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Tradeshow Photography

GLORY SHOTS of tradeshow booths are particularly challenging because of extreme contrast ratios that are commonplace on the tradeshow floor - built into the lighting designs actually -as well as the use of multiple light sources (with multiple color temperatures) routinely used by booth designers.

I find traditional photographic techniques lacking in this extreme environment. The traditional approach would be to use shutter speed to control the exposure of displays that are backlit or lit by constant illumination, then light the rest with photographic lighting gear. Because of the extreme contrast, the mixed lighting and the sheer scale of some of these displays, I find it's impossible to control the lighting to my satisfaction using traditional techniques. Additionally, the traditional approach can take several hours to set up; many tradeshow booths rack up huge utility bills during the course of the show - the photographer's challenge is to get in and out quickly without sacrificing quality.

I use available light techniques and multiple negatives for tradeshow work. I do carry a small quartz light kit that I'll use in a pinch, but I shoot without it whenever possible. I lock the camera down in a fixed position, then shoot at least one negative for each major light source in the scene and an exposure bracket to cover the full tonal range. I'll also turn off all booth lighting and take an "ambient shot" to pull out ceiling rigging and other detail that would otherwise be a lighting nightmare. I typically take no more than a half hour to take the shot (sometimes saving the exhibitor hundreds on their show utility bill), then build the shot later. Laying in image elements one at a time, it's like an audio engineer building a soundtrack, and because I have total control over the variables, success is predictable. For me, it's the only way to go!

In the example below shot for AV Images, Inc., four negs were used; one for the dome only, one for the video wall taken with all other lights off (notice ideal color balance on video wall and lack of flare), one for the seating area (cross-lit with two quartz lights), and a shot with main lighting off to bring out rigging and ceiling detail.


Composite Photo

Dome Only



Video Wall




Seating Area


sample pages

Ceiling Detail