My interest in people photography began when I started taking images of the varied Brighton outdoor events and festivals.
After my first event, I uploaded all of my images to Flickr and noticed a marked surge in activity on my account. People were searching for the images and I discovered that if my images were different or unusual they would fly to the top of flickr search for images of the event. There are so many photographers at these events, you need to come up with something that stands out if you want your work to be noticed.
This process continued for years, and soon I acquired a distinct following of people, it was my first successful involvement in the world of social media. The idea that publishing work that people have an active interest in was good for marketing.
I do it because I love it of course, not just as a marketing tool, it’s probably shows that I love it in my work, which helps. I’ve also been doing it for so long now that I’m a lot better at it now than when I started, so I’ll share a few tips and a few images.
If you want to join me and learn in person I am holding two festival photography workshops during the Brighton Fringe Festival. The first one is fully booked but there are a few places left on 16th May, only six max per course.
You may think that festival photography is easy. After all it’s all happening in front of your eyes waiting to be captured. It’s hard, however to identify and isolate an image that will work when there is so much going on around you. Everything will be happening fast, so you’ll need to move around a lot, think and act fast to get the best shots. Also everyone has a camera, the trick is to come up with images that are unique. That are great because they are composed well, framed well, taken at the right moment.
Your first challenge will be the light. This will be constantly changing as you shoot from different angles, shooting into the sun, and then shooting away from the sun. Flash is my solution. I use flash constantly during events, unless there are reflections I am trying to capture as part of the image.
I use the ETTL setting on my speedlight, this ensures a perfect exposure of my subject even if I take a number of shots in quick succession facing in different directions. It fills in the shadows when someone has strong sunlight on their face, and fills the whole face while exposing the sky or environment well when shooting into the sun. (Note this is best for outdoor daylight photography). I use the camera in P mode, using the top dial on the camera to change the aperture or speed. P Mode is like auto but you can still change anything you like using the buttons and dials. This mode will ensure that any flash pictures are taken at shutter speeds fast enough to avoid blurs with ordinary subjects. EOS cameras in P-mode will set shutter speeds with flash between the camera’s fastest x-sync speed, down to 1/60th of a second. So balanced fill-flash is possible even in sunlight.
It’s best to use matrix metering in this case. Spot metering will cause haphazard effects if your camera selects a particularly light or dark area of an image to calculate exposure.
The things I concentrate on are:
Often I’ll isolate my subject by shooting upwards, if you are not surrounded by close tall buildings or trees, it can provide a great simple sky to highlight your subject.
Sometimes I’ll find the right background and move my subject to the background I like. Other times I’ll see a great background and someone approaching and I’ll frame the image and wait for my subject to be in the right position to take the image.
With so much paraphernalia around, it’s often possible to frame your subject with an interesting foreground.
It’s easy to get so caught up with the action that you forget to look around at the public. The best images tell a story. If you can see emotion in the audience it can often make a more interesting image that the performers themselves. Relationships can be created in your images by capturing performers and the public together in unusual situations.
It’s often impossible to get to the front of a crowd to get a clear view. Sometimes I’ll sit and wait at the front before an act begins (sitting will allow the kids at the front to see!). During the festival though, there are performers wandering around, getting ready or advertising their festival shows. This is my favourite time to capture them. It gives you the opportunity to position them if you wish, sometimes, if they are off guard and just being themselves it can lead to more interesting shots too. It’s often easier and more interesting to photograph around the performances rather than the performance itself. You will also give yourself a better chance of coming up with something original.
Watch your focus
I usually use a wide angle lens. This means that most of my image will usually be in focus including my subject. If I have time I will prefocus by pressing the shutter button down halfway while you compose the shot focusing on the subject, then recompose and shoot without taking my finger off the half compressed button. Sometimes it’s impossible because I shoot blind. Sometimes, as I’m shooting in P mode because of the speed with which I need to react, I’ll use the dial on top of my camera to set a narrower aperture (bigger f number), the flash will fill in any extra light I need.
That’s it for now. If you want to join me on one of my festival event photography workshops you can book through Silicon Beach Training or call them on 01273 622272.
There is also more information about the event on their blog.