Anyone gripped by the prospect of getting a ticket in the Glastonbury resales on April 24th or April 27th (http://www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk/news/ticket-resale-dates-confirmed) may be particularly interested in picking up a tip or two in this, our introduction to festival photography.
Festivals really have something for all when it comes to memories that deserve to be captured; there’s all the fun of the fair plus your favourite bands, colourful crowds and an abundance of atmosphere. To make sure you fix and capture the mix, arm yourself with your digital camera and arrive prepared.
Think of obstacles at festivals and your mind might wander towards the crowd but the truth is you may have a few hurdles to overcome before you even arrive. Some festival organisers can be a bit tetchy about festival goers taking professional quality cameras, so you’ll need to check in advance what will and won’t get passed the gate without a press pass. If you do intend to take photographs for publication, get in touch in advance to work through the relevant admin.
Of course, there are other reasons to capture magical music moments, your favourite band playing your favourite song would look great printed on canvas in your record listening corner. Or, if you’re the competitive type, you might want to consider entering the annual NME and Nikon music photography competition, which usually has a festival category.
Always make sure you take spare sets of batteries and an extra memory card and kit to keep your camera safe. Give yourself options for bad weather and take a look at our post on capturing the rain here for tips on how to make the most of rain before the mud arrives. Finally, even though it can make great subject matter, the crowd can present problems, not least preventing you from getting from A to B, so make sure you know the schedule and give yourself plenty of time to get into position.
You’re at the mercy of the crowds a little when it comes to getting a good shot of whoever is playing, but try not to be tempted to resort to the mega-zoom; the more you zoom in, the more your shot is likely to suffer from shake. Try and shoot fast and experiment and review as you go on LCD screen if you can. Take advantage of any rapid movement on stage and capture energy using the flash-blur technique. Firstly, select a slow shutter speed then if you can, use second-curtain sync. This should cause any movement to be captured through the blur sharply, just as the flash is fired. Use a direct flash or bounce off a reflective surface.
If you’re simply armed with a snap and shoot, there are times you’ll find it to your advantage – automatic settings will stop you missing moments altogether. Plus, you can still give the old flash-blur a go by selecting the night-scene mode on your camera.
The crowd tells as much of a story as the stage at a festival, so take the opportunity to take fantastic portraits. You should find lots of relaxed faces but don’t forget to ask to take a shot of someone close up, even if it’s just by way of a smile, you’ll often find the resulting snap is even better. For a frame-filler, a telephoto lens is your friend. Alternatively, place your subject in context with a wide shot.
There’s so much photograph fodder at festivals, from the food through to light displays. Take some time to soak up your surroundings as well as the performers and you’ll be able to pick out some of your favourite moments to tell the story of your festival on your own custom canvas print, just tell us which snap came first and we’ll do the rest.