Riverside’s Family Village Festival 2011

The dramatic 10 am sunlight placed the stage into shade and that allowed me to isolate the wonderful face of a Japanese dancer against a backdrop of parasols.

Our sun which makes colors bright also creates situations that make it not less than ideal for photography.

Most events happen at midday when the sun is brightest.

Since pros work when the clients say so, they have to overcome these problems.

When shooting in bright sunlight, at midday, there can be such a thing as too much depth-of-field. Â Using a neutral density filter and panning may be the only way to 'clean up your backgrounds'. 1/20 sec f20 ISO 100 with a 80mm lens.


Big groups on a stage are difficult. You have to move around to key in on individual musicians or have a long lens.

Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to contact the organizers to get the line-up  for the various performances if there is a stage.

Even if you have the whole day to cover an event, having a program before hand always helps.

From the list you can decide your coverage based on lighting conditions, potential for good visuals and engagement of the audience.

Of the 3 criteria, really the only one you have any say about is choosing when to shoot.

When there's so much depth-of-field in bright sun, intentionally blurring by panning is a good option.1/20 sec f22 ISO 100. Ballet Folklorico de Riverside dancers entertain Saturday's crowd.

Since you can’t possibly light an entire stage and overpower the sun at midday, you know when to avoid the sun at its harshest.

Performing artists feed off of the crowd’s energy so if you’re looking for crowd reactions, it’s always a hit-and-miss.

If you want to capture audience responses, you have to hope the act is engaging.

Remember that unless you’re shooting video, your audience is counting on you to pick out only visuals.

Try to photograph a variety of acts to keep your enthusiasm level up.

Chances are if you’ve seen a certain act before, you won’t be as enthusiastic, so you might not work as hard.

On the other hand, if it’s a great act and you’ve seen them lots of times, you will be able to anticipate better and know where to be for the best angles and moments.

Best advice I can give you is this: don’t try to wing it like I did for this festival.

Fortunately for me, the photo gods smiled upon me and presented me with some wonderful costumes, colors and just the right light.

This year’s festival kicked off at 10 am.

Once the sun is directly overhead, it gets harder and harder to work.

Canopies and tents that vendors set up shade the occupants from the sun, but if you shoot standing and pointing your camera normally, the brightly lit exterior becomes a terrible background.

So now you, the photographer, are left with these choices:

  • Use fill-flash in High Shutter Speed mode assuming your Speedlight has that capability
  • Shoot down or up on your subject to exclude the bright exterior outside the tent. Mouse over the image above to see what I mean.
  • Try to overpower the sun (next to impossible with one Speedlight)

If you’d like to support my efforts in showcasing local events in our area purchase a print from this year’s Family Village Festival gallery.

Family Village Festival 2011

A collection of images from this year's family village festival–a production of Riverside Museum Associates

Peter Phun Photography

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