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Photography 101: Photographing in an Overcrowded Location

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama

Your couple/family/wedding party decides they want to be photographed in one of the most overcrowded and busy locations in the city. How do you answer? Well, believe it or not, you can do it without it looking like you’re fighting crowds or other photographers. However, it will take some planning with your subjects.
This was the dilemma I had a few weeks ago with a great couple in Victoria, B.C. Downtown Victoria is a hub of activity in the spring and summer as it is a resort town and the centerpiece is the parliament building. This is where everyone congregates for pictures.. tourists, photographers, residents.. everyone. So here is how we handled it and came out with gorgeous photos.
1. Time of Day
Pick the time of day with the least amount of activitiy. This typically means early mornings or later afternoons. These are also typically the best times of the day to photograph as well, so you are already a step ahead. For this shoot, we chose later afternoon around 5pm. The crowd had thinned quite a bit, there were still quite a few people milling around. So we actually chose a place that wasn’t as frequented as much and on the side. Still taking in all the beautiful architectural elements of the building.
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Here is an example of using a tree to block out all the crowds on the parliament steps.
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2. Look Up, Look Down, Look for the Unusual
I found a great little spot for the couple. It’s actually part of a ramp that leads down to the water. What I cropped out was the ¬†busy feet passing us just overhead. No one knew we were there and the couple loved this quaint, quiet spot in the middle of town.
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3. Zero In
Isolate them from a crowd. I used a 105 mm lens to isolate the couple from the crowd. You’ll see the behind the scenes look of the crowded walk way, and then my shot zeroing in on the couple. I had to get a different angle so I could control the isolation better. If I were on the same level, I would not have been able to block out all of the people.
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4. Vignette
This is one of my favorite tips. Use architecture/nature to vignette your couple. In this instance, it was so busy and so much ugly stuff, like garbage cans I knew I would have to photoshop out, that I simply nestled myself into a spot and blocked out all of the busy elements with this beautiful red tree. I looked ridiculous lodging myself among the trees, but the end result was beautiful.
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Same goes for architecture. I used the gate to knock out a lot of closed/warning signs.
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All these images are worthy of being an art photo book. Had I tried to photoshop out the people, the traffic or the signage, I would have spent hours in photoshop. Shooting in crowded locations is challenging but well worth the effort. We hope some of these tips will encourage you to get creative and photograph in those overcrowded locations. If you have samples you would like to share – feel free to post them in the comments. We would love to see them.