Creative Carnival Photography: Tips and 30 Images

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As a photographer, taking pictures of vibrant events like carnivals is a personal favorite. I get to witness a barrage of colors dancing to different genres of music. This effect also provides for striking shots especially when the light reflects on anything that glitters, be it the dancers’ regalia or an attendee’s pair of sunglasses.

So if you’re looking forward to shoot an upcoming carnival, whether in your town or from somewhere miles away, here are some tips you’ll find useful before and when you’re already there:

1. Prepare

My experience in covering carnivals taught me that this kind of event offers a wealth of amazing angles and picturesque moments, making it unwise for any photographer to miss out on those. So before you rush to the next carnival in town for a photo shoot, get yourself ready.

Create a list of shots you want taken.

Carnivals themselves are a spectacle of colors and lights, so it would be more convenient for you to plan your shots beforehand. Will there be dancers, a procession, parade floats, etc.? Where will they be and where should you position yourself? Of course, you should be aware that once you’re already in the event, there will most likely be scenes that you didn’t initially plan for, so stay on your toes.

Organize the equipment you’ll need to achieve the planned shots.

The type of camera you’re going to bring should be the first on this list, followed by a couple of lenses, a sturdy but handy camera bag, memory cards, and a separate flash (if needed). You might also want to consider bringing a monopod since there will be a lot of motion during the event, but you have to think whether this would hamper your movement from one place to another.

2. Be on the location early.

When I shoot big events, I make it a point to arrive at the location as early as possible. This is because I can choose a good spot where I can take my photos. It also allows me to set up my equipment with enough time to move as needed.

Also, getting there before it gets too crowded lets me adjust my camera settings according to the available lighting and determine whether I should use flash. And by arriving at the location early, I can score nice pre-event photos, which can be as equally stunning as the program itself.

So if attending the carnival requires a considerable amount of travel time from you, schedule your trip in a way that you’ll have enough time to conduct an ocular inspection before it starts. Take note of the best spots where you can move to after you’ve done shooting one part of the event.

3. Go for movements.

A lot of carnivals include a parade of some sort, where participating actors and local residents showcase their talents and vibrant costumes. As such, expect that there will be a lot of movement going on. The thing is, capturing movements are difficult to achieve simply because the subject isn’t steady and it makes for unfocused photos most of the time.

The good news is, this problem has long been overcome, as the haze and blur became a great technique for photos as well. It creates a sense of speed and motion, allowing the photographer to convey those moments of swift action. With this technique, however, what you would want to attain is a sharp photograph where the lights are clear and the colors are manifested.

The trick lies on your shutter’s settings. To accomplish a sharp photo, opt for faster shutter speeds. But if you want to be creative with haze, choose the slower ones in your camera’s range. Don’t hesitate to experiment with the settings of your camera until you get the shots you want.

4. Take portraits.

Carnivals are attended by throngs of people and they are dressed from the most intricate of masks and costumes to the most comfortable of cotton shirts and khakis. While you’ll find a diverse palette of colors and patterns on their clothes alone, there is one thing you can expect people to be wearing at the same time—a smile.

Take advantage of this great view by asking festival goers and event participants to pose for you. Pay attention to all the possible detail you can incorporate in the picture, such as their makeup, their accessories, their facial expressions, and even their sweat. You can also try to stage a good background like the parade itself or an amusement park ride, and simply adjust the depth of field so you can focus on the subject. A telephoto lens of 70-200 mm is good for portrait shots.

5. Shoot the twilight.

The sunset is one of the favorite scenes of many people, so don’t skip shooting the nightfall during a carnival. A festival becomes livelier as the sun gives way to the moon, signaling the carnival creators to turn on the cheery lights. So before the sun finally gets to rest, stand on a spot where you’ll have a good and wide view of the horizon and snap away.

Try to capture the different hues displayed within the sunset’s spectrum, such as red, orange, yellow, blue, and violet. You can also play with the shadows of people and things, as well as the beginnings of turning on the lights. Keep in mind that twilight will only last for a good number of minutes depending on where you are in the world, so time your shots well.

These tips may be pretty basic but I can assure you that once you’ve mastered them, it’s not only carnival shots you’ll be rocking but every possible shoot you can cover.

Here are some samples of creative carnival photos:

Creative Carnival Photography

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Vincent Sevilla

Vincent Sevilla is a professional graphic designer and content manager for Camerahouse.com.au, a company that sells best compact and digital cameras online.

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