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Festival Photography: Camera Packing Hints

Posted by Matt on July 16th, 2008 filed in Digital Photography Hints & Tips, Event Photography, Outdoor Photography

Eddie Argos / Art Brut @ Siren Festival
Eddie Argos (Art Brut) by Matt Hobbs

Previously we talked about how to choose a camera to take to a festival, not always an easy decision. Today we cover how to pack your camera ready for the festival and what extra bits and pieces to take, with a list of preparation steps as well as a handy, last minute checklist of what photo bits you might need (or might not).

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What to do Before You Go to the Festival

The festival’s getting closer! Your excitement is rising!! Oh my god, Hanson are playing!!! Coff. Sorry about that. You should now have a big pile of festival crap ready to go – a tent, wellies, more beer than can fit in your car – but what about your camera gear? Here’s what you should do before you start packing:

  • Check all your kit is working: Clean the sensor, dust the lenses, fire off a few test shots, download and format all your memory cards and anything else you can think of. It’ll be much harder to do once you’re there.
  • Think about what kind of shots you want to take: Pre-visualizing the shots you might take, based on what you like to take photos of and what will be going on, will help you finalize the checklist of what you need to take. Want to capture people doing crazy things at night? You’ll need a flash, or a camera with a high ISO (1600+), or maybe a tripod for long exposures of that cool guy with the fire sticks, or a long lens for when you can’t be bothered to push to the front of the mosh pit to get a close up of Jay-Z. Everyone has different photo goals so make sure you work with yours. Also remember that at a festival people are in a party spirit, so having a cool camera trick to capture people’s attention may help.

  • Buy the extra stuff you need: Don’t rely on being able to buy things you need at the festival, other than AA batteries you may find yourself out of luck – plus even if they do have it then there will be a markup. So stock up on extra memory cards, batteries and whatever else you may need. Maybe this is even the perfect excuse to buy a new camera, so checkout our camera buying guides!
  • Security mark your camera: Before you go, write contact info on your camera with a UV pen as this can help get it returned in the event your camera is stolen. Make sure your memory cards and batteries are also marked, as they may be separated from the camera. Yes, things do get stolen – but then sometimes things come back so make it easy for your stuff to find you.
  • Check the facilities available at festival: You may be in luck and power points may be offered that will let you charge your phone, camera and so on. Don’t rely on this but keep your fingers crossed and take chargers with you as they’re generally pretty light.
  • Make sure you have everything!: We’ve put together a handy checklist of festival photo equipment below for your enjoyment, so use it!
  • Pack: Obvious, but make sure you allow enough time to get everything together rather than throwing it together the night before. This step can be pretty easy if you have your own car to throw stuff into, but when travelling by public transport getting everything in a rugsac can take a while – so allow enough time.

So now you’re all prepped and ready, so onto our final checklist as the festival photo countdown continues…

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Checklist: Festival Camera Packing

Here’s a quick checklist of everything you might need when you take your digital camera to a festival. Not all of these items apply to all people, but we’ve tried to be comprehensive here and in rough descending order of priority. Pick and choose what you need, but remember to travel as light as you can to help enjoyment of the festival – and then you can fit in more marshmallows:

Cooking over Fire
‘Cooking over Fire’ by Matt Hobbs

  • Your camera… d’uh.
  • CHARGED Batteries – either plenty of spare batteries, or lots of AA batteries that fit your camera
  • Multiple, formatted memory cards – make sure they’re labeled with your details
  • Camera bag – keep your stuff safe in one place so you can get it quickly, if it fits in your normal carry-sack even better
  • Camera battery charger – should you be lucky enough to find a plug
  • Hand wound / solar battery charger / emergency battery re-charger – whatever you have or can get that doesn’t require an electric socket
  • Waterproof / weatherproof case – if you have one, could be very handy for capturing really cool images in bad weather, or in the mud…
  • Backup disposal film cameras – or small film camera with extra films and its own batteries.. just in case. Or you could just buy them there
  • Basic cleaning kit – a soft, lint free cloth and maybe a small blower for dust (a must for Burning Man)
  • Any extra lenses – ideally you have one lens that covers close-up and distant shots, but maybe not.
  • Filters – the light conditions change hugely, so a neutral density filter is a must for SLR lenses, but a polarizing filter is a great additional lens for capturing weather conditions
  • Flash – for SLR cameras you may want a separate flash to prevent red-eye, or if that’s too much then build a cheap flash diffuser yourself. If you take a flash, then don’t forget batteries for that too!
  • Portable tripod (maybe a Gorillapod) for long exposure night shots
  • Oh, and everything you need for you… a tent, beer, wellies, beer, suntan lotion, beer, sunglasses, beer, waterproof jacket, beer, dry socks, beer, you know the drill

There’s a lot there, so pick and choose what you need and remember that you’re there to enjoy yourself – not just carry camera kit round! Feel free to let us know in the comments if you have something that you take to festivals that makes your life easier when taking stunning images. Have fun!

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