Photographing the Crowd

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.

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.
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.
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.
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.

mbfitzmahan. 1937. Cartier Bresson. Coronation of King George VI, Trafalgar Square, London.
mbfitzmahan. 1954. Cartier-Bresson. Crowd Watching SOVIET UNION, Moscow Circus, 1954

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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