Photographing the Crowd

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mbfitzmahan. 2012 Nagoya, Japan. Leaving the baseball stadium, Nagoya Stadium

There are different kinds of crowds.  There is the Sunday-go-for-a-walk crowd.  There is the tourists-watching-the-street-performer crowd.  There is the parade-watching crowd.  There is the March for Women crowd.  There is the protest crowd.  There is the riot crowd.

For a street photographer, a crowd is a gift.  No one pays much attention to the photographer and there are plenty of opportunities to get interesting candid pictures of people.

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mbfitzmahan. 2011. Times Square, New York City.

The difficult part about photographing a crowd is it’s crowded, it may be difficult to find an interesting angle, it may difficult to find context for the mass crowd and the interesting individuals.

Saturday, I am going to Oakland to walk in the Women’s March.  I will join many members of my family and friends.  I am supporting my women friends and my daughters.  I am walking with my men.  

I hope to get some great photos of this momentous march.

So how should I prepare for taking photos of the Oakland March?

For comfort & safety

    • Be vigilant.  There will be a lot of people at this event.  I will assume that all will be orderly.  I don’t expect that there will be any pro-Trump people out, causing trouble.  But, it won’t hurt to be cautious.
    • Dress in layers.  It may rain and be a bit chilly, so I will layer well under the vest.  I will wear a jacket with a hood over the vest.  I can tell I better practice what I am going to wear.
    • Carry as little as possible.  Don’t carry a bag.  I have a travel vest that has many pockets, so I will wear that instead of carrying a purse or a bag.
    • Take my ID, a bit of money.
    • Go with others.  I will be with my family and friends.  We will keep an eye out for each other.  I will take my iPhone.  I will also arrange a meeting place and time to meet if we get separated.
    • Take water and snacks.
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mbfitzmahan. 2007. Rome.

For taking photos – I am taking my Fujifilm X-T1 camera and my 35mm f/1.4 lens.

    • Take extra batteries.  I plan to take lots of photos so I would be very disappointed if I ran out of batteries.  The Fujifilm is much easier to carry around than my old DSLR Nikon D7000 and lens. But, it has a limitation – it runs out of battery power much faster than the Nikon.  I will take all three.  The batteries are little, so I can carry them in my pocket.  Note to self: remember to charge all three batteries before I leave the house.
    • Wear my camera on a strap around my neck.  I usually use a wrist strap to carry my camera, but I might get juggled, and I don’t want to drop my camera.
    • Use a large memory card.  I’m not worried about that.  I have a 32 G chip.
    • Shoot in RAW.  I am going to shoot in RAW in color and in jpeg in Black and White.
    • Use a fast lens.  I will use my fixed lens 35mm.  It is light and takes beautiful photos almost every time.  
    • Automatic.  I plan on leaving my camera on automatic.  Except, I will set my ISO to 400 film speed.  That film speed has served me well.  I shouldn’t have to worry about light.  The Women’s March is in the morning and early afternoon.  I will check my photos on a regular basis to be sure that I am getting the right pictures, light and focus.   
    • I will also put the focus on automatic.
    • Take a cleaning cloth for my camera.  Just in case.
    • Avoid walking backwards unless someone is guiding me.
    • Pay attention to the light.
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mbfitzmahan. Rome 2007. Waiting for the Pope.

To get interesting photos of the crowd

    • Plan to focus on individuals and small groups.  I may take a few shots of the masses, to get some context, but I plan to focus more on individuals and small groups.
    • Look for children and older people.  Look for diversity in the crowd. 
    • Look for places to get above the crowd.  Below the crowd.  
    • Look for interesting things happening on the fringes.   Walk on the edge to get photos.  But, move around to see what I can find.
    • Capture emotion.  People probably will be shouting, cheering.  Some may be angry. Or crying.
    • Look for interesting signs that people have brought with them.
    • Take lots of photos.  Stay late to see interesting things at the end, when people get tired.
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mbfitzmahan. 2011. Street Performer, New York City.

HENRI CARTIER–BRESSON (1908–2004), the ultimate leader in street photography, took inspired photographs of the crowd.

Note: All photos by Henri Cartier-Bresson are copyrighted by Henri Cartier Bresson / Magnum Photos

Be sure to check out Eric Kim‘s fine lesson on what Henri Cartier-Bresson can teach us about street photography.  Occasionally, I’ll be referring you to Eric Kim’s lessons.  He generously provides information on photography.

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mbfitzmahan. 1937. Cartier Bresson. Coronation of King George VI, Trafalgar Square, London.
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mbfitzmahan. 1954. Cartier-Bresson. Crowd Watching SOVIET UNION, Moscow Circus, 1954
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9 thoughts on “Photographing the Crowd

  1. Maureen, This is so interesting. Thank you for sharing. Be safe on your adventures and I can’t wait to se what pictures you capture.

    It’s the moments that take your breath away. Tami

    >

    1. Thank you, Tami. Wish me well tomorrow. I hope to take some great photos. It will be tricky. I will be pleased if I get even one great photo.

  2. Yes, I am interested in learning about photography. I will call and maybe we could set up a day. Will not be able to do anything on the 11th. I forgot I had a commitment. How about the 12th. Can you and I talk pictures!!! Maybe go to a camera shop to see about cameras?

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