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How to Photograph St Patrick's Day

How to Photograph St Patrick's Day

How to Photograph St Patrick's Day
After a long, dull winter, things start to get lively again in March and St Patrick's Day is guaranteed to bring out the green on Tuesday March 17. While not everywhere celebrates it with the same gusto as Dublin or Boston, chances are there is something St Paddy's-related going on where you live.

Pubs and bars

How to Photograph St Patrick's Day
The Irish (and wannabe Irish) are known to like the occasional drink, so bars are often great places to soak up the craic – particularly if traditional Irish music is playing.

A lovingly poured pint of Guinness is obviously a very evocative subject, but be a bit discrete about photographing drinkers, as they might worry they will end up on Facebook; alternatively be quite open about what you are doing and pass around some business cards so people can see you are a bona fide photographer.

Buying everyone a drink can help. Pubs may be a bit murky, so be prepared to ramp up the ISO and focus very carefully. Modern SLRs should enable you to shoot up to about ISO 3200 without noise being a permanent problem, but don't expect miracles in low light.

With musicians, try to get close to them without getting in the way and use a fast, wide aperture lens or telephoto lens to blur out the background while keeping them sharp. Focus carefully on the eyes and try to avoid blown out highlights from lights.


How to Photograph St Patrick's Day
If you are in a town or city with a large Irish population, expect some kind of parade. My big tip for shooting parades is to take along a decent telephoto lens, at least 70-200mm, as it enables you to pick out details without lots of distractions (the heads of other spectators, bollards, police cars) getting in the way.

Participants will often be in fancy dress or painted green, so there are some great shots to be had. Use continuous AF (AI Servo on Canon) for parades and again, focus carefully on the eyes.

How to Photograph St Patrick's Day

For drummers and baton twirlers, deliberately setting a slower shutter speed can yield some nice motion-blur effects, which convey more of a sense of speed than if the subject was frozen by a very short exposure.

As any sports photographer will tell you, getting in a good position is important when shooting action, so try and get at least some shots where you are at the front of the parade – kneeling down as a bunch of burly bandsmen march towards you can yield some great results.

Or try and shoot a procession from above, maybe from a balcony or office building.

Small details

How to Photograph St Patrick's Day

Finally don't forget the small details that capture the spirit of the day – people drinking the ubiquitous Guinness, shamrocks, the Irish tricolour, kids in national costume, Leprechauns, cars painted bright green and so on.

When it comes to editing, be prepared to boost the saturation of the green (the Hue, Saturation and Luminance sliders in Lightroom are great) but don't make the colours so garish that it looks like a psychedelic St Paddy's Day!

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