How to Photograph Events Pt IV - Photographing People
Lead Image: Singers in the dining area © Laki Anagnostis | Courtesy of Australian Wooden Boat Festival
This is the final part in a series of four tutorials, looking at event photography and in particular the Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2015. The tutorials are primarily for the benefit of the volunteer photographers at the festival, however if others gain some inspiration or knowledge from these articles, please feel free to share your comments at the end of the tutorial.
Many images used are by previous volunteer photographers and are courtesy of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. My thanks to all for their permission to use their images.
- Part I Read it here
- Part II Read it here
- Part III Read it here
- Part IV This is the final tutorial in the series and will look at working with people. In particular how to approach strangers to get shots you want. We will look at the types of shots you might consider to enhance these images. Working with people also brings up the concerns of Model Releases, so we will look at this briefly as well.
© Robert Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography Travel and Events Photography and Editorial
Working with People
Working with people is for many the most intimidating aspect of photography. Approaching a total stranger to ask if they would mind having their picture taken or the fear of being caught capturing a candid moment of intense emotion, or the guilt that follows witnessing it and taking pictures instead of doing something more productive. They are real emotions and need to be recognised and addressed.
However, for the purposes of events, most of the emotions are likely to be happy or at worst somebody making a fool of themselves to cheer others. This is a great starting point for anyone taking their first steps at photographing people.
Planning, planning, planning
Before we go too far ahead, let's look at how events can be broken down to make capturing images, both manageable and easy. Firstly as we have been highlighting throughout these tutorials is planning.
Walk the area ahead of the event. See what the light does, morning noon and evening. Look at the different venues and ascertain what they can add to your shots. Look at where performers will be, look at stall and exhibition plans and how people are likely to move through the areas. What vantage points can you find to capture your shot ideas? Knowing answers to these sorts of questions enables practice runs to see what works and what doesn't.
Our aim is to capture images that tell stories about the event. What, Where, How, can these venues add to our stories?
Planning your shots, to capture stories
Beyond looking at venues, lighting, traffic movements (people), as the backdrop, we also need to consider what the shot will look like. Long, Medium, Close-up, Portrait, Landscape, Photo-essay. What do you want the shot to say or illustrate? Can you find a way to make two elements make symbiotic magic? (1+1 equalling 3). Picture the end product in your mind and capture the elements you need to make it happen. This does not need to be an elaborate plan, but the more thought you give an idea the better the final image is likely to be. Breakaway from standard portraits and find environments that embellish the story of the subject(s).
Before you get involved with the public, you know the outcome of any meeting is to achieve a photograph. So how can you prepare your camera? Prior to speaking to your chosen subject(s), think about the shot or shots you might like to get.
Then set your camera up, so you are instantly ready to capture those shots. In short, set up your, white balance, ISO, exposure, shutter speed, aperture, auto-focus (if you are using it) and know roughly where you are going to take your shot(s), where the light is coming from, focal points, metering method. With these preparations in place you are ready to approach your subject(s).
If they say yes but give you little time, you are ready to position your conscripts, point and shoot. Knowing that your settings are all correctly set, takes all the guess work out and enables you to concentrate on them and your shot. It also vastly reduces the stress levels, encountered when you fumble around trying to get settings right, whilst your subjects stand there waiting.
Approaching strangers for photographs
Now you have your plan and your is camera ready, let's look at working with people. People attend events because they want to. They want to see and learn. They want to experience something different. They are ready to communicate. With this in mind, perhaps the best tip I can give at this stage, is to forget you have a camera in your hand (its all set up so don't fuss with it).
Watch, Ask, Listen, Learn, Share
Watch what people around you are looking at and share their interest. Simply go and talk to them. Share aspects of the events you have found or know are coming up. Highlight something that has caught your attention and share it with them. In fact share anything. Have questions. Learn about them. Get a conversation going and you will be surprised how easy it is to then ask that question.... would you mind if I took your picture? Very often they will pose for you, or better still, a subject from your conversation with them, will inspire an idea that makes the image more personal, taking it to another level.
Give shy people something to do
In complimenting them this way, they will almost certainly help you get the shot. For shy subjects give them something to do, hold an umbrella, look at a boat, read a map or a sign, anything to take their minds off being photographed ...look for the ideas.
In short be your charming self, respect your subjects, let them know what is happening and the magic will happen.
Capturing people's stories
Events host a myriad of opportunities to capture great images. Sometimes, however, they don't always tell the whole story in one go. Activities are such an example. Performers, exhibitions, boat races etc.
These are perfect photo essay opportunities. Capturing a series of images that put together, tell the story of that event. Be prepared to keep the camera ready, right to the end. The reactions of success, relief, pride etc often don't show until it is all over.
Images: In the lumber yard a young boy tried his hand at the traditional handsaw. With gentle assistance from the the exhibition team he began to get the idea and worked his way through the trunk. But it is the moment when he realises his success that is priceless. A shot that could easily have got away.
© Doug Thost |www.dougthostphotography/zenfolio.com
Working with entertainers
Entertainers, can generally be considered as professionals. Though they may only be working for the coins you see in their hats, guitar cases or other collecting arrangement, they are used to the public eye. They perform for the public. As a photographer you can ask them to perform for you. You will find many will automatically adopt poses for you, making life much easier. Be prepared to ask them to pose where you want them eg: over by a tree, away from the crowds, free from distractions, up a staircase, on a boat. Let your creativity lead the way. Choose your moments to ask. Generally after a show is best, when they have had a chance for a drink and the crowds have dispersed.
Note: There may be a trade, eg: a chance to use an image or two in their portfolio. Be aware of what you are allowed to trade, or what you are prepared to trade.
Entertainers will always give you more than you expect. They love to perform. In contrast to capturing images of shy members of the public, you may find it hard to keep up with their poses. Don't be shy about asking them to repeat something. It is often read as feedback for them of what works. They can use it again in their shows.
Images L-R: © Laki Anagnostis, Tim Ikin, Julie Bunyard, Courtesy of Australian Wooden Boat Festival
Opportunities for Candid photography surround us everyday. For the purposes of this tutorial, I will only ask that you be respectful. How would you like to be the subject of ridicule or a slanderous attack?
There are occasions when capturing raw emotion is necessary and relevant. I doubt such an occasion will manifest itself at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival.
It is quite possible the image you capture is one they will enjoy. Be prepared to show them. Sharing the image can be a compliment and a way to get information you may need later. If the image is to be used commercially, then the person(s) will need to be approached and Model Releases obtained (to be discussed shortly).
Whilst photographing the public at events is considered fair game; the same is not so of minors. If you capture an image of a minor, that you think is a keeper, it is well worth your while to find the parent(s) or guardian(s) with that child or children.
You should not have anything to hide if the image is respectful, so be prepared to show the adults, as you will need their consent in writing to be able to use the image(s).
This should not be a subject for confrontation, quite the opposite. Be happy to share, involve the adults, celebrate their kids and the permission will be a lot more readily given. You may also be invited to take others. You can offer to take a family shot to say thanks. (How many family photos have one person missing? The one taking the pictures!) It goes a long way.
It is all common sense really, but it is amazing how many forget the common courtesies.
The same rules apply if you find a child/children that you think will make a good picture/story. Ask the question, explain what you are doing. Don't hide anything. Be prepared to walk away, if the answer is no.
As discussed in "Photographing Minors", capturing images of the general public at events or in public places is considered fair game. Groups, where people involved, are largely indistinguishable, should not need Model Releases.
What is a Model Release?
It is a legal document that is drafted to show the Photographer's name and contact details and a section to fill in the subject's details (name and contact information). Beyond this it outlines what permissions or consent the subject is granting to the photographer as to how the image may be used. Like all consent forms it is not totally binding as personal rights are highly protected. Infringements of decency and human rights plus others can over rule any consent given.
When should you use Model Releases?
When you have small groups or individuals who can be instantly recognised, it is safe to assume a Model Release will be required, if the image is to be used in any commercial capacity.
You should also be prepared to be challenged when you capture candid images of people. Some may not like it, even if you think it is completely innocent. There are always sides to the story you don't know. In these instances be prepared to delete the images from your camera. Explaining what you are doing and why, may prevent this. Again, be prepared to show your shot(s). Trying to hide your images will only make a bad situation worse. Disclosure is a great way to diffuse the situation. Don't be offended and don't get mad.
Within the festival, you will find that most people are more than happy to cooperate and often ask where they can get copies. So don't be deterred. Look for your images, talk to the people, learn their stories and have fun. Model Releases will become a minor inconvenience in no time.
Having a prepared speech will help you the first few times.
Hi, I'm ...., I'm photographing on behalf of ..... and was hoping you might permit a few photographs. I noticed you playing/looking/meeting .... it is the sort of picture we have been asked to take. It would be great if you could help us out."
and the conversation begins .... where have you come from? have you been here before? what do the kids like the most? (the chances are you will know more about the event than they do, offer suggestions) and you are off and running :)
To enable ....., to use these images, to promote future events could I ask you for some details and permission to use these pictures?
If you have been honest and the conversation has gone well, ie: you have gained their trust, this is normally readily given. Be prepared for further questions. Be honest. If you don't know an answer make a note of the question(s) and offer to get back to them. You at least get a name and number/email this way. Ensure they get the answers, from you or someone else in the organisation.
If you use business cards and are happy to give them out, do so. It can help gain the trust you seek.
Where do you find Model Releases?
Type "Model Release for Photographers" in any search engine. Look for a simple one page document that captures subject name(s), contact details and signature and permits the image to be used across multimedia. It will also need to have your own/organisation contact details. You may need to develop your own template but these will provide a solid starting point.
Carry a good supply in your camera bag at all times and you will never be caught short.
In the four tutorials we have aimed to cover the major aspects you would expect to encounter in Event Photography. If you need to read the tutorials again they are available via BALLANTYNE Blog Look in Blog Categories > Tutorials.
In this module we have looked at the planning required to successfully set you up to capture your images of the public enjoying the event and their stories.
Starting with the overview of the location, vantage points and light movement. We then looked at camera set up, prior to meeting your subjects. This enables you to meet your subjects and concentrate on them. Developing a bond that achieves your goal - to take their photograph.
We also looked at the different groups of people you may expect to find and how you might expect to have to manage each group.
Finally we looked at Candid, photography, Photographing Minors and Model Releases.
In short a lot of ground. As always we welcome any questions and comments. Above all we hope it helps you achieve your photographic goals.
Now it's over to you. Time to play again Good Luck
Still feel like you are heading for a disaster?
Fear not, help is at hand,
If you have a question, post it in the comments section below and we will see what we can do to help.
© Robert Oates | BALLANTYNE Photography Travel and Events Photography and Editorials