Orlando Sydney is a photographer in Sydney, Australia and trades under the business name of “Orlando Sydney Event Photography.
And here’s what he says:
Sydney is a city of around 6 million people, and I’m based in the City of Sydney itself, which is part of the City CBD. There is a reason I mention this.
My first camera was a Pentax Program A, some 30 years ago. Then for a long while, I didn’t do much with photography. About 10 years ago, I started shooting again, and here I am today, servicing corporate and business clients in the city with mostly corporate events.
Tip: Being based close to where your bookings are is advantageous but not always possible.
If you’re looking to get started in professional photography, find a sub-niche and get good at it.
My experience in music type events ranges from gatherings of 2000 people to major music festivals with over 80 000 patrons. Some gigs are interstate or in the same State but 800kms away. Australia is big, really big and many thousands of kms end to end.
So if you like the idea of photographing music events be prepared to travel.
The photo I selected for this example is not my best photo in this specific genre nor representative of my photography. But as I describe below, it demonstrates how being at the right place at the right time helps in capturing shots you can combine in an album to tell a cohesive story.
Festival photography can/is so much fun. It’s one of the Event subgenres that usually gets overlooked. Opportunities are rare in the Electronic music festivals space as long-running Music Festivals have their core group of photographers already on their list.
So many years ago, I got an invitation to be part of the photography crew at the Rainbow Serpent Festival in the Outback of Victoria in Australia.
The location for the event is about 2-3 hours or so drive from the city of Melbourne into what are mostly rural properties. From Sydney central, it is about a 10-hour drive direct, although we stop a couple of nights along the river and camp our way southwest.
The selected photo (if I recall it correctly) was on the 3rd day of the 5-day festival.
Firstly, to capture photos backstage, you need to be in the photography team. Second, not all photographers in the team have the same level of access to all parts of an event.
So if you’re keen on being an event photographer or a festival photographer, understanding the hierarchy will help you position yourself for the next time there’s a position available at a major event. Generally, the smaller or newer the event, the better chance you have of getting a shoot.
Equipment selection tips
It is tempting for photographers to use medium or long telephoto lenses at these types of outdoor events. I enjoy using the Nikon 300mm PF at these types of shoots. But even more fun is using a wide-angle lens. One of my most used lenses at a festival is the Nikon 20mm.
A wide-angle lens can be used to capture expansive scenes. But also, when you get up close in the mosh pit, feeling the music, breathing the heavy air of outback midsummer of 40 degrees, crunching the dirt between your teeth that the dancers are whipping up, you can capture some really cool shots of the punters, stages, decorations, installations and canopy.
Anyhow, a wide-angle is also very usual as an all-purpose lens for when cruising from stage to stage.
Setting the scene
Using the same lightweight wide-angle lens for portraits, landscape and wide stage photos make it a very versatile lens to use. When venturing backstage, you never know the photo opportunities will present themselves. Many times it is just the backs of DJs or performers facing the crowd.
Other rare times, the main performers notice you are on stage with them. This particular time one turned around for a split second, creating their signature hand symbol (which matches their t-shirts) for a portrait photo with 8000 people dancing in the background.
This photo was quite reactionary to the opportunity, so I used the settings that were already on the camera.
The camera was a Nikon D750 with a 20mm lens. The camera was held up high over my head to capture the crowd in the background and give it a better sense of place. Otherwise, it would just look like a regular portrait.
ISO125, Shutter 1/160s F3.5.
For post-processing, I only needed to turn down the exposure by .2 (or less than a third of a stop) and minor tweaks to taste, white balance, colour and sharpening.
If there was time to make adjustments before the shot, I would have;
- Increased the aperture to F5
- Centred the DJ better
- Better placed the focus point
- And had a speedlight for the foreground
Otherwise happy with the way the photo turned out.
Post-processing was via Capture One and slightly stylised it to give a punchy colorful look as the event had lots of colourful amazing people.
Summary tips and closing
To sum up some advice for beginners in the event photography genre.
If you’re interested in this type of photography, find an event photography niche as there are just too many types of events to specialising in. Get good at one, then expand your skills and experience.
Practice and experiment.
Experimenting is critical to being able at a glance to adjust your settings in less than a second. Practice changing lenses in pitch-black environments or eyes closed. Practice making adjustments on the camera without looking at the dials. Master your equipment, master your technique. Creating art is as much about getting in a state of flow as it is about being ready to be greeted by some lucky and good timing.