Crowds, artists, less than ideal lighting and placement... welcome to the world of festivals, which combine the challenges of street photos and concert photos. We’ll tell you everything you need to know regarding preparation, placement and composition.
A festival is a little like a vacation, only shorter. You’ll be doing a lot of walking and standing, and you’ll probably feel the weight of your added baggage in no time at all. To boot, it won’t be easy to move around in the crowds, especially if you’re carrying a tripod and telephoto lens. Our advice? Pack light! Take one camera and one lens–if possible, a walk-around lens with a large aperture.
Make sure everything is ready–memory cards emptied, battery charged. Don’t forget to bring a sun visor and a polarizing filter if the light is strong. You can play with contrasts using the blue sky.
Once your bags are packed, there’s just a few items left to grab: walking shoes, a water bottle, sunglasses and a good hat to avoid heat stroke, as well as earplugs to protect your eardrums.
The right settings
The hardest part is managing lighting conditions. The time of day or night, shadows cast by the stage or buildings, spots . . . there are a number of factors that might require you to make adjustments to avoid over- or under-exposed photos. Ideally, you should perform a spot measurement on your main subject, for example, a singer. Doing so will allow you to properly expose your subject, even if the lighting conditions change. If you can, photograph in raw format so you’ll have more options when tweaking your image in post processing.
Burst mode is the festivalgoer’s best friend. You’ll have a lot of sorting to do at home to reduce blur, but you’ll be thrilled to have a photo of your favourite artist in the act, all because you kept your camera at arm’s reach. Consider setting your camera to unlimited burst mode so that it doesn’t stop after a certain number of photos.
Take photos of the crowd
Festivals mean artists and musicians, but also crowds. Use the public to capture the ambiance of the day. You can:
- Focus on the public, with the crowd in the background.
- Use a wide lens to emphasize the size of the crowd.
- Isolate a spectator and focus on their eyes to evoke emotion.
Seize the moment
Neither the artist nor the public is going to pose for you. To capture the perfect moment, zone in on one detail or expression–this will require patience and concentration. Follow your subject with a large aperture lens in order to blur the background and focus on the essential. If there is a lot of movement, for example among the street artists, set your camera to shutter priority (S or Tv) and use a speed of more than 1/500.
Tell a story
If you’re not going to be satisfied with just a couple of photos, but instead wish to tell a story, think of arriving early or staying late. As such, you can photograph the set-up and all of the work done behind the scenes by the technicians, maintenance workers, etc. Also consider capturing some details of the photoshoot location. A storefront, a road sign or an emblematic building will give some context to the photos and allow them to speak for themselves.