They are tirelessly on the move, capturing moods through their lenses at the stands and in the halls. They put exhibitors and visitors in the right light during business talks and have a trained eye for colors, shapes and special features of products: the trade fair photographers. Their pictures go around the world and sharpen the eye of potential customers for trade fairs and conventions.
"The picture counter is quickly moved forward by a few thousand," says Thomas Geiger, measuring the volume of printable pictures on a day at the exhibition. He and his photographer colleague Frank Boxler were pioneers of modern exhibition photography at NürnbergMesse in the mid-2000s. "I grew into digitalization, before that I developed up to 2000 films a year myself for agencies oldschool," recalls Frank Boxler.
For NürnbergMesse, it was a surprise moment at that time that pictures could already be put online and captioned during a press conference. For the two press photographers, it meant the breakthrough. Thomas Geiger: "Frank and I showed the press spokesman at the time, Peter Ottmann, how quickly images could be uploaded to a digital system - that worked, we had the job."
An exhibition day begins for photographers long before the actual event: requirements of the project teams, such as tours, press conferences, award ceremonies, a list of appointments, the number of photographers needed on site and updating the databases and different categories. For Heiko Stahl, another long-time NürnbergMesse photographer, after the exhibition is already before the exhibition: "I often make notes for next time, such as particularly important topics or interesting product solutions."
From the start of the trade fair, nothing is set in stone. "The normal case is that everything goes differently than planned. We have to be extremely flexible and always on call, able to switch spontaneously - we never know in the morning how things will turn out in the evening," is how Frank Boxler sums it up. This ranges from press conferences and tours, which often take place at the same time, to appointments with politicians or other celebrities whose arrival is delayed. In the meantime, social media appearances have to be operated, photos have to be taken for the "Trade fair happenings" section and images have to be edited, texted and uploaded for the database.
"Exhibitions are adventure playgrounds for adults".
Their years of experience help the trade fair photographers find the optimal angle. "We have to anticipate situations and capture them quickly so that a picture is 'in the can' in a split second," explains Thomas Geiger. "Is there a handshake right now, is he or she reaching for the product, which entrance are most visitors using?" And Frank Boxler adds, "You need to be able to react quickly, you have to adapt to situations immediately, regardless of light, conditions and surroundings." Asking at the respective booth is a frequently used option for Heiko Stahl: "To find out the special features and highlights of the trade fair appearance as well as the exhibited products and technologies and then tell little stories about them with pictures."
For Frank Boxler, the ideal trade fair photo must "convey a message so that people are enthusiastic about a product and a good mood is expressed in context with the people." Thomas Geiger emphasizes the value of "branding": "You need the right setting for a trade fair, i.e. typical products and a suitable environment." The quote from an agency, "Trade fairs are an adventure playground for adults," is what Heiko Stahl has in mind when he holds the camera in his hand: "Ideally, that's what should come across, i.e. the joy of what's on display there and the exchange with the respective counterpart, the curiosity about solutions shown and practical hands-on mentality of the visitors and exhibitors."