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8 Tips for Photographing a Festival

Marianne Stenger
12th July 2019

It’s officially festival season, and whether you’re a foodie or music lover there’s bound to be an event that matches your interests. For those of us who are passionate about photography, festivals are also an excellent opportunity to get creative and experiment with new techniques. 

So if you have any festivals lined up this summer, here are a few tips to help you prepare and capture stunning images.

1. Pack the essentials

As with travel photography, you’ll want to pack light when photographing festivals so you can move around easily. But with that said, you also need to make sure you have all the essentials, especially if you’re going to be at an event that will last for two days or more.

In addition to your camera and lenses of choice, you should pack extra batteries and memory cards, a camera charger, and a basic camera cleaning kit with lens wipes and a microfibre cleaning cloth. A comfortable camera bag or backpack as well as a waterproof cover for the bag is also a must.  

2. Be prepared

Photographing a festival can get confusing because there’s usually such a wide array of things to see and do. So before the event, spend some time studying the line up and creating your own list of things you want to photograph as well as what time each one is happening. This way you can make sure you’ll be in the right place at the right time.

3. Find a good vantage point

If you’re shooting in the middle of a crowd of people, you may end up with a lot of photos of the back of people’s heads. To avoid this, try to arrive at the stage ahead of time so you can scope things out a bit and find a good vantage point where you can see more of the crowd and will also have a little extra room to move.

4. Capture expressions

Festivals are great for shooting candid portraits, because they attract people of all ages and from very different walks. This can make for some interesting portraits. Festival-goers are usually also quite relaxed and open to being photographed, so if you’re normally too shy to approach strangers on the street, a festival can be a good opportunity to practice your street photography and capture people’s expressions.

5. Try to tell a story

When photographing the festival, try to keep the theme or story that you’re trying to tell in mind rather than snapping images at random. Start by thinking about the emotions you’re trying to convey and what sort of images would work well together.

For instance, if you want to give viewers a sense of what the festival was like, you will probably want photos of the crowd, behind-the-scenes shots, and photos of each key event during the festival. On the other hand, if you’re more interested in showing viewers how the festival-goers experienced the event, you might shoot a series of portraits that show authentic emotions.  

6. Interact with people

Some of the best photos you will take are the ones you get once people are comfortable with your presence and aren’t posing too much for the photo. With this in mind, you’ll get better photos if you try to interact with people a bit before you photograph them, whether this means cracking a few jokes or asking them whether they’re enjoying the event.

People will usually be more than happy to have their photo taken, and will often ask where they will be able to find the photos, which can be a great opportunity to promote your photography.  

7. Get crowd shots

Close-up photos that show people enjoying the event are great, but don’t forget to snap at least a few crowd shots to give viewers a sense of how many people were there. It’s also important to find the right moment to photograph the crowd. For example, if you take a photo of the crowd between performances, you’ll probably capture very different emotions than would if you photographed the same crowd just after an artist has played one of their hit songs.

8. Photograph the little details

Photographing the smaller details at a festival can help you tell a bigger story, so keep an eye out for things that stand out. For example, little things like muddy wellies, sunglasses, ice cold drinks, and fun or colourful costumes can all work together to help paint a picture of what the festival was like.

Once you get home, remember to make backups as soon as possible to prevent your images from inadvertently being lost or deleted. If you’re staying at the festival for more than one day, you’ll want to bring your laptop with you and make backups at the end of each festival day.

Want to put your best summer photos to good use in a personalised photo book or photography portfolio? Explore our photo book features to find the perfect format for your project or visit the bookshop to see some examples of the photo books created by our community.