What can be unusual POVs/angles for capturing the speaker and/or the crowds?

The speakers are on a high (2 feet) platform.
The fence (see through) is around 12 feet away from the dais.
The people are around 10000 in front of the platform only.
Time is around 10:00 AM.
The photographer can't climb a tree/ladder/wall
The photographer is in the middle of the crowd
The photographer cannot go on/near the dais


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    I gave some advice below, but I think this is hard to answer because there's not really a direct question — it's more casting around for tips. It works better if you can ask pointed, specific things. (Even the enumerated questions are wide open or situational.) – mattdm Aug 27 '11 at 14:52
  • I know that @mattdm, it'll be helpful for me if you could give me some examples as of to the point questions in this context. – Aquarius_Girl Aug 27 '11 at 15:03
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    Related: How do you protect yourself at protests? photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2823/… – ahockley Aug 27 '11 at 20:42
  • Take a step ladder. get to a high point. – Graeme Hutchison Jan 5 '12 at 9:44
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    If you flag the question for moderator attention, then you should be able to at least get them to close it for you. – forsvarir Jan 6 '12 at 11:53

I can think of two basic approaches:

  1. identifying a scene isolated, maybe for a single moment, from the rest of the crowd: think of the "riot kissers" from Vancouver
  2. giving a sense of completeness, all the crowd seen together, all the heads closely packed, with a lot of details and a lot of action going on.

From these basic approaches could come the choices to be made (a wide angle will be needed to give a picture of the whole crowd, a tele zoom will help to isolate a single face, gesture, pose, interesting moment). More than the rule of thirds I would care about balancing the crowd in the context of the square/place of reunion: you don't want to fill your frame with the sky losing details of all the people around you.

And, but this goes without saying, it is very important to avoid to get in danger!

ps: if you can't climb a tree, which is not necessarily easy while having the photo gear with oneself, you could always go upstairs, if there are buildings open to the public, no?

  • You're welcome! Let us know how it went, do you have any photo online which you would like to share? – Francesco Sep 8 '11 at 8:00
  • I missed the opportunity long back. I changed my plans of going to that gathering since I camera I have is too "noisy", doesn't include all the minute details of the scene. Raising the aperture beyond F5 causes diffraction. So I thought it is not worth the effort. Canon PowerShot SX210 IS doesn't support raw. and did you see the edit in the question? I'd like to know about it (for future case) – Aquarius_Girl Sep 8 '11 at 8:08
  • Too bad, it will be next time. For the edit maybe it is better if you ask another question ? Something like "Tips for composition when at the back of a large crowd .."? In my opinion it can be acceptable if you can find a reason for the photo, like if you can show (or give a hint to) what is capturing the attention of all those heads. – Francesco Sep 8 '11 at 19:36
  1. That'll depend on the actual layout of the venue. Somewhere you can get as clear a view of the podium and the crowd as possible. If it's going to be packed tight (10k people in how small a space?), maybe stale out a likely spot early. Otherwise, plan to move around to get multiple viewpoints.
  2. I'm not sure what you're asking, here. Presumably, "anything interesting".
  3. Don't be overly concerned about the rule of thirds. It's not really a rule. The main point is that statically-balanced compositions are boring and, well, static.
  4. Shutter speed? Fast enough to prevent camera shake blur. It sounds like you have a superzoom compact camera; it's likely the auto modes will just do the right thing.
  • +1 for the rule of thirds which is not a rule and not suitable for each and every photo... – Francesco Aug 27 '11 at 16:51
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    Francesco: Careful now, @Anisha really likes her Rule of Thirds! ;-) – Jay Lance Photography Aug 27 '11 at 19:11
  • @Jay Common, I did apologize previously for being ignorant in that photo competition thread, didn't I? ;) – Aquarius_Girl Aug 28 '11 at 2:10
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    @Anisha: Sure you did, but that doesn't mean you're not going to get teased about it. ;-) – Jay Lance Photography Aug 28 '11 at 5:11
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    @Jay I appreciate that since I myself have a dry sense of humor ;) :D – Aquarius_Girl Aug 28 '11 at 5:39

Whilst you’ve attempted to lay out some of the context in the question, I think there are a few reasons why it is hard to give a complete answer.

The context is incomplete:

  • What is the relevance of the fence, does it stop the non-speakers from getting near the stage, how high is it, it solid or does it allow light through?
  • It is 10 AM, what does that mean for light in the location of the protest, are the crowd gathered such that the sun will be behind the dais, behind the crowd, to the side?
  • What are the limitations on crowd position, are they all in front of the dais, are some behind it?
  • Is the area open prior to the protest, so that you can find a location, or do you have to move into it with the masses?

But for me, the biggest missing piece of context is what is it you are actually trying to achieve from the photographs? What is it you want to show? Is it the emotion on the faces of the speakers, the feeling in the crowd, a mass of bodies, tension on the faces of any authorities present, or something else? All of these will influence the best place to stand and where to focus your attention.

Taking your last question first, ‘Is it acceptable to get pictures of the back of heads?’, Yes absolutely and No it’s not. It’s very subjective and entirely a personal decision depending on what you’re trying to convey. Holding the camera above your head to take a photo of the dais, showing the tops of thousands of heads between you and the dais may be the photo you are after, or it might be very disappointing depending on your perspective.

As to your other questions:

(1) It depends on what you’re trying to capture and the environment...

  • If there are buildings behind the dais, you could shoot pictures looking down on the crowd, as if from the dais to emphasize the power of the speakers over the crowd.
  • If you are close to the front of the dais, taking pictures from as low as possible, up at the dais may give the impression of the speakers towering over you.
  • If you can gain sufficient height to get the POV at eye level (shooting from far back, or from a building, or camera held above your head, or on somebody’s shoulders, or camera mounted on a tripod held above your head and activated with a remote shutter release or some combination) with the speakers you may be able to give the impression of being on a par with them...
  • Shooting from behind at least some of the crowd may allow you to demonstrate how the speaker has captured their attention.

(2) Personally, I’d try to keep the subject of the photo in focus (be it the speaker, an individual within the crowd, the front of the crowd etc)... Beyond that it seems like an artistic decision as to whether or not your want other elements of the picture focussed or blurred. Are you attempting to express individualism within the crowd, or a homogenous mass?

(3) I generally don’t follow the rule of thirds...

(4) Again, this seems somewhat artistic... If you’re shooting long distance and you want sharp pictures, you’re going to need a fast enough shutter speed (obviously available light and its location may impact the viability of this). If you’re looking to convey being jostled in the crowd, then you may be happy to have some motion blur as part of your photos...

My suggestion would be to think about what it is you’re trying to achieve with the pictures, read the “how to protect yourself” question linked to by @ahockley in his comment and then if you need more help, ask more targeted questions that help you on the way. So you may end up with something like:

  • How can I isolate a single face in within a crowd when I have little ability to move?
  • How can I convey a feeling of ‘being insignificant / power / XXXX’ when shooting a speech from within a crowd?
  • ...
  • This though "helpful" isn't an "answer" for the current question. :) :) Let me ask an question on meta and then you post this there. – Aquarius_Girl Jan 4 '12 at 15:14
  • I think that meta would be a more appropriate place for this comment as this is not really an answer. – dpollitt Jan 4 '12 at 15:16
  • @dpollitt: Whilst I may have posted it as a comment if it wasn't so big... I decided that since I did address at least one part of the question (is it ok to take pictures of the backs of peoples heads) I'd go ahead and post it as an answer, all be it incomplete... Posting on meta would have involved me posting a question like 'How could this question be improved' and 'self answering it', then linking to that from this question... not something I've seen done before, so I was hesitant to do. – forsvarir Jan 4 '12 at 15:30
  • :) meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1825/… Post your answer here. – Aquarius_Girl Jan 4 '12 at 16:26
  • @Anisha Kaul: This answer does't currently answer your meta question. I'll look to update/post tomorrow when I have a keyboard. – forsvarir Jan 4 '12 at 17:23

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