My best street photography experience is at a public event in India. The event is called Surajkund Crafts Fair. This is a unique international trade fair where you get to see people, artists, performers, and handicraft items from multiple countries and Indian states.
A right understanding of street photography at such a public event will help you build a strong portfolio in a single day. Plus, you’ll get an opportunity to engage with people from diverse background.
Let me share what I’ve learnt from shooting photos at various free to access events in the city.
1. Plan by researching about the event. Time of opening, closing, parking, weather, guests, public, schedule etc… Comprehensive understanding will save your time and put you in the right spot at right time.
2. It’s within you rights to make photos at public events. So, don’t feel shy if people are part of your compositions.
3. People are generally jovial and open at these events — they don’t mind obliging you with their portraits also.
4. Don’t chase people if you find someone unique or attractive for your portfolio. It will look creepy. This rule won’t apply to celebrities and artists in the event. You can chase them. 😁
5. If someone says no to photos, respect their feelings to stay private and let them enjoy their time at the event.
6. Don’t escalate if there are altercations. Creating fuss over your rights vs their priorities will create undesirable scene/ ruckus.
7. Few people may ask you for photos and share their contacts to send photos wherever they get featured. While it’s very difficult to keep track of who all wanted it after you leave the event, I ask them to text me with their selfie at the event so that I recognize them from hundreds of photos I shoot.
8. Seek permission for close or intimate portraits. Few people are ok to be part of the crowd, but a close portrait may sound intimidating.
9. Ask permission in case you want to shoot kids. Same is true for any specially abled person. Basically, you should check with their guardians whether it’s ok to take their pictures if they’re not able to speak-up for own rights.
10. Don’t mix family trip with photography. I got good bashing from my wife when I first tried to mix it. Don’t compromise fun with family for the sake of your photography passion.
11. Don’t distract performers and stage artists with flash or lots of movements.
12. Look for signs where camera is not allowed. Don’t shoot at those locations, else event organizers and administration may penalize you.
13. Take care of your valuables from theft. Stay aware of your environment and prioritize your safety, especially if you’re in a foreign country.
14. Take care of your gears and prevent it from hustle of crowd — a scratch or fall may damage the costly gear and lens.
15. Engage with artists or people from diverse backgrounds. This is my favorite part of any street photography experience. I love engaging with strangers if they’re also willing to open-up.
What public events are best for photography?
Look for local classifieds, Facebook events, or events websites for public events. Just to illustrate, you can visit these events in your locality or the city you’re traveling:
Sports and running events are organized in every city nowadays.
Cultural programs are organized at various stages: local, national, and global. National and global events are better for capturing diversity.
Social cause events may be at a very small scale. But it’s good for editorial photos.
Political events will help you get lots of candid moments and opportunity to shoot a large gathering.
Public protests are also good for editorial photography. You need to stay careful to avoid any clashes or safeguard yourself in case matter gets out of hands of police administration. So long as it’s a peaceful protest, there’s no harm going and photographing the event.
What photos can you take at public events?
Candid photos of people rejoicing at food stalls, mesmerized in some performances, or in mid of some actions… A decisive moment.
You get plenty of opportunity to make portraits of artists and diverse people.
In case it’s an event where you see stalls and diverse objects sold, take pictures to complement the story about the event with the articles sold.
Public events pull good crowd from the city. You’ll not get such a decent gathering elsewhere. So, grab a wide-angle lens to compose event’s crowd.
How does photography at public events help you improve your skills?
Wedding photographers would get a chance to learn candid photography in events.
Event photographers can rehearse skills at less challenging ambience.
Portrait photographers can hone their skills with shooting portraits in natural light.
Street photographers would never miss these events.
In general, these occasions are great opportunity for learning and advancing your photography skills.
Street photography at public events help you build strong portfolio if you approach it tactically.