Updated: Apr 21
If you're a beginning photographer who's about to shoot their first festival, you're in for a ride! Festivals can be some of the most exhilarating and challenging events to shoot. But before you dive in, it's important to brush up on your festival jargon.
Knowing the lingo and unwritten rules will not only help you communicate with festival organizers and other photographers, but it will also ensure that you're prepared for anything that comes your way.
In this blog post, a beginners guide of the essentials you should know before shooting your first festival. And I will share some of my festival photography tips for each situation. But before we start, you might also like to check out...
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1. What is a festival Accreditation?
An official recognition that you are approved by the event to perform a certain activity, and in your case that will be photographing the festival. Accreditations come in forms of wristbands or passes. Some festivals will you will be giving a press accreditation, at some you get a crew accreditation. And if they really think you are important, you will be giving a AAA accreditation. A triple A accreditation stands for Access All Areas.
Beginners tip festival photography accreditation:
Always twist your wrist when they apply the wristband. I do this to prevent hair from getting caught between the sticky part of the wristband.
2. What is a festival (Brand) Activation?
A brand activation is a way for a company to promote their service or product during a festival. They arrange an active experience for the visitors, in order to make their brand top-of-mind for the consumers after the festival. Most brands pay good money to the organization. Some festivals have hired me in the past to fully focus on capturing these activities to keep a healthy relation with the brands that sponsor the event. Sometimes the brands hire their own photographer to specially focus on the activation.
Festival (Brand) activation photography tip:
When shooting brand activations for companies, it's important to always try to include the logo of the company in your photography.
3. What is a festival Portacabin?
It's a portable cabin that functions as a temporary office during the festival. Not every event specially rents a portacabin for their photographers. Most of the time you will share this “media office” with videographers and the marketing team.
Portacabin festival photographer tip:
Keep this area clean! And avoid putting drinks on a table that is full of laptops, camera's and other equipment that doesn't like to get whet.
4. What is a festival Photo PIT?
It's the place between the stage and the crowd. The area that is created by placing the barriers in front of the stage. Each festival has their own set of rules. But a common rule is that photographer are allowed to shoot the first 3 songs of each artist in the photo pit.
Important pit photography tip for beginners:
Watch out for pyro's, SO2 and other special effects in this area! Also watch: 3 tips for shooting SXF at a festival The most enthusiastic visitors are often at the front. Shooting from the photo pit ensures that you have a good view of these visitors, and this makes it easier to capture beautiful emotions. And never use a flash when photographing DJs or artists from the pit.
5. What is a festival Barrier?
Barriers are the metal objects that are placed between the stage and the crowd to create the photo-pit. Some barriers have a safety step so that you can overlook the crowd. Which can prove themselves use-full to try and capture photos like these.
Festival barrier photography tip:
Make sure you time your to step up right. You don't want to constantly blocking the view of the visitors or other photographers. So listen to the music, and anticipate the moment before stepping up the festival barrier.
6. What is the Front of House at a festival?
It's the place where the light and sound technicians set-up. The Front of House is usually straight in front of the stage. From this vantage point, the technicians have an unobstructed view of the show. So this can also be a perfect spot to stand to take awesome stage photos of the festival.
Front of house photography tip:
Always check with t he technical staff if it is ok for you to stand at a specific spot. You don't want to blok their view because they still need to be able to do their job.
7. What are monitors at a festival?
They are the music speakers left and right next to the DJ. DJs need to be able to hear the music from their monitors in order to mix their music properly. So don’t stand between the DJ and their monitors. Read my other blog if you want more tips for DJ photography
On stage festival photography tip:
If you use a monopod and zoom in your lens, than you don't even need to be that close to the DJ to be able to take awesome shots!
8. What is the backstage at a festival?
I guess you already know this one! This is the area that is behind the stage. A place that is not accessible to the general visitors of the festival. You will need a special accreditation to be able to get backstage. If you want to become a festival photographer to be able to "hang out" backstage. Than think again if you want to start this profession for the right reasons.
Backstage photography tip for beginners:
I also try to take photos of people working backstage and send them afterwords. I love creating memories for other people, and the people backstage also deserve a visual moment to remember their experience!
9. What is a stage manager at a festival?
It's the person responsible to make sure the production of the stage runs smoothly. A stage manager is the link between the artists, tour managers, tech, runners, and everyone else who finds themselves backstage.
Stage manager photography tip:
Always introduce yourself to the stage manager. Sometimes they don't allow to many people on stage at the same time. So help them help you, by first asking if you are allowed to go on stage.
10. What is a Change over at a festival?
It's the moment a change has to take place on stage to make sure the next artist can perform. These moments can be hectic (depending on the show). That's why it is important that you don't stand in the way of the people responsable for this job.
Change over photography tip:
When a new artist is about to perform, there is a big chance the previous and the next DJ will have a moment of connection. This can be a nice moment to try and capture.
11. What is a cherry picker at a festival?
It's an aerial work platform. A cherry picker needs to be operated by a licensed professional. So if you want to have a chance of shooting an unique overview of the festival. Than make sure to time it right with a production assistent that has the authority to help you take your festival photography to a higher level
Festival overview photography tip:
I always try to schedule the moment I can go up with a cherry picker around the golden hour.
Looking for more festival photography tips? .... I got everything you need right here!
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🙋♂️ About Michiel Ton
Hi, I'm Michiel Ton. Great to meet you!
I am an international festival and event photographer, with a lot of experience in corporate events and festivals. In addition to being a full-time photographer, I also graduated as a teacher of social studies. I have a passion for creating unforgettable memories through my photography!
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