Back in November, James and myself were fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to act as official photographers for some of the stallholders at the Jewellery Arabia 2014 exhibition in Bahrain. Taking photos at exhibitions isn’t something either of us has done before, but we love a challenge and who could turn down a free trip to Bahrain!

jewellery-arabia-logo-eng-vs-rgbJewellery Arabia attracts over 600 exhibitors from 30 different nations and is the largest, most prestigious jewellery event in the Middle East.  We are talking serious business here, so we had to make sure we did a good job. Many world famous international jewellery houses, watch manufacturers and high profile designers chose Jewellery Arabia to introduce new collections along with limited edition pieces.  We were tasked with the job of capturing the buzz and energy of the exhibition, capturing the stylish, presentation of the exhibition stands alongside the opulence and beauty of some of the jewellery pieces that were showcased. We are used to taking shots which express the essence and emotion of a moment, so we knew that it was completely within our capabilities, but we were still keen to do some research beforehand.

Firstly, we knew that it would be essential for us to familiarise ourselves with the floorplan, in order for us to know who was exhibiting where and also to get a sense of where light sources may be and where we would have the most space to set up any equipment should we need it. Armed with a print out of the plan we arrived at the venue nice and early meaning we could walk around and generally get our bearings. At this point I must also recommend you wear a comfy pair of shoes.  James wore his trusty Converse, but me being a typical woman, I chose to wear some fancy heels. Huge mistake! I wanted to make a good impression and was all too aware that there were going to be a lot of glamorous people around, but boy did I regret it. There is an awful lot of walking around for photographers at exhibitions, I must have walked a good few miles that day, and the best piece of advice I came away with that day was to next time pack my trainers.

Having worked out a rough plan of action for the day, we set about checking our cameras and equipment. Now, obviously this had all been checked back at the hotel before we left, but having gone through various security checks at the gate, there is the risk that things may have been tampered with.  Talking of security, it is absolutely essential that you keep a copy of your agreed contract with you at all times and any other official permission forms. Security are very suspicious of photographers, particularly if it is at an exhibition held under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain!

Here are a couple of quick tips to getting the best photos from an exhibition:

1. Lighting

Canon-LensesThe lighting is absolutely terrible at these places and is a photographer’s worst nightmare. There are a lot of shiny surfaces around; metal exhibition stands, reflective screens, not to mention all that bling, so beware of any bright reflections from your flash.  One way to avoid this is by shooting at an angle, although I would personally try recommend turning off the flash and instead increasing the ISO for a faster shutter speed.

2. Slow it down

Try using a low ISO setting with a small aperture. This is particularly advantageous when there are so many people around as it can create some marvellous effects. Dependent on the setting, you will either make visitors completely disappear, which is useful if you are trying to capture the detail in an exhibition stand or they will appear blurred, which can create a sense of movement and the essence of that moment within the photo.

3. Play around with angles.

As long as you are not getting in people’s way, you are the staff after all, then be adventurous with your shots. James shot some beautiful photos lying on the floor, which literally expressed the footfall of the event.

4. Ask permission.

There are two ways of going about this and it is up to you to make a judgement call about what is best, based on how you feel and what kind of event it is.  You can either ask someone’s permission before you take their photograph, although this does run the risk of people becoming nervous and less natural in front of the lens or you can take someones photo and ask for their permission to use it afterwards.

5. Details.

business-card-slideshow1It’s all well and good snapping away to your hearts content and getting some great shots, but what about when you need to send the photos to your client. How do you keep track of which photo belongs to who?  We found that by taking a photo of a client’s business card immediately after their main shots we were able to keep everything in order.  If you are unable to do this, make sure you have a notebook with you at all times and note down as much detail as possible, including company name, names of individuals and any relevant product details.

What an experience it was, I can tell you. Nerve-wracking stuff, that took us both completely out of our comfort zone, but such a fantastic opportunity and one that we would both love to venture into again. My only complaint? James completely ignored my relentless hints about the gorgeous jewellery and I came home empty handed.  Unless of course he’s saving it as a surprise for Valentine’s Day…