Brighton Zombie Walk – Beach of the Dead Photography

The Beach of the Dead is approaching. An event that creates infinite opportunities for fun, colourful and eye popping images.

I’m best known for my event photography and each time I write a post after the event I always think that it would be more useful to post advice BEFORE the event. I remembered this time. Here’s my “getting the best out of Brighton Zombie Walk” post for photographers. It’s on Saturday 20th October and the walk begins at the West Pier at 3pm.

The easiest times to get the shots you want are before and after the actual event.

Arrive an hour before kick off and you’ll have plenty of time to mill around an ask characters to move or pose for you.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people, they are usually excited and pleased to be of interest. I really enjoy this part of the day, chatting and laughing, finding creative angles and working with people to achieve them. It’s a good idea to show them the really good images afterwards, if you get an interesting shot they’ll be even more keen to help you get more.

This lady was happy to pose. I explained what I needed to do to get the image, I had to practically rest the camera on her ample bosom, she was happy to oblige. I could never get this kind of shot if I didn’t engage with my subjects.


Talk to your subjects, get their trust and make them laugh

Think about different angles, looking up, looking down, finding symmetry and strong diagonals. Choose your backgrounds carfully, consider turning the camera for a diagonal portait.

Beach of the Dead Brighton

Try tilting the camera for a different angle – taken with my fisheye

A lot of my images are shot from a low vantage point. This started as a way of getting clean blue sky backgrounds and became a style, I often take these without looking through the lens.

With a wide angle lens like mine, 16-35mm full frame, this means getting very close to your subject’s face. Another good reason to understand your lens. An ultra wide can include too much background if you are not close enough. Whilst you can use this to your advantage when the background is great, sometimes you want to cut it out of the frame.

Beach of the Dead Brighton-2

looking up adds an interesting perspective and keeps the background cleaner

With practise, you can learn how close you need to be and what angle to hold the camera so that you can keep talking to the subject. Holding the camera about chest height, get in close while distracting your subject with chat.

These are some of the things an Ultra Wide angle lens does to an image and how you might choose to use these characteristics creatively.

A wide angle lens distorts perspective. Everything appears to converge from the corners of the frame. If you frame your image to include existing perspective diagonals they will appear exaggerated. this works well if you position your subject in a symmetrical pose and centre them in the frame.

Brighton Zombie Walk

Look for symmetry in the background a wide angle lens will exaggerate this

A wide angle lens makes everything in the foreground look enormous! If all of your interest is in the foreground get in close, and probably low,and focus on the foreground.

If you want the background in focus too you may need to choose a narrower aperture (bigger f number). If you add flash and leave it on auto you don’t need to worry about there being too little light for a good exposure as your flash will perfectly fill your foreground and your camera will perfectly expose your background in daylight.

After dark is another story, you may need to determine the correct exposure for your background first and put it in manual, then let the flash fill automatically. If your subject is too light or dark just use flash exposure compensation.

bl-zombie-margaretIncreasing your ISO will help when the light goes down too, though your images will not be quite as sharp.

If you love the subject popping out of the frame and the background a touch darker you can put the camera on P, the flash on auto, and underexpose by one or two stops using the exposure compensation button on your camera. This works well to subdue bright backgrounds, using a wide angle lens, as they have a much greater depth of field than zooms and blurring background using aperture can be tricky, and darkening them is easy!

backlit portrait

Look out for the background, here it is really important. The man appearing to walk into the zombie’s mouth and the people just visible through her backlit veil make this image.

Using your camera in P mode with flash on auto in bright conditions is brilliant, it frees you to run around getting as many moments as you can reach. Note though, that when the sun goes down everything changes.

You’ll need to watch your aperture too, using your lens wide open may make it tricky to get the eyes sharp , which is critical for most portraits.

Smoking Zombie

Watch out for the eyes, make sure they are in focus

If you switch to manual mode, the flash will still light your subject perfectly. You can then reduce the exposure of your background using your aperture (choose bigger numbers) or your shutter speed (choose a shorter exposure).

For example, if the correct exposure was 1/60th at f5.6, change the settings to EITHER 1/125th at f5.6 or 1/60th at f8. Since the flash will automatically properly illuminate the subject (if it’s within the range of the flash), you can adjust the background exposure by as many stops as you desire.

Remember when the light goes down You need to take more care about your background exposure to stay in control.

One more thing – If you want to get great starbursts when the sun goes down, try clipping the edge of someone with the sun and use the smallest aperture (biggest number) you can get away with and fill your subject with flash, try setting your camera to underexpose a little using exposure compensation.

example of starburst photography

Example of a starburst photograph


Well, that’ll do for now. Don’t have nightmares.

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