My go-to headshot and in-action photos I send to conference planners were a few years old. As the keynote speaker for a sizable conference, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to capture some current photos. I searched for ‘event photographers San Antonio,’ to get an idea about whom I might contact. I also checked Instagram with #SanAntoniophotographer since most professionals prefer the platform over a website. I reached out to one photographer who quoted me $750 for 2 hours. For that cost, I wanted to make sure the wall behind me wasn’t dressed with ugly wallpaper and adorned with a sconce or two, which could ruin any good photo. Most photographers can make you look good in a poorly lit room, but if the only lights are high hats shining down on you from the ceiling, you need to stand in just the right spot so there isn’t awkward shading on your face.

When I asked the conference organizer what to expect, she admitted she had no idea, but she guessed the wall behind me would be a neutral color, and the lighting would be ‘decent.’ For the investment, I wanted to know for sure and delayed confirming a photographer.

The first thing I did when I arrived at the conference hotel two days before my speaking engagement, was to look at the ‘main ballroom’ in which I would be speaking. Eureka! A luscious dark velvet curtain with hues of blue and green  hung behind a platform stage with two large screens framing the backdrop. Also, both sides of the room had a professional lighting tower. Time to get to work and find me a photographer!

After a long day of travel, the city was calling. Turning off the computer for a few hours wasn’t a difficult task even though I knew every hour I delayed finding a photographer, made the possibility less likely. Off I went to Luminaria, a contemporary arts festival featuring dazzling experiential light installations and performances. At the very first exhibit, I started a conversation with a 30-something guy with a fancy lens on his camera. “Are you a professional photographer?” I asked. He replied that he was hired to cover the event. I believe the people we are meant to meet, cross our path and it’s up to us to reach out.

“Are you free tomorrow at 4PM? Can you make me look bigger than life?”

“That is what I do,” he replied with confidence. I liked his smile and the easy way about him. “How much for 2 hours?”

He quoted me $400 and gave me his card. If I were famous, or representing a company, I’m sure he would have charged more. But, he saw a silver-haired petite woman asking him to take her photo and he probably figured it would be an easy job. Little did he know about all the requests I would make! I checked out his website, his social platforms, and awaited answers to a few questions before giving him a deposit.

As a professional speaker, here are 7 TIPS for what you can do to make your professional photo shoot a success! 

1– Ask the photographer if they have a 200mm lens.

2– Check the backdrop and the lighting before investing in the $400-$800 for a 2-hour session.

3– Stay away from wearing red, green and white, although white under a jacket is OK.

4– Clear any unnecessary furniture off the stage (table and chairs).

5– Request photos from all angles especially from behind you so part of the audience can be captured in the background. A good photographer can make you look like you are speaking to a packed room of hundreds, even if there are only 50 in the room.

6– Request close ups and full-body shots. In fact, if there is time before your presentation, instead of passing the time chatting, ask for a couple of headshots!

7– Ask the photographer to stick around after your talk to take some photos of audience members coming up to you to greet you, hug you, and tell you their stories! Photos showing you interacting with your audience will win you points when companies consider their next conference speaker!

After the event, the photographer will send you 30-40 of the best photos. From those, you will be lucky if you find 3-5 you absolutely love. Each will serve a different purpose: A close-up which you can also use as your action headshot, a half body shot portraying an engaging gesture, and a big audience photo showing a large venue.

What do you think when you look at a speakers website and all the photos are from the same day, in the same outfit? You think the speaker doesn’t book gigs often, the speaker has little else to choose from because the speaker isn’t experienced.

Is the investment in a professional photographer worth it? ABSOLUTELY! Asking friends in the front row to take some photos of you on the stage will never come close to the quality, depth, and perspective from the camera lens of a professional photographer.

Thank you @_chrisstokes_ for some great captures!

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