Music festivals are not only fun, they're great places to capture images of bands performing. Plus, you'll also be able to capture quite a few cracking candids of fellow festival goers enjoying the music, rides, food and probably an alcoholic beverage or two! For those heading to a music festival this year, here's a few photography tips for you to have a think about before you start setting your tent up.
Photo by Gary Wolstenholme
Keep your things safe
You need to know where your camera and bag is at all times. If you don't want to carry your kit and other valuables all of the time, invest in a locker. Many festivals are now offering secure lock-up facilities, for a small fee of course. Even if you do have to pay they are handy things to have, particularly if it rains as you can stick all of your electrical equipment in them.
When you're squashed in a crowd of people who are trying to get closer to the stage trying to pull a camera out of your bag is really hard work so it's best to have it in your hands ready before the crush begins. Don't be tempted to put it on a camera strap either as even though it will stop it falling onto the floor, if it gets tugged while on your neck you can injure yourself. If you want to make sure you're not going to lose it put a smaller strap on it and place it over your wrist.
Have a plan
They'll be plenty of information online about who's playing what stage but it's worth buying a programme when you arrive and keeping it with you so you know who's playing when. That way you can circle the bands you'd like to photograph/watch or use is to make your own timetable, showing where and when each band will play. If you don't want to spend money you'll find the line-up posted around the camping areas of the festival which you can snap a photo of or make notes from.
Get to the stage well before the band is on
If you're heading for the main stage there's usually quite a big gap between the crowd and the stage so arriving early to get a spot at the front is advised. If you don't unless you have a very long lens, the bands will look a little bit small and you'll have trouble filling the frame when you're shooting individual shots of the band members (as demonstrated in the shot below). You can get closer at the smaller stages but if it's a particularly popular group you're heading to shoot, you'll still need to be there within plenty of time otherwise you'll have rows and rows of heads in front of you. If you intend to stay by the main stage, which is usually out in the open, make sure you take plenty of water with you, as dehydration can be a big problem on hot summer days. It's also a real pain to get back to the front once you leave!
Try to avoid standing where speakers will clip the side of your shots and avoid framing up with cables, monitors and other stage clutter in the background, if you can. Sometimes all you have to do is wait for the artist you're photographing to move to a different spot on the stage to get the clutter-free shot you're after.
Compose your shots
As you won't be able to move very far, the ways you can compose your shots will be limited and you'll just have to rely on the band getting into poses/positions you think are worth photographing. Capturing the guitarist in a mid-air jump or the lead singer leaning over for the crowd are shots everyone's seen a million times before but that's not to say you shouldn't capture them. If you struggle to get the shots you want, head for a band you don't want to photograph but don't mind listening and just watch them on stage. You'll soon be able to pre-empt what they're going to do next so when you do lift your camera up, you'll be ready to take the shot.
When the sun goes down
As the light fades, getting decent shots of the stage becomes more of a challenge. You really need to be in the few front rows as the sun sets if you want to capture shots where you can see who's on stage. As most compacts try and use flash when it gets dark make sure you turn it off. If you don't turn your flash off you'll probably end up with a shot that shows a few rows of heads and nothing behind them. Your camera will have also picked the settings it thinks are suitable for when you're using flash so a short shutter speeds, small aperture and a low ISO will have further reduced the amount of light in your shot. You can increase the ISO manually but just keep an eye out for noise as some compact cameras struggle with this when you start to use higher ISO settings. If there's a particularly interesting light show happening on stage and you're some distance away try switching to Firework mode to capture it.
Photo by Gary Wolstenholme
Try and stand still
It can be hard to do when you're in a crowd but by doing so you'll reduce the amount of shake in your shot, particularly when the sun's set and your camera's having to use longer shutter speeds when any movement can be easily picked up in your final photograph. If you have a barrier in front of you use it for support or lean on a wall that's behind you. If you're in the middle of the crowd just hug your arms as close to your side as possible and try and keep your hands still.
Remember the crowd
Try turning around and photographing the mass of people around you. It's not as easy if you're stood low down but get up higher on a slight hill/banking and it's easy to capture a sweeping shot of the festivities. Some compacts have panorama modes which can be handy when you're trying to take wider shots such as this. Do snap a few candids as you walk around as you're guaranteed to find plenty of interesting characters in the three or four days you're there. Plus, there will be plenty of stalls and tents for you to capture shots of as well.
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