Day in the life of a Showlite commissioned photographer

Posted on Thu 30th May 2019 at 1:07pm

We talked to internationally acclaimed photographer David Edwards about his work for Showlite, the challenges with lighting at exhibition venues and getting to wear a hard hat and harness …

When I was asked to write this blog I looked at the title and thought… there is no such thing as a day in the life of… it is days in the life of!

Preparation is key. I take a look at the show website and images from the previous year. Very quickly I can pick up the vibe of what the show is about and the scale of it. More importantly I can judge what the lighting is going to be like… natural light or venue lighting… time of year and weather will all play a role.

My interaction with Showlite starts with what’s being built… I will get CAD images of stands and feature areas to photograph before the show and the aim is to shoot photographs in the same orientation, although that doesn’t always happen – other stands or the venue can impact on the angle the shot is taken from.

Equipment is next. It doesn’t define you or make you a better photographer, but it does make a difference to the output. Plus, how much equipment can I feasibly carry?

Almost all the images I take are shot on medium format digital cameras. The much larger sensor sizes allow greater latitude when shooting in less than ideal conditions and can also provide images with greater detail. I pack a range of lenses to cover all eventualities as well as a back-up camera and system just in case! Additional lighting only appears if I have a new Showlite team member to photograph… there are one or two I haven't yet tracked down! This lighting is specific to corporate portraits and not to light the stands.

The single most important piece of additional kit is my sturdy tripod… as most of my stand shots are single or multiple exposures with a longer than usual shutter speed, this allows more light in and gives a better and more even exposure. 

As mentioned earlier, lighting in venues can be challenging - The NEC actually has a nice balance of daylight and artificial light, Olympia’s main halls with glass arched roofs provide fantastic coverage, although the areas behind that rely on artificial light is a big challenge. Shooting Passenger Terminal Expo at ExCeL recently had to be the most challenging. With very high ceiling and low powered lighting, lighting on the stands was critical.

In theory my shoot day starts at 7.30-8am on opening day at the venue and finishes somewhere around 4pm the same day. Passenger Teminal Expo was different… the number of bespoke stands being constructed by the Showlite team was huge… 35 stands to be precise and I decided having not shot at ExCeL that I would do a recce the afternoon before. This has its pros and cons - the client wants you there but doesn't want you to interfere as they are concentrating on the build. However, the years I’ve shot for Showlite including doing the company headshots, I’ve become part of the team and this really helped as the team managed to get me into an onsite cherry picker to view the show from up top complete with hard hat and harness – all in a days’ work for a show photographer!

The aim is to get into the show as early as possible and shoot in the 2 hours before the show starts but for Passenger Terminal Expo I needed an extra hour. Meeting the organising team and getting assurances for access from them was a necessity but I now had a window that started at 7am!

You might ask why I need to start so early… it's actually quite simple - the stands need to be shot clean without people on them. There is also a phrase "the best laid plans of mice and men"… anyone reading this from a show background will understand that it is sometimes a fight to the finish… a computer monitor hasn't arrived on site or a venue fork lift driver isn't as careful as they might be and drives over part of your client's stand and there is a race to get it back up and running for opening time. It all adds pressure to my job as I am sometimes the last ‘team’ member at the stand before the show opens.

Once I have all the stand and feature images I then photograph with people to get a flavour of the show. These lifestyle shots, in addition to the stand images, assist going forward as they can be used to show potential clients what Showlite can provide, both organisers, venues and exhibitors. My images are used in a range of marketing materials including website, newsletter, emails, brochures, social media and content pieces. I fully maintain that a well-executed image can make the difference between winning business and not winning business.

As I said previously I finish taking photographs at 4pm but that’s not the end of the day. This is the start of the journey home. Depending on when/where I am in the country and the time I get home I will at least start the download of the images from digital cards from the cameras to the computer and back them up. I'll then usually spend half a day editing images and upload them to a portal where Showlite can access them in various size formats. Half a day editing is about the norm which is built into the project. Very occasionally it doesn't work out like that and I can spend a good few additional hours photoshopping and editing to get the best results.

An additional extra I do is contact the companies the day after opening with an image of their stand and the compliments of Showlite. It’s often the little things that make a difference and part of the reason Showlite turn to me time and time again!

David was commissioned by Showlite to photograph a series of shows including Passenger Terminal Expo, The Security Event, Farm Shop & Deli Show, PPMA Show, Independent Hotel Show, Restaurant Show and Big Data and create a stunning portfolio to showcase their work. View a selection of images from the shows here.

David is always happy to discuss projects with new clients.

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Natasha Messer, Events Operations Manager, Prospects Events
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Mark Mayo, Director, Motorcycle Expo
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Mirabelle Chatterjee, Head of Operations, Nineteen Events
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Diane Sheppard, Event Operations Manager, Quartz Business Media
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Andrew Reed, Managing Director, William Reed Business Media
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Karen Harris, Operations Manager, Idex Media
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Bill Hammond, Managing Director, 3rd Street Group
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Paul Clarke, Organiser, Installer Live
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Phil Valentine, Managing Director, ETES, Southern Manufacturing & Electronics
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Nicola Greenaway, Managing Director, Nineteen Events
“We have a longstanding relationship with Showlite. They demonstrate a real professionalism and dedication and I look forward to working with the team again!”
Hannah Webb, Head of Operations, Hemming Group
“A massive thank you for helping us make this year’s Hearth & Home Exhibition a success. ”
Claire Cox, Hearth & Home, Fireplace Marketing Company
“Thanks to everyone at Showlite for a job very well done at The Mayfair Antiques & Fine Art Fair! The event went beyond expectation and there were hardly any glitches at all.”
Ingrid Nilson, Director, The Antiques Dealers Fair Limited
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Joy-Fleur Brettschneider, Marketing & Operations Director, Solar Media Limited
“Thank you so much for all your support on PATS this year. Showlite were absolutely brilliant. ”
Jo Scotting, Head of Operations, Impact Exhibitions
“We always know we’re in a safe pair of hands with Showlite. They deliver professional results with attention to detail and focus on service.”
Jo Foreman, Operations Manager, Brintex
“I would recommend Showlite completely from the level of personal service, quality of work and positive work attitude to keep on going until the job is done.”
Emma Barratt, Managing Director, Broadway Events
“Thank you for all your help and support for the NFE show. We had a lot of last minute changes, and Showlite were very accommodating and professional.”
Angela Long, Sales and Marketing Executive, Wesley Media
“Many thanks to Showlite. Everything went really smoothly and the show looked absolutely fantastic.”
Mandie Lavin, CEO, NAFD
“Phex has never looked as good and the build-up and breakdown went really smoothly. Thanks to everyone. I look forward to be working with you again in the future.”
Julie Pollet, Operations Manager, Brintex
“Showlite are the ultimate in prior planning and preparation. We never have any problem and if we do have an issue we resolve it there and then. We love working with Showlite.”
Andrew Reed, MD, William Reed Events & Exhibitions
“Big thank you to Showlite … once again it was a pleasure working with you all again and look forward to 2018!”
Sam Hunt, NMBS Events Manager
“Many thanks for the brilliant job you did on this year’s UKIVA which was a great success. The team pulled out all the stops to make sure everything was ready in time and ran smoothly throughout the day.”
Christine Valdes, Event Organiser, UKIVA, PPMA Group
“We would like to thank you and the team for an excellent build and all your help in the move to Mall Galleries after 25 years. ”
Gay Hutson, Founder and organiser, 20/21 British Art Fair
“The event looked great and the help and advice from Showlite throughout was invaluable. ”
Toby Merigan, Founder, European Sport Fishing Show
“Thank you for being a magnificent partner to Highways UK. Love the Showlite can do attitude and the smiles and personality that come with it.”
Andrew Dowding, Managing Director, Essential Infrastructure Events
“We have had excellent feedback from exhibitors and visitors and this is testament to the excellent partnership we have with Showlite.”
Justine Devereux, Operations & Project Manager, Xmark Media Ltd
“It was great to have Jenni onsite as it really makes a difference having her help to co-ordinate all aspects of the project.”
Joel Swarc, Associate Director, Promotor Events Ltd
“I would like to highlight the outstanding performance of Ross Isolda during the build up of the recent Foodex show at the NEC. I would like to thank him - and the boys on the tools also, for making the whole process as smooth as it was considering the challenge. ”
Phil Birch, Team leader, NEC mains services, NEC

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