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Festival Photography: Which Camera to Take?

Posted by Matt on July 15th, 2008 filed in Digital Photography Hints & Tips, Event Photography, Handy Hints, Outdoor Photography

Rise Festival 2008
Photo by Matt Hobbs

Hooray! It’s festival season! Woo! Another excuse to get our cheapo tents out from the cupboard, forget to pack our suntan lotion and wellies, and to see lots of bands we’ve never heard of. Woo! Oh, and also it’s the perfect chance to take lots of stunning photos of people in strange costumes, your friends having a splendid time or abstract shots of the aftermath of litter as everyone ‘forgets’ to clear up after themselves.

There are two types of festival – those where you go and live under canvas in a field for a few days, or those where you can stay at home and walk to the fun fresh, clean and showered. In this article series we focus on the former, but there will be hints that apply to both. We’ll cover which camera to take to a festival, how to pack to be ready to take great festival photos and how to handle your camera at the festival. So read on, and feel free to add your own hints and tips as what’s a festival without happy, smiling crowds?

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What Digital Camera to Take to a Festival?

Your first decision when going to a festival is what camera to take? Here we’re assuming that you’re serious enough about your photography that using your mobile phone’s built in camera, or using cheap, disposable film cameras is not an option. We’re also assuming that your more expensive film camera, with plenty of spare films and batteries, is not an option – although in reality a backup film camera is not a bad idea.

The key points to think about in terms of which digital camera to take are:

  • What batteries does it use? In general most tents don’t come with power supplies, so charging your camera batteries will be tricky. Some festivals now offer ‘chill out’ zones which often come with plugs, but don’t rely on it. Having a digital camera that takes normal AA batteries is a real bonus, as you can normally buy batteries on site. Otherwise consider getting hand wound chargers or a solar charger, or just take a lot of spare batteries.
  • Can you Afford to Lose it? Festivals are full of happy, smiley people dancing around and having a good time listening to their favourite bands. Unfortunately this is a great place to come if you like to steal things from people not wanting to think of anything bad. So, expect the best, but plan for the worst.
  • How much storage do you have? Most of us won’t take our laptops to a festival just to download photos from our full memory cards, unless we’re working for a music magazine or website and have to get the photos up online ASAP. So the best bet is to take a camera for which you have plenty of memory cards. Don’t have that many memory cards? Well now’s a great time to buy some cheap memory cards ready to capture those once in a lifetime images.
  • How big a camera are you happy to carry round? This depends hugely on the festival and what type of photos you like to take. For a hands in the air dance festival, a big SLR will be banging into you a lot unless you leave it on the ground – thus spoiling the enjoyment of the event somewhat. Either way, make sure you have a good zoom if you want pictures of a band from the back of the crowd.
  • How waterproof/weatherproof is your camera? Yes, it may well rain at your festival. Sorry about that. On the plus side pictures of people enjoying themselves in mud are wonderful. So think about how well your camera will deal with all kinds of weather, from torrential downpours, through to dust storms – especially at Burning Man! It’s not good having a camera with you if it has to stay in a safe carrying bag all the time, so consider a weatherproof case.
  • Do you take just stills? Or is video important to you? Higher end cameras tend to only offer still photo capabilities, but sometimes at festivals you really have to video your fave band singing your fave song – so be prepared.

A lot to think about. Unless you only have one digital camera of course – in which case it’s all pretty simple, just buy some more storage to be prepared.

In the next article we’ll be discussing how to prepare and pack your camera to take to the festival. So come by again soon. Happy Festivaling!

3 Responses to “Festival Photography: Which Camera to Take?”

  1. Digital Photography Hints & Tips » Festival Photography: Camera Packing Hints Says:

    […] « Festival Photography: Which Camera to Take? […]

  2. Digital Photography Hints & Tips » Festival Photograhy: Latitude Festival 2008 De-brief Says:

    […] theatre and other more cerebral activities. Following on from last week’s articles on how to choose a camera for a festival, and how to pack your camera for a festival – I did of course take my camera with me, and you can […]

  3. Martin Gray Says:

    […]I think these festival articles are excellent and wondered if you would be kind enough to allow me to add these articles to my festival website – Thanks, Martin[…]

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