Sometimes when I’m doing candid event photography, I find the crowd is particularly sensitive to my presence, and its members tend to turn away or get a stoney expression on their faces whenever I get near.
Of course I’m trying to get photos of people smiling and actively interacting with each other! So, this leeriness and reticence can be a real problem. So what do you do?
At this particular event, I got out my small micro 4/3 digital camera with a manual focus 55mm lens (110mm equivalent on a micro 4/3 sensor) and started furtively taking photos from 15-25 feet away from each subject.
It was a crowd of 400 people or so and they were pretty spread out under and near a large banquet tent. There was a lot of room to cover compared to a cramped indoor venue.
110mm turned out to give me a close to ideal focal distance. Of course, it also helps to sort of hide in shadows and to shoot from outside the tent to inside (the sides were open) and vice versa. The 110mm lens simply made being “hidden” much easier to do.
Now, I was also carrying around a relatively large Canon 5D Mark III with a wide angle zoom lens. I had to get in pretty close to use this due to the wide angle…and since people were relatively spread out, it was easy to see me coming and turn away!
It’s good to have a relatively wide angle lens and a professional flash on your camera for when groups of people walk up to you and ask, “can you take a picture of us?”. (I’ve been caught with a 70-200mm zoom on my camera and had to tell them to wait while I changed lenses; I dislike being and looking unprepared for those situations.)
It *is* possible to still get candids with such a setup, however. The key is to keep the camera down and not telegraph where you’re looking. Then when you’re within range of the target, bam!..quickly bring the camera up and snap off a shot.
The key with both cameras & lenses is *being sneaky*…and the actual equipment that will allow you to be “sneaky” will vary with the crowd, the venue, the stage of the event (e.g., have they drunk enough alcohol yet so they don’t even care about the photographer’s presence), and other factors.
If you encounter a camera-shy crowd, instead of getting frustrated, take it as an interesting challenge that you can have fun with…:-).
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