We are deep into the SXSW Film, Music & Interactive Festival here in Austin, TX. It takes over pretty much all of Austin. Definitely all of downtown. It is called a festival, but the festivities and music are pretty much everywhere you go. Music gigs are set up in empty parking lots, furniture stores, book stores, bars..pretty much anywhere you can fit a band and a couple people in there will be some type of musician playing. Along with that is the film festival which brings in celebrities like Johnny Depp, Nicholas Cage, Robert Duval, Kristen Bell and a ton of other A-listers. If you come to Austin for SXSW and hang out downtown long enough there is a high chance you will see a celeb...but celebs aren't the only photo opportunity during SXSW. Yes, it can be exhilarating to get that selfie with Kristen Bell, but the city comes alive with character, charisma, and traffic during this week long festival. It is really a street and music photographer's dream and some locals traffic nightmare.
Here are just a few ideas for photo ops if you are ever in town for Austin's SXSW:
One of the best things to do during South By is people watching. The influx of people of character floods Austin. This photo op does poke a little fun at the Hipster trends, but it can make for some excellent photos. Simply download a Hipster Bingo Card online. There are plenty of free ones to download or just create your own. For example you might photograph a guy with a handlebar mustache, someone drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon, any guy in skinny jeans (that should probably be the free square), anyone wearing an interesting hat (especially if it is Pharrell Williams). When you have a bingo, celebrate by screaming BINGO! at the top of your lungs...don't worry, this is Austin, no one will think twice about it.
Don't just focus all your photography on the musicians. There are a ton of great photo ops in the crowd. If a crowd is giving off energy it can come through in the photos.
This time do focus all your photography on the musicians. Especially if they have interesting stage lighting. Use that to your advantage. There are a ton of small shows at all hours of the day during SXSW. Many of them are free. Pop in and see if you think it would make for interesting photos...and it doesn't hurt that you like the music that is playing.
Set up in a certain spot with a nice background and lighting (available or your own) and simply ask folks who are coming by if you can take their portrait. It helps if you have a business card or some place to send them to where you might post the images. You might be able to knock out some of your Bingo card when you do this. A few notes. If you do this during the day when musicians are loading in you may have a good shot getting them to pose for portraits...plus you might make new friends and get invited to some shows for free. If you do this at night make sure you have adequate lighting and you have someone with you for safety. Austin isn't a dangerous town, but whenever you mix nightlife with alcohol some bad things can happen.
Austin has a pretty amazing food truck scene and that is never more apparent than during festivals. So if you love food, interesting people and photographer then this is your chance. Usually, people and food isn't a good mix, but this is an exception. Not only is the food and the people great to photograph, so are the trucks themselves. Many of them being hand painted with a ton of great detail.
Whatever you photograph, don't forget to get the details to round out your South By experience. Whether it is the sign out front of a show, or the shoes you wore walking all over downtown or Nick Cage's belt buckle (not sure why I put that in there)...details are important in storytelling photography.