I recently photographed the CFA Institute World Conference. Taking place over five days at the QEII Centre and then at ExCeL London, it was a huge event with around two and a half thousand delegates. For a London conference photographer this was a great event to be commissioned to photograph.

ExCeL London

Every time I go to the ExCeL London I’m amazed at the size of the exhibition spaces they have to offer. Having been a London event photographer for over twenty years, photographing events all over the world, I still haven’t photographed an event at a venue with comparable space and versatility.
It also helps that it’s a very easy place to work as a photographer. Most importantly it has good lighting, but it also has lots of space and levels to shoot from.

A huge hall at ExCeL London during a conference

The Conference Theme

The theme of the conference this year was disruption around the world and how that effects the investment management industry. Technology, business innovation, globalisation and demographic shifts were all covered by speakers and within the breakout groups. How to take advantage of the changes was key to the conference, with many impressive speakers bringing their opinions to the table.

A speaker at a conference at the ExCeL London being interviewed

Speakers at the Conference

Speakers at the CFA conference included noted economists, best selling authors, leading researchers and successful practitioners. Some of the speakers were within smaller breakout groups and some on the main stage speaking to two thousand people. Notably Mohamed A. El-Erian, chief economic advisor at Allianz spoke on the main stage about global markets, disruptions, opportunities and risks. Sir Ivan Rogers, who is a former senior British civil servant and served as the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union, spoke about Brexit, a continuous theme throughout the conference.

Mohamed A. El-Erian talking at a conference in London

Break Out Groups

It was interesting that, in common with a lot of other conferences I’ve photographed in the last few years, this conference had some breakout groups focused on personal wellbeing. The most impressive of these in my opinion as a London conference photographer, and certainly the best attended, with some delegates having to sit on the floor to hear her speak, was Laurie Santos who is head of Silliman College and a professor of psychology at Yale University. She spoke about the course she runs at Yale called “Psychology and the Good Life”, where she teaches 1200 students about behavioural change through positive psychology. The You Tube video I linked to above is very similar to the presentation she did at the CFA conference.

A speaker at the CFA Institute World conference

Photographing a Conference

Every London conference is different, not least of all because of the amount of delegates, and as a result the different venues used. In my experience as a London conference photographer, some are held in tiny venues for only a few people and some, as this one, have a lot more people attending. This also means the way I approach the photography is different too. For smaller conferences the photography is often to document the event, sometimes for an annual report or newsletter and as a result the photographs can be delivered the day after the event finishes. However, for an event like the CFA World Conference, the photographs are predominantly used for immediate use on social and other types of media. In an age of twenty four hour rolling news, it’s important for an event such as this to get it’s message out as the event is happening, since a day later it’s old news for a lot of media.

Conference exhibitors in London

London Conference Photographer

My brief as one of two photographers covering the conference was to capture not only the feel of the event, but also specific aspects as they happened. Most importantly of course I needed to document the venue and the setup. We were very lucky with the weather, all three days at ExCeL were beautifully sunny, so the light we had, particularly for outside shots, was lovely. I then needed to capture the speakers and audience reactions in both small rooms for the break out groups and the huge auditorium with the main stage.
The contrast between the two types of rooms is huge, though the technique for getting great shots in them is actually very similar. Taking account of the colour temperature of the lights on the stages, as opposed to the light on the delegates, getting a range of different angles and interesting perspectives and covering all the speakers was part of my brief.

Delegates working while listening to a speaker at a conference in London

Working as a Team

I was working with Harry Richards Photography, he and I have worked together a number of times and we both know well how the other works. As a result it was a stress free experience and Harry & I split the coverage we needed between us. Here’s a link to his blog post from the event.
Because our photographs needed to be turned around so fast, Harry & I regularly took our photographs to be downloaded and retouched by a third photographer David Baird, who made quick work of making them available for use.

A speaker at the CFA conference in London

Your London Conference

If you found this article interesting and you’d like to see more blog posts like it, you can find them on my blog page. Alternatively, here are a few that you might enjoy. Here’s a blog about an event I photographed for Mazda and here’s one for the CPA.
Please use my contact page to ask any questions you have or to book me for your event or conference.