Tips for Photographing Festivals and Doing It Right


Tips for Photographing Festivals and Doing It Right


Festivals are great opportunities to get out with your camera and capture some beautiful photos.  No matter where you live, or the time of year, there seems to be a celebration or festival nearby.

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The first thing I do before photographing a festival is to do a little research.  The more I know about the festival, the better I can capture its essence.  While I’m researching,  I check out the schedule of events. Knowing the time and location of events helps me decide what parts of the festival I will focus on, and allows me to be in the right place at the right time.

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In December I photographed a Sinterklaas festival near my home.  Sinterklaas is a traditional winter holiday figure celebrated in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, as well as some parts of Germany, French Flanders, Lorraine and Artois.

Every year, about three weeks before his name day on December 6th, Sinterklaas arrives by steamboat from Spain. In the weeks that follow, children put their shoes by the fireplace (or nowadays, by the radiator or front door). If they’ve been good, a gift or seasonal treat is left in their shoe.

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While some festivals allow you to find one vantage point – up high, or street level near the revelers, I was not stationed in one place for Sinterklaas.  Festivities were happening throughout the whole town, so I moved around a lot.

I used one camera that day, with a 55-300mm lens attached.  This lens allowed me to capture some great portrait shots, zoom in to capture more details, or shoot a wider shot to show the surrounding crowds.  Another option is to use two camera bodies, one with a wider angle lens attached, (28-80mm), and one with a zoom lens attached (70-300mm).

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A great plus to photographing in a large crowd, is that no one really pays any attention to you and your camera.  If you’re a person who is usually shy about taking pictures in public, or shy about taking a stranger’s photo, photographing a festival is a great place for you to be!

Don’t be afraid to ask someone for their permission to take their photograph.  People are usually having fun, and more than happy to pose for you.  You can tell the person that you will share the photo with them if they’d like to see it.  You can either get their email address so that you can send them the picture, or if you have a blog or photo website, give them the site’s address so they can see your shot.

I like to take un-posed shots as well since these type of photos can really capture the feel of the festival, and most of my Sinterklaas portraits are un-posed.  With these type of photos I didn’t ask for permission.  Some of my subjects smiled toward me as they saw me approach with my camera, and some, I’m sure, were completely unaware that their photo was being taken.

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Be prepared to shoot a lot of photos.  If you are using a digital camera, be sure to have extra SD cards.  When shooting with film, bring lots of rolls.  If there is a lot of movement, or fast action where you are shooting, I suggest setting your camera to Al Servo, or Continuous Focus, depending upon the type of camera you use.

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Most importantly, remember to have fun! Don’t get so caught up in your camera, or its settings, that you don’t enjoy your surroundings.  Get out there and shoot as many festivals and celebrations as you can. You will be sure to capture some great memories!

Written by guest blogger Judy Salcedo

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