How To Photograph A Large Festival

How To Photograph A Large Festival

Hi there, my name is Anthony and I’m from TheTravelTart.com . I’m going to write about my experiences and provide a few tips for photographing large festivals.

The example I’m using here is the Notting Hill Festival, which is held every year in London. The festival is located in the borough of the same name, and it’s like cramming a couple of million people in a few streets over a long weekend!

To give you an idea of what the Notting Hill Carnival is about, I put together a short video clip which shows the colour and movement of this festival. You can compare notes of what a video production conveys when compared to my photo essay, which is the main focus of this post.

This festival is the result of a travel press trip I went on, which you can read more at Darren’s Problogger site, titled How Your Blog Can Score You Free Travel.

For Starters

Large festivals seem to produce colour and movement in truckloads, so you shouldn’t have any problems finding dressed up people and other interesting characters. This is especially true if a parade is involved. The biggest trick photographing a large festival is to pick out moments that define the essence of the festival and capture a single point in time. You just have to keep a look out for good subject matter.

Couple at Notting Hill Carnival.jpg

The irony about being in a massive crowed of millions of people, is that you can be anonymous and take numerous candid shots – which I feel portrays the natural emotion of the day better, rather than having people forced to pose in front of the lens. Candid shots show what someone is feeling, or doing, at a single point of time and can be the most effective way of capturing the ëmoment’.

Having said that, since everyone is having such a good time anyway, your subject matter won’t mind posing for a photo because they’re relaxed after a few beers and partying hard! But as always, be polite and make sure to ask permission first! If you’ve got a travel/photography blog, I’ve found it’s a great ice breaker to hand over a business card with your website listed, so that your subject matter can look at the photo later on. I’ve never had anyone refuse my request to take their photo when I’ve done this!

Portaloos - Notting Hill Carnival.jpg

So in a large festival setting, you can use both candid and posed shots to mix things up a bit.

Use the Rule Of Thirds and Patterns

If you don’t know what I mean, basically divide your shot into a frame of nine squares, and make sure your focal point is in the left or right of frame, or at the top or bottom. This draws attention to the subject matter. For example, the photo of the couple leaning outside the window with the big crowd in the background focuses attention on two people having a good time, with the festival as the context.

Patterns are also an effective way to show off something. For example, the London policemen keeping an eye on the crowd. Note that I have the focal point in the right hand side of the frame, with more Bobbies trailing away to the left.

Focus on things that tell a story

Street Rubbish - Notting Hill Carnival.jpgIt’s like the classic writer’s motto – show, don’t tell the experience. For example, the pile of rubbish in the foreground with the police in background shot shows how much food is eaten on the day.

The people lining up at the portaloos (above) show some of the peripheral activities going on.

I’d also suggest hanging around the festival for a while – the Notting Hill Festival runs from morning and into the night, so the feel and activities change throughout the day.

Other Practical Issues

On the day, I used an 18-55mm and 55-200mm lens (for an APS-C sized sensor SLR) which I found a bit annoying at times because I needed to keep changing the lenses. I’d probably suggest an 18-200mm all in one purpose lens to quickly capture ëthat moment’.

Summary

While you may be in a crowd of millions of people, the key is to select great subject matter that portrays the feel of the festival. Have a look around for the interesting people, and your festival photos will come out great.

Happy Festival Photography!

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