Breakout Session Photography
Some observations and (hopefully) helpful hints:
Having a breakout session photographer is almost always in the plans, and we are generally asked cover a number of breakout sessions (breakouts), for every program.
Often in smaller rooms, breakouts have their own set of challenges for us to overcome - which is where experience and equipment selection can make all the difference in the world.
Each breakout session does not usually require its own dedicated photographer for the duration of the breakout, but instead each photographer will expect to cover multiple breakout sessions during each hour, quietly entering a number of rooms, spending up to 10 minutes? capturing some noteworthy images before quietly leaving to go to the next breakout. (This is one of the reasons that we wear black dress clothes to shoot and undergo "photo ninja" training!).
You will generally want the breakout sessions to appear well attended and so we will shoot from the optimum angles and heights to try to avoid empty seats.
However, if we go into a breakout room and the majority of the chairs are unfortunately empty and it is impossible to make the event look well attended we will concentrate on getting closer images of the speaker, hopefully interacting with attendees. (We will also usually shoot an image from the back of the room so that you will be able to see the situation, and know that the room was covered properly).
HELPFUL HINT: If it is possible, try to have the room monitor (or the presenter?) ask the audience to fill the seats at the front as they enter. People tend to fill the rear seats first and empty seats at the front are not ideal for the photographs. If the presenter is able to jokingly ask people to occupy the front seats so that it doesn't look as if nobody attended their presentation - thats often enough!
HELPFUL HINT: Also even if the breakout room is a large room please try to have an appropriate number of chairs for the average expected audience size. 40 people people spread out between 150 chairs does not enhance the attendee experience or the photographs!
HELPFUL HINT: It's not always possible, but if you can keep the attendees in the same room and just rotate the presenters, that usually works well.
HELPFUL HINT: The room lights may be dimmed to whatever level you wish so that the slide deck projected onto the screen can be clearly seen by the audience - we can use a flash / strobe on the camera if we need to - no problem.
HELPFUL HINT: Please remember that this is not the case with video - low light will adversely affect the video footage. If you want video coverage and the room lights need to be dimmed substantially, then supplemental lighting on the presenter may be needed.
HELPFUL HINT: If you plan to have one photographer cover several breakout rooms please remember that they need time to get from one room to the next. If the rooms are close then the "travel time can be negligible, but as in the case of the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for example, which is huge and situated on several levels, it can take a few minutes to get between the breakout rooms.