This transcript is from Episode 34 of The Savvy Event Planner Podcast
To listen to this podcast, please visit: http://SavvyEventPodcast.com/34
Interview only transcript
Tom: Folks, I'm on the line with Jules Clifford. Jules thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.
Jules: Yeah, my pleasure Tom. Thank you for the call.
Tom: Now you're the owner and founder of Event Photography of the North America Foundation. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved in event photography.
Jules: Yeah, before I started EPNAC, I was in the mortgage industry. I had ran a mortgage company for 15 years based in Old Town Alexandria. And when the financial reform came down the pike and they started asking everybody to make changes to the policies and procedures, there was about three years of some unknown certainty about what was going to happen and how it was going to happen and it was my job to implement it for the company I was working for. And to be honest with you, at that point of the game, even before that happened, I was just kind of tired and burnt out of the industry, and it was quite the grind. And when that came down I told my boss. I said, “Dude, I've got nothing left in the tank. I don't know. I got nothing to give you.” And he said, “Well, just take some time off and refresh your batteries see what you feel like doing.”
And I actually took off about two years and after the first year, I started thinking, what have I always liked to do? And I've always had a passion for photography. I was always interested in it. And so I bought a camera and I got a lens and I got on YouTube and I started to teach myself how to do photography. I just really enjoyed it. It was something that I had said” Hey, this is a really good fit.” And after a while I was like, “Well, I really want to find out a way to make a living doing this. And like I said, the office was located in Old Town Alexandria and who else is in Old Town Alexandria? There's a bunch of associations in Old Town Alexandria right there. And so, it ended up being a pretty good fit and that's how I kind of evolved from the mortgage industry into the meeting and hospitality photography service.
Tom: Now, was it just the location of these associations being there that drove you in that direction or was there something else that pulled you there instead of saying maybe the wedding market or government photography?
Jules: Yeah, it probably was the location. If I was based in Colorado, I would be a ski photographer or landscapes photographer. And if I was in Hawaii, I would probably be a surfing photographer. Being here in Old Town Alexandria, right next door, right in the backyard of all these associations it just seemed like it was a natural fit. And so that's why I pursued the associations.
Tom: Now, you have a number of very famous people that you have photographed. Can you share some of your client highlights for us?
Jules: Yeah, I remember shooting Mitt Romney, for example, the day he became the GOP candidate. It was the first day he got Secret Service and I was doing a meet and greet with six people for the client I was working for over at the Marriott Wardman Park. And I can remember being inside the suite and Governor Romney walked in with his staff in his first day with Secret Service. And they came in and basically doing the meet and greet and I was asking Governor Romney to stand here, move there, I was repositioning him and getting the best light and giving the shots. And it was quite a thrill to be photographing that at that moment.
The day before I photographed President Obama and that was obviously a huge highlight as well, to photograph a sitting president of the United States. Recently, I photographed four of the Supreme Court justices inside the Supreme Court. I keep telling people this photography stuff opens up all these doors for you. It sends you to all these crazy places you never imagined doing in your wildest dreams. For that particular event, I had to park under the Supreme Court. So I was given access and granted a parking space under the Supreme Court and then went up through the back elevators and out to the Supreme Court, and did photographs of Chief Justice Roberts presenting an award to Justice Kennedy. And then there was a little meet and greet and a reception afterwards. And it was quite an honor as well.
But we do a lot of Legislative Day on the Hill for our clients, they spend a lot of time up on the hill representing their members and we go up there and document those. So we've met a lot of senators, a lot of representatives of House. And we've been through the tunnels underneath Senate buildings. We've been on the monorail from the Senate to the capital and just had some really neat experiences with a lot of VIP people. We've done stuff for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. So we've gotten to shoot there. We got to photograph Colin Powell. Yeah, just some really neat people in the political or military or government services. It's been quite an honor, no doubt about it.
Tom: Very neat. Now you're also the official photographer for multiple associations. Can you tell us about a few of those?
Jules: Yup, yeah. We have a contract with the IAEE, the district chapter, the DC chapter. We shoot all their events. We shoot for the new association for women. It's AWE and they just did their membership launch last night here in Washington D.C. It was a huge success, just real excited for all the founding members of the AWE. Looks like that thing's just going to take off and be a very useful and successful association, so excited about working with them. We shoot with PMPI. We have a relationship with them as well. We've shot PCMA. We've shot ASAE. We've shot a lot of the big ones or the biggest ones and we've shot the other associations across the board. So we have a great relationship with them and we value all of them.
Tom: Now Jules, our audience is event planners and as an event planner's creating their event, is there anything that they need to think about when they're developing their plan before they contact a photographer?
Jules: Yeah, I think we find some of the most successful events start with a well-thought out RFP. When we get a well thought out RFP, it helps everybody. It helps us prepare for the event. We know in detail what's expected of us, what the client's looking for. So we really can present a great proposal with all the details that they want in there. So we're all on the same page right from the beginning. There's no mystery. There's no, “Ah, what are they looking for?”
It's all laid out there, so a great RFP, very detail oriented is a great step. Now, after we submit the RFP if they accept it, then we do a contract. Our contract needs to be in great detail. It needs to put everything out front, very transparent. No grey areas. Who is paying for the airfare, who's paying for the hotel, how many hotel rooms do we need? Who's paying for meals, parking, transportation to and from the airport. Everything needs to be spelled out. Who is going to be the photographer shooting on site?
Spelled out the redundancy of the images themselves in the contract. What happens when we photograph you on site? What's the chances of material getting lost, so that needs to be spelled out. And then once that is accepted and signed, and also payment. Payment needs to be settled, when is the first payment due, when is the last payment due? But when that's all signed, then the next thing which is probably the most tedious thing for the event planner is the shot list. Now, put the work in now. It's going to make your life a lot easier during your event. Fill that shot list out in great detail and when you get to the event, it's going to be a lot easier for you and the photographer.
There's going to be less questions asked upon you as to where do I need to be, what is this location, what is this what is that if it's all spelled out in the shot list. Almost when you get there in theory, you almost wouldn't have to talk to the photographer because it's all spelled out for them. I think it's great to communicate throughout the entire event, but in theory that's how it should be.
Tom: That definitely save a lot of time for the event planner there. They don't have to be answering questions at the last minute when they've got so many other things going on. What kind of things go onto a shot list, Jules?
Jules: We like to have our shot list on spreadsheets, Excel spreadsheet works great. Starting from the columns from left to right the way we like to have it set up is we like to have the date and it could be two dates. It could be starting date and finishing date depending on how days that particular line item is but in theory just the date. Then we like to have the start time and the end time. So those would each be a column.
Then the location, now the location could be the convention center. It could be the hotel, the Hyatt. And then the next column would be meeting room. So, it could be the convention center, room C147 or hall B. It could be the Hyatt and the ballroom, Chesapeake Ballroom, or something of that sort. So again, from left to right it would have the start date, finish date, start time, end time, location, meeting room or room whatever you want to call it.
Then the next column would be the event, the name of the event, so when we reference something when I say, “Hey, this general session.” Well, then we all know we're talking about the same session, opening session, closing session, whatever it might be. It's important to be able to reference the exact same title for everything across the board. I do notice some event planners change it from time to time. Something will be called the session.
Some will be general session, some will be opening general session. And that's for the same event. It's very important that the name, the title is very consistent throughout the entire process start to finish. The next column would be estimated time or duration. So if your general session is from 9:30 until 11:00, but you only need us in there for an hour. Then just state for duration an hour. Otherwise, we're in there for the whole time and maybe the general session is not a good example for that.
Maybe it's more of a session, just a panel discussion. “Hey, for this panel discussion, we just need you in there for 15 to 20 minutes. Just get key shots telling us what it's about, telling the story.” Then we know we don't need to stay in there the whole time. We can get that done. And that either allows us to get back into the office, to download and process images or we can go shoot stuff we can see walking around the hallway. Just some general shots that the client may be looking for.
Then at the end of the spreadsheet if they want to put notes, so if you have a particular note that you want to note to us like action shots of attendees dealing and commenting on the panelists, action shots of the attendees picking up pamphlets from the table, whatever your needs are you can put them in that column right there. Then that column after that, may be the contact name of somebody in the room that works with your organization.
If we need to contact somebody about a particular thing like “Hey, I'm not sure who this particular person is that is on this list you want me to photograph, can you help me find them or point them out?” That would be something you would put for the contact thing there. And some of our clients put in how the pictures will be used which kind of helps us, “Hey, it's just web based so it's going to be for print, or it's going to be for educational purposes next year or it's for record keeping.” That kind of helps us a little bit about what kinds of photos we might take.
So that's it, that's the shot list from start to finish. And then it obviously covers everything, start from the very beginning would be row one would basically be the very first shot we would take and you would work your way all the way down all the way to the last shot we take at the gala or whatever it may be, closing ceremonies or something. And then break it down by day of course. And that's a shot list. And once again we have a template of this. We're happy to make it available to anyone who might want one, just shoot us an email and we'll be happy to send a copy of the RFP or the shot list.
Tom: That's very generous. Now Jules, when somebody is considering a photographer are there any questions they should ask before they commit?
Jules: Yeah, that's a great question, Tom. It's really, really important that you pick the right photographer for your event. I think the first thing you need to consider is, you need to get a photography company that can support your needs. So, the one-man shop does a great job, there's some fabulous photographers out there. But what happens if that person twists their ankle or throws their back out or sprains a knee or gets the flu?
What are you going to do? What happens if it happens the day of your event, the day before your event? There's no support system in place. Here at EPNAC, we contracted out to 39 different photographers in 2015. We have the support staff to take care of pretty much anybody's needs we have out there. We haven't run across any that we haven't been able to take care of in 2015, and we're only going to get bigger and better in 2016.
So, a company that can support your needs is very important. Now, the other thing you need to make sure of is, do they have redundancy? Are they going to protect your material? How do they deliver the material to you? Here at EPNAC, all of our cameras have two memory cards. So when we shoot images are saved in raw and saved in JPEG. As soon as we get back to the onsite office space, we download those images to an external hard drive.
So now, those images are in three places,. They're in both cards in the camera and they're on the external hard drive. Well, as soon as we process those images we upload them to a cloud that the client has access to. So, within hours of shooting in most cases, we have the redundancy of those images being on both cards in the camera, on the external hard drive, and uploaded to a cloud that now the client has access to.
Let's say my camera gear gets stolen out of my car or stolen from a job site or the computer crashes or my gear is lost when I fly back from Dallas and it's lost at the airport or something, I mean that's, you just paid thousands of dollars for those images and now you don't have them. So you want to make sure that the company you deal with has a built in redundancy that they can protect your investment and that's really, really important. You've got to ask that question.
Tom: Are there equipment redundancies as well as the cards and the uploads?
Jules: It's important to know what gear your photographer is using. Are they using professional gear? Obviously, Cannon and Nikon are the most popular camera gears, most notable cameras that you know out there that we all hear the name of, we know who they are. They have professional lines and you want to make sure that the photographer that you hire is using professional grade camera gear.
Each Cannon and Nikon have services for professionals. Nikon is NPS, Nikon Professional Services, and the Cannon service is, I'm not sure what the Cannon service is for professional gear because I shoot Nikon, but it's Cannon Professional Services, I think it's called. You want to ask your photographer are you a member of these, do you have services with those? Then I say with those it's priority repair, it's priority replacement, it's priority loaner so they can loan camera gear out real quickly.
So, those are important things to know, so what camera equipment are they using and then are they members of these professional services? The other thing about the camera gear is how many camera bodies do they have? Are they showing up with just one camera body, two lenses and one flash. Well, that's a red flag right there because if that camera body fails, what's their backup? So we shoot with two camera bodies on us.
We normally have more than two camera bodies on site. Normally we have three camera bodies, a bunch of lenses and some flashes. So we have the redundancy built in. And my camera has failed on site before, it happens. And so, you've got to be able to not miss a beat, really important that you don't miss a beat.
Tom: That answers my question. Now, what determines the number of photographers that a client would need?
Jules: Yeah, so, some people think it's the size of the event. It's not the size of the event. I don't care if it's 40,000 people or 200 people. It's not really the size of the event that determines how many photographers you need. What it is, it's the overlapping of events, that's what determines whether you need multiple photographers. Do I need a photographer at the center at the expo floor at the same time I need someone shooting an educational class down the hall? Well, obviously you need two photographers for that.
So that's what we look for. When we get the shot list, when you fill out that shot list, that's going to tell me right then that you need two photographers. It's very difficult to determine whether you need two photographers when we do the RFP unless you spell out that I need two photographers full days. If it's not spelled out in the RFP, we don't know yet if you need two photographers.
So sometimes if we think you're going to need two photographers, and we'll ask that question upfront. We'll say, “Hey, we got your RFP. We have a couple questions. One of the questions will be are you anticipating one or two photographers coming to your event?” And they'll tell us hey, we're only planning on one, then we'll know. And we'll write in there when we send in our proposal that this is based on one photographer.
So if we get the shot list from you after we've sign the contract, because normally the shot list is ready at that time. When we get the shot list and we see overlapping stuff, we'll have that conversation with you. “Hey look, this is overlapping I physically can't do it with one photographer. Do you want to upgrade to two photographers or do you want to change your shot list?”
And we have that conversation. So, once again, it's not the size of the event it's the overlapping of the shot list that would determine how many photographers you need. The other thing is you don't necessarily need two photographers for the entire event. You may only need them for the heavy timelined section of an event. So, that's always a consideration too.
Tom: Okay. Now, is there anything that the event planner can do to make a photographer's job easier when they're on site?
Jules: Yeah, one is fill out the shot list as detailed as you can, as accurate as you can. That's our bible when on site. So that is a huge help for any photographer, that's a great thing. But we need a nice secured work area. We bring all of our camera gear with us. So we have computers, external hard drives. We have multiple bodies, multiple lenses, multiple flashes, thousands and thousands of dollars.
I don't want to have anxiety about is the office locked, do random people have access to the office area? I want to focus on your shot list, getting the shot that you want, delivering the product that you want, that's where I want my focus to be. So, we're not prima donnas. We don't need to be picked up in a limousine. We don't need, we can hop in a cab or Uber. We don't need a suite at the hotel, those things are luxury items. It's not required, it's not needed.
We're there to work as hard as we can as long as we can to get everything that you need. So, communication, security of our equipment, feed us. Please make sure you feed us. We work long days just like the event planners work long days. We work long days and our creativity, our efforts, it's hard to do it when you get hungry and you're starving. Sometimes we just don't have time to eat.
If we're shooting a lunch and you want us to shoot the lunch, then keep in mind these guys got to eat. When did they eat? Did they eat before they came? Are they going to eat after they leave? Normally, not because we're doing something before or doing something afterwards. No we don't have to sit down at the table with everybody else and eat. We're happy to eat in the back room. It doesn’t really matter to us. But what's important to us is that we have a place to eat and that we're able to eat something.
Tom: Excellent advice there. Now, Jules, we were talking earlier about one of your coolest events. Everybody goes to events. You've been to a lot of major events. Is there one that stands out in your mind? And if so, can you share with us what exactly made it so incredible for you?
Jules: Yeah, I have shot some really cool events. I've been very fortunate to travel to a lot of different places to shoot events. I have a bunch of them but I would say one that stands out right now is shooting ASAE in Dallas, Texas when ASAE had their annual there. It might have been two years ago, maybe three years ago, I can't remember. I got some really cool shots there.
One shot I got ASAE assigned me to get a shot of James Carville and Karl Rove who were the democratic and republican advisors and I guess they were like enemies, or whatever you want to look, nemesis to each other. To get a photo of them together and I remember going up to James Carville and in the back hallway before they went on the stage and telling him, “Hey the client, which was the ASAE, wants to get a shot of you and Karl Rove together.”
And James said, “Oh, you know what? I'm not going to do that, I'm not going to do that.” And I said, “Well, you know, the client really wants this shot.” And he says, “Oh, you know what, if Karl will do it, I'll do it.” And then I walked up to Karl Rove and said, “Hey, Karl, James, wants to do a shot of you guys together.” And he says, “Oh, really? Okay.”
And so I got those two guys standing back to back and took this really cool picture that was on the front page of the Daily for ASAE, and that was a pretty cool deal. But the next day, ASAE had their big party and their party took place at Cowboy Stadium and Jerry Jones had given them the whole stadium. They had use of the whole place, the locker rooms and everything.
But the entertainment was Big & Rich, Big & Rich is a huge country music group and they were the entertainment. And it was right in the middle of the stadium, right down on the floor and I remember snooping around down there and we really didn't have any backstage passes or anything to go back and photograph back there. But I did see Danny White, I recognized him who is a retired Cowboy quarterback walking back talking to somebody, looked like the stage manager.
And I kind of stood right there and listened to the conversation and when the conversation broke up, Danny White walked back there. Well, I followed Danny White back there. Nobody said anything about me. I guess the stagehand thought I was with Danny White, I'm not sure, but I walked in the back and then I kind of snooped around back there away from everybody and I heard the band Big & Rich warming up in a room, inside behind a door. And I was like, “Oh, that's where the band is. I got to figure out a way to get in there.”
Well, then walking back toward the stage, I ran into Danny White and his agent and somebody else. And they're like, “Hey, we're supposed to meet with the band. Do you know where they are?” Well, I did know where the band was. I said, “Yeah, they're back here in the greenroom warming up. Come on back.” So we walked back there and Danny White's manager knocked on the door and the band manager came to the door and recognized who they were.
And so they invited Danny White and his entourage in. Well, I walked in with them thinking well these guys probably think I'm with Danny White, well Danny White clearly thought I was with the band because that's why he asked me where the band was. So, I walked in the room and immediately walked to the farthest corner of the room so in case they threw me out I had to travel really far to get out.
So, I'm in the room. I'm standing like a fly on the wall in the corner not doing anything, not saying anything. Nobody is looking at me and so I'm just kind of just feeling everybody out and I see that Big & Rich are just really sitting face-to-face. They're just kind of warming up their vocals and they're practicing guitar. And I slowly pull my camera up and I take one picture of those guys warming up, just to see if anybody. I looked around nobody blinked an eye, nobody did anything.
So I took another picture. Starting to get a little more aggressive and nobody is saying a word so I am thinking, “Hell, dude, I am in like Flynn [SP].” And I'm in the greenroom, I'm not supposed to be there. The credentials will be there and I'm running around now, I'm taking pictures. Well, they're done warming up and so now they're saying hi to Danny White. And so now, I've got those three guys posing and they’re showing off Super Bowl rings and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rings.
So now, I've got them in the palm of my hand. I'm just taking all these pictures with these guys. They're doing everything, every pose I want and I'm loving life. And so, now it's time to go to the stage. So they all leave the greenroom together, and I leave with them. And they go backstage in Cowboy Stadium with all of ASAE on the floor and the band goes up on stage and started playing. Well, I go up on stage with the band. So now I'm onstage at Cowboy Stadium with thousands of people from ASAE in the audience in there.
And I'm literally standing where the band is standing taking pictures of these guys with all the crowd in the background. And it was truly, the Cowboy cheerleaders are on stage on each side and they've got flames flying up in the air and I'm taking pictures of them. And it was just truly a high and it was a great rush, it was very exciting and it was definitely a highlight in my career at the time, and probably one of the highlights still. That's something I will not forget. It was just a great time. A lot of fun.
Tom: Very, very cool. Now Jules, before we get out of here, are there any last thoughts that you'd like to share with our audience?
Jules: Yeah, I think you've got to partner up with great suppliers, ones that are proven, ones that they're going to make you look good. You don't want to take a risk on a wildcard or somebody that's untested and you're not sure what they're going to produce. You're not sure if they're going to embarrass you. Because if they embarrass you, that's going to make you look bad in front of your boss and in front of your clients.
That's the worst thing that you'd ever want to happen to you. So you want to work with someone that is professional, organized, that has proven time and again that they can deliver. That's just really, really important. That's something I couldn't stress enough. The other thing also would be listen to your suppliers. I see, we shoot over 140 events a year and building. We see what other event planners do, what other people do. We have a good sense of what's going to look good. Is it going to look good that people have badges when they're up in the panel? When the keynote speaker is up there with a badge on? Are these ugly water bottles going to look good in photographs or can you use a lower profile bottle? Things like that.
You want to hire somebody and there's a reason why you're hiring them, listen, communicate with them, heed their advice. You don't have to do it but at least have that conversation with them. I think the people who have been in it for a long time, have experience and they know what works and what doesn't work and they certainly have some advice for you. I would say, you're not hiring just for photographs or just for AD or just for the food that they bring. You're also hiring for their experience and the dire that they bring to the table. Take advantage of it, just ask the questions, have the conversations, and I think your event will be that much better.
Tom: Excellent advice. Jules, you mentioned that if people reach out to you, they could get a template of your RFP and your shot list. But I'm sure that also they're going to want to talk to you. So how can they find you? How can they contact you?
Jules: Yeah, Tom. There's a couple ways you can find us. Our website is EPNAC.com. E-P-N-A-C.com, you can also email us at email@example.com, or you email me directly at Jules@epnac.com. J-U-L-E-S@epnac.com. You're welcome to call me too. My cell phone number is 703-863-2855. I'm happy to take any question anybody has. We would love an opportunity to bid on your next RFP. Please send it to us. We would be honored to at least just have an opportunity to bid on it. No harm in that, right?
Tom: Not at all. Hey, Jules, thank you again so very, very much for taking the time to talk with me today.
Jules: My pleasure, Tom. At EPNAC, we would like to wish everybody a happy, healthy, and successful 2016. We just think it's going to be a great year.
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