is what I did but it was boring. Photographs are more interesting when things are suggested, which better engages the viewers brain and enhances the experience. So by moving in and shooting through one of the circles, I am using several interesting visual techniques at once — the circle is framing the subjects, it is suggesting a large Connect Four game, and it is the home for the circle discs the players are holding, which further connects the players to the foreground. And their expressions are fantastic.
I saw this woman sitting at the bar at Punch Bowl Social with a glow of orange light on her and just had to shoot it. Beautiful.