Festival season is fast approaching and with it an opportunity to create some lasting memories with unique, out of the ordinary shots with a little bit of effort.
There’s more to the Festival than the stars. Look around you and go for atmosphere.First, look around and don’t concentrate on one direction. With a bit of practice you’ll see many opportunities to shoot colourful street performers, extravagant limousines, outrageous outfits and a bay full of yachts. There’s more to the Festival than the stars and more to the Grand Prix than the drivers. Cinema posters and GP billboards are part of the scene so integrate them into your shots rather than trying to avoid them.
Crowds are part of the atmosphere too and they can often be used to good effect without detracting from your main subject. Use a crowd as the background or foreground of the Festival building or the racetrack to add realism to your shots.
Even some hotel lobbies are off-limits to the public during the Cannes festival but if you go to the back entrance of say the Majestic or the Carlton just before red carpet call, you can snap close-ups of celebs making their way to their cars. The airport is also a good place but there are so many paps in permanent position at Nice during the major events that you may find Cannes-Mandelieu a better bet. If there’s a limo waiting at the terminal then a star's likely arriving by private jet.
Some photo calls happen in public areas like a beach or in front of a hotel. If you see a milling crowd of paps have a closer look and take a few pictures of your own.
Never be pushy. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in a one-on-one situation with Jenson Button or Anne Hathaway, remain calm and polite. Look them right in the eye, show them your camera and ask, "Do you mind?” Some amateur snappers in Cannes have built up impressive personal archives of cooperative stars this way over the years.
A little night light
At night turn off your flash and try to use available light. Consumer cameras don’t have strong enough flashes to carry very far but night-time venues such as the red carpet in Cannes or the pit lane in Monaco are very well lit by the television stations which provide you with free lighting of the highest photographic quality. In more discrete situations, such as shooting into hotel or restaurant parties from the street, a flash will usually spoil a shot by reflecting off the windows. Pump up the ISO to a point where you can shoot without the flash and try to use no lower than 1/60 second to freeze some movement. High ISO (see your camera’s manual to learn how to set it) comes with a down side – a more pixelated image. But you’re much better off with a pixelated image of Emma Watson or Lewis Hamilton than with motion blur that will make them unrecognisable.
Many consumer range cameras have swivel screens so remember to use yours for more than just viewing your results. Swivel the screen downwards and hold the camera high to shoot over the heads of the crowd. Look for unusual angles too. If you’re in the second row of a crowd, sometimes crouching down and shooting up between the feet of the people in front can produce a striking shot. Follow fast movement by "panning" rather than shooting fixed. Following along with a race car will keep the car sharp while blurring the background.
Professionals know this and you should too. While you are free to photograph almost everywhere in France with some exceptions (military installations, courtrooms, etc) you are not free to do what you wish with every photo you take.
If you happen to get a shot of a publicly known musician, sporting figure or celebrity who is there for his own professional reasons such as a photo call or entering a screening, then you can do almost anything you like with the photo including displaying it in a photo exhibition or selling it to news media. You cannot, though, use it for commercial purposes. These people make their living from their identity and their image is their professional property. It can’t be used to endorse a product without their permission, to present a political opinion without their consent, or for scurrilous reasons of any kind.
While there is some wiggle room for the images of celebrities, there are even stricter conditions concerning the private lives of citizens. In France, a man has the right to bring his mistress to the Monaco Grand Prix without risk of their photo being shown publicly where his wife may see it. France respects personal privacy and while many of us find that a hindrance to our professional lives, it’s also a deference we should appreciate. Crowd scenes are fine but specific shots of a couple canoodling on the Croisette should go no further than your private collection.
It’s a good idea to download a release form (like this one). You’d be surprised how many people will sign it if approached with a smile and a friendly tone. Getting a release from your subject means that you can use the shot in a much wider context than a merely personal one.
Riviera residents have a front row seat to some of the world’s most photographable events. Happy snapping.
Photo Op #2
The main subject of your photo must be a reflection or a subject seen through a reflection: a mirror, glass, water, eyeglasses, metal or anything that reflects.
This issue’s challenge is "reflections", a classic with photo clubs because it teaches you to look beyond the obvious. You can use any camera, including a camera phone. No superimposing with image software like photoshop but you can use software such as GIMP (it's free) to tweak and crop your image in any way you like.