Home How-To Shooting Photographing Festivals
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Photographing Festivals

Tips For Capturing The Fun, Action And Excitement Of Special Events

festivalsKey Zoom Lenses
When you shoot a festival or other event, I suggest using two camera bodies if possible, one on each shoulder: one with a wide-angle zoom (17-40mm) and one with a telephoto zoom (70-200mm IS or 100-400mm IS). With those lenses, you can get wide-angle and telephoto shots of the performers. If you want to "get closer" to your subjects, pack a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter.

If you have only one camera, consider investing in a big-range zoom that goes from wide to tele, something like a 28-300mm. Or, if you'll be changing lenses during the shoot, be super-careful-dust and other particles love jumping into open cameras and sticking to the filter that's over the image sensor, resulting in marks in the final images. With that in mind, bring a blower or other sensor-cleaning device to clean the filter.
As you can see, dust was the real enemy during the festival. That's why I never changed lenses. I used my 70-200mm for this event, and took this picture with it set at 200mm (above, right).

festivalsBe Aware Of The Background
Check out the groups of warriors in the background of this image (left). As you can see, they're not intruding into the space of the foreground warriors. That separation enables the foreground warriors to stand out and not get lost in the scene.

Therefore, this image is the result of judicious composition, watching the background carefully, choosing a wide aperture (ƒ/5.6) to blur the background and shooting at exactly the right moment.

Be aware of the background when you shoot. It can make or break a shot, and it's just as important as the main subject.

festivalsSet Goals
Before you take your first shot, set goals for the shoot. As the event progresses, of course, you can change them. If you have a certain set of goals, you'll know what pictures you really want to take.

At the Mongolian festival, I wanted to get the one shot that every professional horse photographer (I'm not one of them) wants to get: a shot of a horse with all four hooves off the ground. So, I kept my eyes open for that opportunity and, following the tips I offered for capturing fast-paced action, I got the shot.

Here's a "setting goals" story: At one of my workshops, I asked one of the participants, "What's your goal?" He said, "I want to take 700 pictures a day." My reply: "I want to take three good pictures a day." Think carefully about what you want to capture and how to get those shots, rather than shoot haphazardly.


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