The Venice Carnival – How to Capture the Essence of an Event – Digital Photography School

A Post By: Kav Dadfar

There’s no doubt that one of the best times to visit a place is during a festival or event. From the Rio Carnival to the full moon parties in South East Asia, places come alive during these periods, and that means great opportunities for photographs.

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One of the oldest and biggest events is the annual Venice Carnival (February 15th to March 4th this year) which transforms this already beautiful city, into a vibrant and colorful extravaganza. Thousands of people congregate in St. Mark’s Square to admire the extravagant costumes, wonderful music and historic architecture. This makes the Venice Carnival a fantastic time to practice your photography. But as always, a shot list can be invaluable to ensure you come back with a comprehensive coverage, and capture the essence of an event.

Here are some of the things you should ensure are on your shot list for the Venice Carnival:

The People

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Getting close to your model is a great way to capture the details and eliminate people walking into your shot.

The first thing you’ll notice are the beautiful costumes and masks which are so seductive. But before you rush in and start clicking away:

  • Take your time and don’t feel like you have to run around and photograph every single person.
  • Think about the whole composition. Would the image be better with the model on one side rather than the middle? Is the background distracting?
  • Consider the light and if it is too harsh move your model to the shade, or if possible come back later in the day when the light is softer.
  • Don’t be afraid to direct your model. Do you want them to put their hand up to their face? Do you want them to move? Even if they don’t speak your language hand gestures usually do the job.
  • Look for natural framing opportunities where you can use columns and even shadows to frame your model 
  • Get close if you want to avoid other people in your photo
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The shadow from the arch acts as a natural frame for the image and lead the eyes to the models.

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This woman was standing on the right. But a little bit of hand direction and she moved to the left to balance the image.

The Music

The Venice Carnival is more than just costumes, in and around St. Mark’s Square. There are also lots of celebrations around the whole city. So head to some of the backstreets and look out for where impromptu music and dancing is happening. It’s a great way to show a different side of the Carnival and will ensure you capture photos that most other people will miss.

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Wonder the backstreets and you might come across an entirely different side to the Carnival.

The Food

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These wraps were photographed through the shop window

The local food is one of the essential elements that need to be documented when on a trip and Venice offers ample opportunities to photograph food. Whether it’s in a small fish bar in a quiet part of town, or the busy Rialto Market, you should ensure that you allow enough time in your shot list to cover these images.

  • Avoid using a flash but instead raise your ISO accordingly when photographing indoors
  • Get close and use a polarizing filter to reduce reflections when photographing through the front window of a store
  • Fill the frame with close-up shots of groceries. They look great and are a wonderful way to capture food
  • Try to capture moments at the market when there is interaction between the vendor and customer that can help tell a story
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Try to capture the moments that can tell a story

The Architecture

There is no shortage of historic churches and buildings to photograph in Venice and unfortunately most of these have already been photographed a million times over the years. But the great thing about photographing these during the carnival is that you can capture unique images by combining the architecture with models. So keep a look out for people in costume near these sorts of buildings that you can photograph. The bold colors of the costumes in contrast to the plain colors of the buildings can create very striking images.

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This woman’s costume helps to act as a point of interest against the plain colours of the background.

Be original

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A slightly different take on photographing the people helps this image feel different.

I was recently speaking to the Picture Editor of one of the image libraries I frequently work with and he said that every year after the Venice Carnival he is inundated with thousands of images of Venice from prospective photographers. He turns most of them down because he has seen those types of images before. So to stand out from the crowd, look to create something different.

Sometimes unique pictures just present themselves and so you need to be ready to take the shot. But the majority of the time you need to work for it. This will require research, preparation and some pre-visualization (where you have the composition in your head and you try to find a scene with the elements in place to create it). If you have an idea of the sort of thing that you want to capture, you’ll be more likely to see it when it happens.

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I knew I wanted to capture a shot like this before I even got to Venice

Have I missed anything? Let us know below. Or upload your images from the Venice Carnival or any other festival in your area.

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