Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Event Photography - Always plan ahead

I went yesterday to our local Mayday festival. Last year I got some good photos, so I had high hopes of doing so again. As well as the street performers, it's a great place to get photo's for local colour. Also, so unlike many Bank Holidays in the UK, the weather gods this time were kind with no rain forecast.

When I reviewed the photos I took however, I was disappointed with the results. From my initial viewing, none of the photos had any wow factor. While it may be possible to make something of some of them, I had no great enthusiasm for any of them.

So what went wrong?

Well in hindsight, I think my mistake was that I did not plan ahead about what sort of photo's I wanted to take. I went just with a big zoom on the end of the camera and snapped away at anything I though might be interesting. Last year I went primarily with my 50mm Prime lens. Because of the restrictions the lens presented (i.e. no zoom) it forced me to focus on taking photo's of people, rather than the scatter gun approach. As a result my photos benefited from the increased discipline.

I must admit the reason I went with the 18-210 zoom this year was that I felt I missed out on some good shots through the lack of zoom ability. However because I had not planned on the theme the photos I did not concentrate enough.

One set of photo's I had planned to get was of the bird of prey guy. I was hoping to get some good shots of falcons and owls flying. Unfortunately, unlike last year, he did a lot less flying and mostly away from the camera, which is not the best shot for these sort of things. I think for a good raptor shot, you really want it flying toward you with the eyes in shot and focus.

Lesson 2. If it is clear plan A is not going to work, don't be afraid to give up and go to plan B.

These events are generally about the people. Now shots of people in events like these are never likely to get you high scores on websites such as 500px, but they are good to advertise your skills to the local community and open doors. I have noticed that a lot of photographers don't like taking photos of people and I think is generally that we are happier behind the lens, not interacting with people.

I always make the mistake in these situations in believing that I am some sort of candid street photographer. I let myself believe this because of my inherent shyness and therefore avoid the need to talk to strangers. However in these situations, you get far better shots if you ask people to pose for you. This is why going only with a prime lens is such a plus. It is the only photo you can really take.

So the lessons learnt going forward.

1. Have an idea of what sort of photo's you wish to take before you go. Do not go with a scatter gun approach, since you will probably end up with nothing.

2. If conditions are not suitable for plan A, don't be afraid to re-evaluate and switch to plan B. It the photo's are not coming out as you want it is better to do something else

3. These sort of events are about the people. Get used to talking to people and getting them to pose for you. Most will be happy to do so (although expect them to be reticent at first). Zoom street photography is just an excuse for not getting close and personal

One thing that might help my shyness is actually forcing me into situations where I have to interact. One thing I may try and do is take people photos' during the local Heavy Metal download festival as a way of overcoming my phobia.

Anyway here's the best of a insipid bunch...




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