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How to photograph events, parades, and festivals

By June 24, 2016 Photography No Comments

Colourful, full of excitement, and littered with plenty of interesting characters and situations, events, parades, and festivals are superb occasions for shooting street photography.

street photography


Before you head off to the fiesta, be sure to note down its location and have an idea of the timetable of events so you don’t miss a beat. The event organisers and the city council should each contain details on their respective websites concerning information that will help you prepare. It might also be worth trying your local tourist information office or city library, as these places often hold leaflets or literature about local events.

It can’t hurt to have a few ideas of what you’d like to photograph before you get there as well. Research the style and content of images captured at events such as the one you are about to attend to kickstart your imagination. When you arrive at the gathering, find a good spot from which you can watch the event or see the parade filter past. Get there early to ensure no one is blocking your view, or find a position that allows for a better vantage point.

When the activities start, it can be tempting to switch into trigger-happy mode and just shoot everything and anything in sight; so try to take a breather in between shots, dutifully composing each frame with care.


Once you get into the swing of carefully considering your shots, you could switch to burst mode if the action is happening quicker than you can compose and shoot it. For action- packed types of events, a camera with a fast shutter and processor (i.e., capable of shooting more frames per second) will become your best friend. Furthermore, a lens that allows you to focus accurately and quickly will ensure you don’t miss anything. If you do experience a slight shutter lag with your camera, pre-empt the action and re the shutter ahead of time. Use a memory card with a fast write speed, as this will increase the number of shots you can take before it needs to buffer.

To freeze the action completely, use a speed of at least 1/125 second; that should capture people walking crisply, but if the tempo increases, say, as people start dancing, use a minimum speed of 1/250 second. If the movement is faster than that, such as floats traveling past in a parade or people running in a marathon or race, crank it up to 1/500 second. Don’t forget to boost ISO if necessary, and consider aperture when deciding what depth of field is needed to ensure the subject is in focus. In the camera settings, try using Continuous Focus for festival environments or if your camera features Subject Tracking, then it may help keep the person’s face sharp even as they dance or move around.

street photography


Festivals and parades can be the perfect place to take stunning street portraits. You’ll meet all sorts of fantastic characters, and most of those involved with the celebrations not only won’t mind if you take their picture, they’ll probably expect it! You can shoot covertly if the situation calls for it, or if you are a nervous street shooter. If you’d rather have eye contact, move in and ask the subject’s permission as we discussed earlier.

When it comes to photographing portraits, a standard-to-telephoto lens (35–85mm equivalent) is best. Be sure to consider how the light falls on your subject. Move or ask the subject to move or turn slightly so that the rays fall evenly across their face. If it’s impossible to do that, but the light is harsh and is causing unflattering shadows, try a little fill flash. Angle the flash head or use a diffuser to soften the effect as direct flash can bleach skin tones and rob the portrait of details.

Michael Freeman’s Photo School: Street is Michael Freeman’s and Natalie Denton’s guide to street photography. From which kit you might need, to spotting compelling images, via shooting discreetly, and honing your technique, this book will take you from average snap to great great street photo.

Michael Freeman's Photo School: StreetMichael Freeman’s Photo School: Street

Buy it now!
RRP for print edition: £17.99

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