Chicago headshots

When preparing for an event, your ultimate goal is for the event to go off without a hitch and for the event to be wildly successful. But no matter how meticulously you have planned for your event, some things can still go wrong. Missteps could lead to a drained budget, alienated speakers, and annoyed audiences.

While some hiccups are to be expected in such events, learning from others’ mistakes can help prevent mishaps that may materialize later on.

Here are 4 mistakes to avoid when planning your corporate event in Chicago, along with some suggestions on how to mitigate them.

Waiting too long to start with the planning process

6 months may seem like a long way off. But with so many things you need to do, you’ll be surprised how quickly days pass by, and weeks turn into months in the blink of an eye.

The planning process should begin as soon as you get word out about the event. If you wait until the last minute, you may have a hard time finding a good venue, hiring vendors, and getting the word out about your event. The sooner you get organized, the better off you’re going to be. Especially if you want to hire a Chicago corporate event photographer, you will need to schedule in advance. 

Trying to do everything on your own

Planning an event is no easy task. No matter how small your event may be or how good of a planner you are, you can’t do everything on your own. If you do, you are likely to end up stressed, exhausted, and frustrated. Your event may also suffer.

Coordinating with multiple vendors and important event details is enough to keep you occupied. Learn to delegate. Let your team handle other aspects of the event such as promotions, registration, financial planning, and scheduling. Make sure every little detail of the event gets covered.

Not having a contingency plan

There will be some unexpected changes during the event, so make sure that you have a back-up plan. Anticipate the unexpected so you can ensure everything runs easily, amid the sudden changes.

Underestimating the size of the event

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all venue. Make sure you have a rough estimate of how many people are going to the event before booking a venue. Otherwise, you may end up having a spacious venue for too few guests or a small space for too many guests.

If you need someone to photograph or film your Chicago event, please contact me for your corporate event photography needs.

G. Thomas Ward Chicago portraits

Last month, I was honored to shoot an event by Heartland Health Outreach, an organization I wholeheartedly support, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. I’ve been hired to work this annual event several times times in the past and always enjoy the evening.

heartlandhealthoutreachevent event photography chicago

Heartland Health Outreach was formerly known as Vital Bridges until a few years ago when they merged with Heartland Alliance, an umbrella organization for many social services agencies. Heartland Health Outreach itself is the healthcare arm of Heartland Alliance with services ranging from primary care to treatments for immigrant and homeless populations throughout Chicago.

Here are some of my favorite images from the evening.


Candid event photograph in Chicago

Recently a friend of mine saw a post on a local marketing Facebook page where the Executive Director of a charitable organization was looking for a photographer.  I contacted the Executive Director and had a nice long conversation about the mission of the organization and what the job would entail.  At the end we got to talking about budget and he told me that their budget was $300/day for the photographer and that he had a hard time in his mind justifying more because they want to put as much money as possible into fulfilling their mission.

I’m sure almost every photographer worth their salt has run across this pitch with regard to non profits before.  The temptation is to let the conversation end there and part ways.  That is what I’d normally do.  However, part of what we do sometimes involves educating our potential clients as to the value of what we do and the cost of merely being in business.  So, I sent him the following follow up letter (slightly edited).   In this instance, we weren’t able to come to an agreement, but sometimes it’s worth the try.

“I just wanted to follow up with you after our conversation yesterday.  Oftentimes, people in your position are ambivalent about paying the going rate for a truly good professional photographer.  This often stems from hiring cheaper photographers and getting less than the desired result, and in turn it devalues what truly committed and experienced professionals do.  It’s a struggle at times in my industry to get people to recognize the value of what we do.

For every day we spend shooting pictures, we spend at least a half a day negotiating the details of the job, replying to emails, writing up contracts, editing and adjusting the “raw material” that comes out of the camera, burning DVDs of the images, archiving the images and billing the client.  Additionally, we have very expensive equipment to buy, maintain and upgrade every few years…the same for our computers and software.  We fund our own health insurance, retirement, sick days, business insurance, pay the rent on our studios, buy, maintain and fuel our vehicles so we can get to your locations, pay to build and maintain our websites and other marketing materials and myriad other expenses…this is before we  even break even…let alone pay ourselves a salary…and this is why $300/day is not a sustainable business model. 

Like people who are employed by nonprofits….freelancers who work with non-profits need to make a living.  Just to give you another perspective on this, I’m sure if someone offered you your job as executive director for $20,000 a year with the caveat “we want to put as much money as possible into our mission”….well, you’d start to understand that we all bring our talents to the table and need to be compensated accordingly. 

That being said, I understand that you may or may not be prepared to milk the photographs for what they’re worth.  They could be used on your website, social media campaigns, annual reports, fundraising materials, press releases, etc.

I hope you don’t find this email “out of line”.but I did want to reach out to you to try to give you another perspective  We all have to make a living, and high quality, professional photography has a vast potential to help you further your mission.  It’s an investment.  Ultimately, who you hire and what you pay is up to you.  I’d love to work with you, and build a sustainable business relationship if possible.  Regardless, you have a great mission and I appreciate the work you do.”

Theater photos Chicago

I was very gratified to find the following recommendation posted on LinkedIn this morning from my client Chuck Benya. As Director of Development at Vital Bridges and VP of Development at Howard Brown, Chuck hired me on multiple occasions to shoot events, fundraisers and other media events. Thank you, Chuck!

Gary is extremely easy to work with, professional but friendly, and flexible. I’ve hired him over the past two-years to shoot various special events. Prior to each event, we had phone conversations about how the organization was using the photographs (marketing, social media, annual report, etc.). I felt totally confident in his ability and talent and was thrilled with the results: he expertly captured so many of the details of Vital Bridges and Howard Brown Health Center’s events that we wouldn’t have otherwise. Gary is the unobtrusive, always present photographer that captures the right moment. He is also adept at the posed shot, too. The digital negatives and requested resolutions were delivered promptly.

I feel very confident that each organization’s investment in its event photography was worth it. I would definitely recommend Gary’s services!