How events are adapting to post-Covid world: A photographer's view

Bafta TV Awards 2020

With event organisers now successfully adapting to the new normal and navigating how to produce events safely, we are experiencing the return of much-loved red carpet moments.

Restrictions on attendees and the public have meant it’s more important than ever for the media to accurately report on the world’s events – acting as a vital link between the audience and the event itself.

In today’s lightning-fast news cycle, speed to market is key and seamless collaboration with those on the ground and publishers is critical to being responsive in a demanding environment.

The importance of visuals cannot be overstated; articles with images get 94% more views than those without, so great pictures can be the difference between success and failure in the digital publishing industry.

As readers expect more on-demand content, the publishing industry must react to these demands quickly – especially when the media is now the only source for bringing an event to life.

For me, it feels invigorating to be working at events again. I recently attended the BAFTA TV Awards where Shutterstock worked as the in-house photography team. Social distancing didn’t stop BAFTA from putting on a classy, well-organised show.

There were fears that the pandemic restrictions might affect the output of the night, but it was clear from the resulting coverage that this couldn’t be further from the case.

From my experience at the BAFTAs, I’ve walked through four key areas that other events should consider in order to ensure we continue providing audiences with the exciting and high-quality content that is so needed by everyone.

The ceremony

There was no audience for the BAFTA TV Awards, and it was filmed in a studio at the Television Centre. We were instructed to wear masks in the building and our temperatures were taken each time we entered. There was sanitising hand-gel freely available. Everyone was very respectful of the situation and kept our appropriate distances.

These simple procedures are incredibly easy to implement but play a massive role in ensuring the safety of all the crew and guests – without this, none of the rest would be possible.

The 2020 BAFTA Awards ceremony took place at the Television Centre in London. Image via Jonny Birch/​BAFTA/​Shutterstock.

A new normal on the red carpet

As soon as our photographer, David Fisher, arrived, he reviewed the red-carpet space, the picture always at front of mind. Due to the reduced size of the event, we were able to make changes more easily than previous bigger scale events.

The only attendees on the day were the guest presenters — 15 in total. They arrived to film their pieces throughout the day. As they arrived, they posed for photos.

There were five photographers shooting the arrivals, all appropriately distanced. The shooting itself was extremely civilised, each photographer taking their turn in receiving the gaze of the stars. The guests were all relaxed and jovial, removing their masks to pose for their pictures. You could feel a sense of relief in everyone to be doing something approaching our own normal and we got a glimpse of how things could be again.

The reduced number of people attending these events actually provides the media with more opportunities to connect with the stars, as there are fewer distractions on the red carpet. I wouldn’t be surprised if we experienced a rise in exclusive media partnerships for red carpet events due to the restrictions surrounding the number of journalists who can attend.

David Fisher (right, in white) shooting Himesh Patel against the branding board. I’m sitting on the floor awaiting the images. Image by Iona Wolff/​BAFTA/​Shutterstock.
Behind the scenes

Most of the images captured from the event had to be kept secret from the media so as not to reveal the winners ahead of time. The only images that were released in advance were the arrivals and backstage shots.

The ceremony images themselves were shared with media as they were broadcast on TV. This came as a welcome relief to all event photographers as it made for a much more relaxing event than normal because I had a few hours before the broadcast to prepare the images. My biggest fear was releasing images before they were aired, spoiling the surprise.

This approach to media distribution allows us to be more selective in the content we share. In the past we would distribute thousands of images in a matter of minutes to our media clients, but we can now use our expertise to select ‘headline worthy’ shots for media in advance.

If this continues, it’ll require a thorough understanding of the needs of the media.

The picture of the night

As editorial image editors, we approach every event with an idea in our heads of ‘the picture of the night’ — the subject that will make headlines and generate chatter for weeks to come.

This year, looking at the 2020 BAFTA TV Awards guest list, I knew the picture of the night would be one of Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones from the popular TV drama Normal People. Due to lockdown measures, they had not previously been seen together at any red-carpet events.

We knew the couple were going to pose on the carpet together, but that they would be socially distanced. That scenario doesn’t lend itself to a great picture. After Paul and Daisy posed for their single shots, and distanced two-shots, our photographer David gave the couple a metre-long tape-measure for them to hold, proving their social distance. They both embraced the ridiculousness of the situation – it made them laugh – and produced a great set of pictures.

With fewer distractions on the red carpet, I expect personal moments like these will become more common. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the media outlets to work with photographers to create unique shots.

Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones having some fun at the 2020 BAFTA Awards. Image via David Fisher/​BAFTA/​Shutterstock.

Once the show was over, everyone agreed that the format BAFTA had employed for producing and airing the show was a huge success. Ultimately, this was due to a lot of planning, logistics, health checks, and no little worry, but the palpable feeling of relief to be working events again, and the joy of seeing it all come together meant that it was a wonderful experience.

It was proof the industry can adapt to the new normal, quickly and successfully.

Christian Barrett is photo editor at Shutterstock.

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