Getting ready for the Platinum Jubilee

By Geoff Harris

With the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations scheduled for Thursday 2 June to Sunday 5 June, there are going to be lots of very photogenic street parties and other events to look forward to.

So it’s a good time to brush up on the kind of photography skills and strategies that can ensure you get some great images of this once in a lifetime event.

Go wide...

Using a wide angle lens, eg 10-18mm, will enable you to capture more of the street parties – there is a lot going on. Try to add a sense of context and location, such as picturesque old buildings or famous city landmarks. Don’t forget to include flags and bunting, which will also greatly capture the sense of occasion.

Mike Benna Unsplash

Zoom in on the details

Chances are that street parties and ‘big lunches’ will have some very tasty-looking food and drink on the tables. Zooming in will enable you to capture these details, while nicely blurring the background.

You can also use a fixed length ‘prime’ lens, eg 50mm or 85mm, which usually enables you to select a wide aperture (eg f/1.8). Again, this is great for blurring out distractions while focussing the viewer’s attention on the food and flags.

Strawberries by Tofros (Pexels)

Capture the action

A street party near you might get quite energetic, so it’s good to be prepared to capture the action. For dancing, aim for a shutter speed of 1/500th to 1/1000th second. You might need to raise the camera’s light sensitivity (ISO) in order to do this, or widen the aperture as needed to let more light in.

Focus on interesting faces

There is also a very high chance that street parties and other celebratory events will feature lots of people with union jacks painted on their faces. Don’t be afraid to go up and ask for a photo; if it’s a friend or neighbour, this should be a lot easier, but even strangers are usually fine if you ask.

Focus carefully on the eyes and watch the background – bins, vans, and trees sprouting of somebody’s head are common pitfalls to avoid. Again, blurring out the background, using a longer zoom lens or a ‘fast’ prime can really help here.

What about kids?

If you know the kids or their parents, you should be fine to photograph them, but err on the side of caution and ask for parental permission. If you don’t know the kids, it can be trickier; being upfront with the parents and offering to send them the photos afterwards can make a massive difference.

Capturing processions

Some huge formal processions are planned for London, but there may be smaller ones in your locality. Try to position yourself so you can capture as much of the procession as possible, using a wider lens, or zoom in and focus on particularly eye-catching or colourful participants.

Or you can go to the other extreme and slow the shutter speed down to create attractive motion blur effects. Just be careful that you don’t overexpose/blow out the images on a bright day, so a variable ND filter that screws onto your lens might be a useful accessory to take along.

Keep shooting into the night

Many of the celebrations will continue into the night, so make sure you are there to capture the fun. Using a lens with a wider aperture (eg f/2.8) will help you make the most of the available light, or you might need to raise the ISO to higher settings.

There is a risk of increased ‘digital’ noise but modern cameras perform a lot better than they used to – and noise is often only very noticeable when you zoom right in on the image.

Fireworks fun

There may be a firework display too. We did a previous guide here, but to recap – set manual exposure so you can enter the aperture and shutter speed settings yourself and know they won't change. Be prepared to experiment, but start with an aperture of around f/11, a slow shutter speed of 1 second and an ISO of 200.

You may need to slow the shutter speed down further, say to 4 seconds, and you want to keep the ISO down to minimise noise. Focus manually, and take along a tripod or some other way of supporting the camera if practical.

Last but not least

Have fun! Don’t get so drawn into taking photos of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations that you forget to take part yourself.

Flags in London picture by Ian Taylor Unsplash

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Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) - the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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