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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are you shy when it comes to photographing strangers?

Then you need to head straight for a place where there are thousands and thousands of people! Namely a festival.

If you feel slightly nauseous at the thought of asking somebody if you can take their photo why on earth would you go somewhere that's all about people photography? Because festival-goers are happy people.

You're not disturbing them while they're trying to work? You're not putting them through an unpleasant experience? You're not doing anything new - they've probably already been photographed 100 times that day! In fact people at festivals are often there to be photographed. They want to have cameras pointed at them. That's why they get all dressed up - to show off.

And they're all happy. Often a bit of amber fluid might be helping the feeling but take it any way you can get it. Happy people looking to show off are the perfect recipe for shy people photographers.

The other day I got together for drinks with some students from my latest course. Mary asked me how I took photos at night. She had tried at a friend's wedding reception but found that using aperture priority gave her too slow a shutter speed to handhold and so the flash went off but everything was blurry. Putting it in idiot mode gave her big black backgrounds because the shutter wasn't open long enough to let the ambient burn in.

So whenever I shoot events at night I put my camera into Manual mode. I set the shutter speed at about 1/15 second or thereabouts, I put the ISO up to 400 and open up the aperture to about f5.6. Then I don't change a thing for the rest of the night. I put a little bit of orange cellophane over the flash to balance the light and bob's your uncle.

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