The Faces of Radio - Recap of the Commercial Radio Australia’s conference, Radio Alive and the Commercial Radio Awards for 2018.
October is an interesting month. For my son it’s all about creating weird fancy dress costumes and getting ready for a ridiculous amount of lollies on Halloween, for some of my friends it’s about bratwurst, schnitzels and too much German beer at Oktoberfest (I’m not mentioning names but you know who you are J). Here at Life Portraits and LP Commercial Photography it’s about prepping for one of our largest event gigs of the year, two days of fast paced, shutter clicking celebrations at the Commercial Radio Conference Radio Alive and the star-studded Australian Commercial Radio Awards.
Photographically what do the ACRAS mean for us? A four person team, nearly 1000 press images processed, captioned, uploaded and delivered to the media as the events are taking place, roughly another 3,000 images processed and delivered electronically to the client for distribution to attendees, sponsors etc within 24 hours of the event closing.
Event photography isn’t for everyone. Many underestimate what the job entails. It’s not just a case of snapping a few socials then getting a couple of speakers on a stage. Your images have to capture a mood and feeling of the event. You are constantly looking for moments to capture, unscripted as well as scripted, and shooting multiple styles of images for the many audiences a larger event attracts:
There are the fun and interesting shots for attendees to share with their friends and colleagues on social media. Good shots of the speakers and participants that can be gifted to them to use in their profiles and portfolios and online marketing. Images that the client and event organisers can use to market the event to future attendees. Sponsor shots to show that their decision to back the event or have a trade stand there was money well spent and to help the organisers to market to sponsors in future years. And then there are the press shots. Images which have to satisfy both the various local, national and international print and online news hounds while at the same time projecting the image of the event demanded by the client’s public relations specialists.
On larger events there are also the technical difficulties of shooting in multiple and often complicated lighting conditions from natural light to complicate stage lighting, from near darkness to full studio conditions and often jumping between them all at a seconds notice.
And lastly, there is the issue of how long you have to turn the images round. If there is media interest then images have to be online minutes after being taken. If press photographers are at the event it is our responsibility to make sure that our pictures hit the newsdesks before other freelance media photographers to give a better chance of the client’s images being used.
Not all events demand all of these things. Many conferences and awards ceremonies are much more about internal distribution of images inside companies or offerings to specialist media with longer lead times of up to a month.
But the Commercial Radio Australia weekend demands it all and while it is a tough weekend, we love it!!!
For me, a former daily press photographer, events like the Radio Alive conference and the ACRAS bring back that adrenaline rush of media work. There is nowhere to hide, your images have to be right first time and there is no re-staging a shot. You either capture the moment or you don’t and all too often not capturing that moment is simply not an option. That pressure drives you to succeed, and that is a brilliant rush.
Commercial Radio Australia is also a dream client to work with. They are loyal to their suppliers which has seen us working on the awards for a number of years now. They were my client a good few years before Emily and I joined forces and created the LP brand. Yes they demand a high level of quality and responsiveness but their team works harder than any of their suppliers to deliver one of Australia’s biggest star-studded awards ceremonies. It is only right that they expect and demand the best from us. That drive in their team also means we know at all times what is expected from us which actually makes delivery easier.
The job itself is actually too big for Emily and I to handle alone. But this is where our policy of working cooperatively with other photographers comes in and allows us to tackle jobs of all sizes. We have a group of people we can call on to work under our brand to help us on large or interstate projects and we in turn return the favour and work under their brand whenever they need.
In this instance we are lucky enough to have two great friends and great photographers join our team, Dan Gray and Simon Harrington, both of whom are highly experienced photographers with years of running their own businesses and delivering for clients.
This in turn has a fantastic impact for the client as it means every person on our team is highly experienced…. At this year’s ACRAS we had nearly 70 years of combined skills and knowledge in photography and event coverage in play. We don’t fill our numbers by bringing in in-experienced trainees and students we simply put in place the best team we can for each and every event.
So how did we organise this year’s coverage?
Thursday: Dan, Emily and I flew into Melbourne and spent the evening checking gear, ensuring batteries were charged and cameras were time synced and lightroom galleries and captioning were prepared.
Friday 7am: Arrive at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre and we are off, day one, Radio Alive 2018.
Conference day was fast paced but fairly straight forward. Dan and I were on cameras, Emily was stationed in the press room on the laptop processing, captioning and uploading images for the media. Dan and I would regularly swap out of the different conference rooms so at least one of us was always shooting and the other was feeding cards of images back to Emily.
Emily had the absolutely crucial job of being the lynchpin of our operation during the conference and while we tease her about being a bossy boots the reality is her amazingly organised and direct way of working is always a god send in these situations.
She was the only one seeing all our images so as well as processing our images to make them consistent, selecting the best ones to meet the media and client needs, captioning them and uploading them, she would feed us instructions throughout the day. “We need more candids during networking times”, “we have enough audience shots now concentrate on the speakers”, “highlights are blowing out a little under that stage lighting knock your exposure back a fraction”, “we’ve had a specific request for a shot of….”, and so it went and all the time she would be processing and captioning and uploading hundreds of images during the day.
This constant flow of feedback then allowed Dan and I to fully concentrate on the moments in the conference rooms and networking areas and keep our eyes peeled for those magic moments.
At 6.30pm we were cameras down and ready to enjoy a couple of after event drinks happy that a good job had been done.
Saturday morning Simon flew in from Sydney and after a leisurely morning we started to get ready, kit cleaned and prepped, batteries fully charged, images from the previous day backed up and secure, cards cleared and formatted, seven cameras time synced and a pre-event meeting to discuss responsibilities and shooting tactics and we walk ourselves through the evening that is coming, the big one, the Australian Commercial Radio awards.
We arrive at 3pm, two hours to go before the red carpet opens. Dan and Emily set up studio lights around the winners wall to ensure crisp well lit images of all 90 or so award winners as they come off stage. Simon starts taking room set up pictures and images for sponsors etc. I start getting ready for the VIP red carpet images and be on standby should any of the celebrities arrive early so we can get going on the red carpet as fast as possible.
The event kicks off at 5pm. Emily and I are up first. I shoot the red carpet and organise the press photographers as we capture images of the radio stars and their partners, tight shots, face shots, full length gown shots, the works. Most arrive late and at 6pm there is a massive rush to get everything done while I constantly pass images to Emily for her to process, caption and get online for the media.
6pm the event is already underway. Simon is up and working like a trojan capturing the crowds entering and the first performer on stage while I wrap up on the red carpet. 6.15pm and the red carpet is finished. I abandon Emily to the uploads and processing while I head into the main room to cover the stage and crowd for the rest of the night with Simon.
6.30pm Emily has finished processing and uploading around 100 red carpet pictures and is already with Dan at the studio award wall set-up as the first of the award winners are already coming out with their ACRA microphone statue, proudly smiling at their win.
The night disappears in a blur. As Emily and Dan work solidly through the night in a rhythm of winners, images, processing, uploading. Simon and I cover inside as the performers sing their hearts out, Andrew Hansen & Chris Taylor from The Chaser entertain (and roast) the crowd as hosts and some of Australia’s best comedians and radio stars and experts present and receive their awards. Simon and I continually shoot, and he covers me when I put cameras down every now and then to grab the laptop I’ve stashed at the back of the room to offload cards and process and upload suitable media pictures from all the action on stage, adding to Emily’s press pictures from the VIP Red Carpet and Award Wall.
Despite a full night, 90 awards, three on stage bands and interludes, the amazing team at Commercial Radio Australia finish the event bang on time and by 11pm we are all in the media room wrapping up. I’m putting the last of the inside images online in our press galleries. Emily has amazingly finished getting every award winner picture captioned and online and the press are already picking them up with our images being used by online media that night. Dan is breaking down the equipment and studio and Simon is popping in and out snapping the last of the socials as the final people head to the after-show parties.
We head back to the hotel apartment, order pizzas and swap war stories from the evening in that wonderful post event, fatigue ridden, warm glow in a wonderful moment of camaraderie… then realise we forgot one important thing…. to stock the fridge with beer that morning… Note for next year.
The next day (Sunday) Dan and Simon sleep-in, their ACRA weekend has come to an end and they will return to Sydney at a leisurely pace after relaxing in Melbourne. Emily and I are up and away flying back to Brisbane and by 11am I’m home with 10,000 images to sort through, cull, edit and upload to the client by 9am Monday morning.
I get everything underway and thankfully Emily managed to find time during the conference to process most of those pictures or at least set up editing presets which I can now just copy. That alone saves me a couple of hours. But then disaster strikes, a Brisbane thunderstorm knocks out power and my NBN line keeps failing. I keep working on the laptop until the battery fails. I’ve already phoned round friends to find somewhere I can move my editing suite to if I don’t get power back on but thankfully it’s not required in the end as the power cut only lasts a few hours. By 3am Monday morning the images are sorted, processed and uploading begins. Later that day we send all the images on a hard drive to the client as a second back up to the digital uploads.
In return the client sends us a lovely email and a list of all the national and regional newspapers, magazines and online news outlets that have already downloaded and used our images.
…and with that the ACRAS And Radio Alive are over for another year and we are already starting to look forward to 2019.
LP Commercial Photography cover events of all sizes from large awards, conferences and exhibitions to media launches, customer hosting events, office functions and parties. If you would like further information just contact Andy or Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org
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