Posted By MattDoc

Yeah, it's kind of strange as a photo tip on a photo blog, but there are times when you just need to take your face away from the camera and enjoy what's happening.


I constantly remind myself when I have my camera with me to make sure that I'm not so busy looking for and taking photos that I essentially miss the event and everything else around me. Stop shooting and take a moment to just watch and listen to the stuff going on around you.

Posted By MattDoc

Sure, you may be taking the photos for your own collection and memories, but there are a lot of other people out there who would love to see them. Other people at the show will want to see the photos to see if you saw something they didn't (or to see if you got a photo of them in their costume).

Know who else want to see them? The people who didn't make it to the show. I didn't make it to Star Wars Celebration IV so I loved looking through the photos from the event.

Get them online somewhere so that you can share them. Get them out on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, message boards, etc. We all want to see them.

Also, share your contact info when you take photos of someone, especially people in costume. I'll have my business cards with me to hand out. This way people can easily get in touch with you to make sure they can find your photos after the event.

Posted By MattDoc

When traveling to a convention like Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando, you will definitely want to make sure you have your chargers, memory card readers, laptop, extra hard drives, etc. However, do you really need all of that stuff with you while you are on the show floor?

Carry only what you know you will need and actually use at the show...The camera, the lenses you will actually use, the flash, extra batteries & memory cards, and a lens cleaning cloth/kit. You shouldn't need much more.

Sure, your macro lens and big tripod are really great. But do you need them at this show? This will be a good chance for you to try to get the photos you want withOUT carrying every piece of equipment you own. It will also allow you to leave room in the bag for the goodies you plan on getting at the show!

Posted By MattDoc

Not everyone has a laptop that they can take with them, but if you do, back up your photos to your laptop every night. Not saying you have to wipe the card clean afterwards (unless you are out of space) but you should always back it up. But, make sure you are starting with empty and formatted memory cards. No point in having a card that is half full of photos from Christmas on there when you get to the show.

I'm paranoid about backups, so I also carry a mini hard drive so that I have two backups (one on the laptop and one on the external drive). If you are feeling super-paranoid, and your hotel has good internet service, you can also then upload everything to the online album service of your choice.

I actually try to avoid cleaning off my memory cards until I either get home from the even and have copied the files to my main photo storage drives or I start to run out of space for more photos (whichever comes first). But if I have already backed up the photos from the cards each day, then it's no big deal if I have to clean off a card. Can't do that if the memory card is the only place where the photos exist!

Posted By MattDoc

When you are at San Diego Comic Con or Star Wars Celebration V, there will be a LOT of costumed fans and celebrities around that you may want to photograph.

While they are expecting to have their photos taken, make sure you are friendly and respectful when you do it. Don't monopolize their time or jump in front of others who are taking photos. Also, pick your moments...asking for a photo in the restroom might not be the best time. Basically, use common sense and be respectful.

Also, you should always ask permission to take the photo. Not everyone wants their photo taken all of the time. This is especially true of kids. There will be some children in really cool and cute costumes so you'll be tempted to take their photo. Be sure to ask the parents' permission first.

Posted By MattDoc

Earlier I suggested that you have a good bag to protect your camera. That's fine for when you're not using it. But at at show like San Diego Comic Con or Star Wars Celebration, your camera is going to be out and being used all day and night.

The best way to keep it safe...the strap. Whether it is a wrist strap or neck strap, just use it.

It's their for a reason. You may think you have a good grip on the camera, but it only takes a small bump to send it flying. I've seen it happen too many times and the camera almost never survives.

If you don't like the strap that came with your camera, that's ok. There are plenty of after-market straps you can purchase that may be much more comfortable.

Posted By MattDoc

This may seem like an obvious one but there will definitely be people who don't get to take the photos they want because either their only battery died or their only memory card was full. You don't want to have to even think about or worry about whether you'll have enough power or memory each day.

Memory cards are relatively inexpensive these days. Find a good deal and pick up a couple of extras. If you fill one, then you can just easily swap it out for an empty one.  Also, while we never want it to happen, memory cards can sometimes fail  or (gasp!) get lost. If all of your photos from the event are on one card...well, you get the idea.

Batteries, especially proprietary ones, can sometimes be expensive. It's still a good idea to try to have a backup one though. A site that I have bought a few from in the past is They are "knock-off" batteries, but they work very well. If you're camera takes AA or AAA batteries, you then have no excuse for running out of power. Keep extras in your bag and you'll be all set.

Lastly, don't forget the charger! An extra battery or two won't matter if you can't charge them up in your room each night.

Posted By MattDoc

Most point & shoot flashes aren't effective past 10-15 feet. External units for DSLRs get a little more reach, but not much. This means that if you are not close to your subject, don't use your flash.

Ever see all of those flashes going off in the crowds at the Olympics or the Super Bowl? Yeah, those people have an awesome photo of the backs of the heads of the people in front of them, that's all.

Also, don't forget that your flash will eat up your batteries very quickly. The less you use it, the less you'll have to worry about your batteries dying before the end of the day.

Here's a quick rundown of where you should be ok to use your flash (if the rules allow) and where you should avoid it:

Flash ON:

  • Around the con of you or your friends (ex. Photos taken with celebs or people in costume
  • Art and collectibles on display (if allowed, check those signs first). But watch for reflections if something is behind glass
  • After-con parties! They're going to be dark so the flash will be a must.

Flash OFF:

  • George Lucas Main Event - Haven't heard for sure, but you can bet that they won't want a thousand flashes going off in there the whole time.
  • Opening Ceremonies - It'll be a big room with a lot of people. The flash won't do squat.
  • Just about any room where there are speakers on a stage. Unless you are in the first row or two, your flash won't make it to the stage.
  • Any session or exhibit where flash is not allowed.

Posted By MattDoc

If you are anything like me, you want to try to document everything you see at an event like this. However, there are some times when you simply are not allowed to take photos or video.

There are often specific events or exhibits where the organizers are asking for no flash photos, no video, or no photos entirely.

Respect those rules! The organizers didn't make that rule just to be mean. They did it for a reason. Do not try to be the sneaky one and take a few shots anyway (especially if forget to turn off your flash). It's disrespectful and rude. Plus, if you are caught, you could be asked to leave.

One event at Star Wars Celebration that I expect to see these types of restrictions is the George Lucas "Main Event". When he came to Celebration III in 2005 they had "No Video" rules. I'd be shocked if they don't have that rule again this time.

Posted By MattDoc
There will be literally thousands of people at shows like San Diego Comic Con and Star Wars Celebration V this summer. That means you could be getting bumped a bit. The last thing you want is your camera or photo gear getting broken because it was just laying in your bag.LowePro Backpack

Whether it is a point & shoot or a full DSLR kit, keep it safe and protected. Some sort of padded bag or case will work. I plan to use something like the one pictured here for my stuff. It can hold my photo gear as well as other basic items that are good to have at a show like this. I like this because it doesn't really scream "I have expensive camera equipment" when you look at it (except to other photographers who recognize the bag).

You'll want something that is comfortable to wear or carry all day and has enough padding to protect your camera if it gets bumped or dropped.

Broken cameras don't take very good photos!



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All images © Matt Dougherty unless otherwise noted.