I had the pleasure of being asked to cover the Royal Academy of Engineers annual award ceremony in July being held at Battersea Power Stations event space. Not a venue I had worked before and one I was much interested in seeing.
The event was being attended by it’s patron Princess Anne and Chancellor George Osborne who would be not only speaking but also presenting one of the major awards.
I’d been asked to attend by another photographer who was a regular at this venue but had little experience of royal attended events and awards photography. My job on the night was to cover all the PR type shots including the pre award group shots of all the nominees against a sponsors background and then images of both of the vip guests as they toured the exhibits and finally the action on stage when the awards actually took place.
Having had plenty of experience with this sort of event I quickly suggested where I would like to position myself for the awards to get not only the best angle on the lectern speakers with the corporate branding in the background but also a position that should get the presentations front and centre.
These sort of events normally mean an uncomfortable hour or so crouched near the front of the stage but one does what is necessary to get the shots! Another important thing to do in these situations is get on good terms with both the producer of the ceremony, in this case a professional company and let them know what you need, like making sure all presenters know to turn the winners towards the front of the stage rather than let them walk on and be presented with their backs still to the audience and cameras.
It’s also worth getting to know the Toastmaster and of course the representative of the client as both can offer information about the evening that can be important.
As this was one of the hottest days of the year so far and the venue had a partial clear plastic roof the heat was incredible before the sun set behind the walls of the Power Station. The air conditioning units although working overtime were not keeping up with the needs of the venue.
Once I was armed with information as to where the royal guest would arrive, who would greet her and what her route would be prior to the awards and dinner I checked out exactly where I thought I’d need to be to get the best shots. I made sure I had finished the finalist publicity shots in good time and arrived at the entrance where the princess was expected early enough to do portraits of the greeters and introduce myself.
All went to plan and I even had time enough to chat to the royal security guard prior to her arrival, always a good move.
With any vip guest, especially a royal one, it’s always important to try and get the handshake shot of anyone they meet because to that person that picture becomes a treasured memory. This often involves much moving backwards and forwards round a group to get the right angle that shows both the vip and the person they have been introduced to. Once one adds in that it is also frowned upon to have any royal holding a drink in images and sometimes this can be an exhausting undertaking. But experience in any job tells and knowing what you are trying to achieve helps a great deal. In fact the other photographer told me he had learned a lot by watching me work which was a compliment appreciated.
The guests sat to dinner and prior to the first course some awards were presented, this gave me time to confirm I had picked the correct spot for the awards and also a good position to get some reportage shots of the vips at the table talking to her hosts. Once food was served that was the time to retreat and regroup for the second half of the awards ceremony.
During the meal was time to experiment with some long shots of the venue and to try and capture the lighting design put in by the event organizers.
The second half of the ceremony and related award photography was running late, as always happens a schedule is written but food serving eating and clearing never quite runs to schedule but we reached the finally where the Princess would present the major prize to the winners and by this time it had become quite obvious where I was placed so everyone turned for the formal stage shot towards me without problem. Another job completed to customer satisfaction!