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I’ve looked around a location and felt my heart pounding as I saw how busy it was. How many people milling around. How many potential posing locations already claimed. The mounting pressure and disappointment. Wondering if you’re going to get great photos despite the amount of people around. Will it all be a waste? If you’ve felt this too, don’t worry. I’m here to share how to get great shots in busy areas.
When you start to feel the pressure mounting because there are so many people around, the first thing you need to do is take a breath. Don’t let a freaked out mind make decisions. Before you start tackling the problem of crowds, start looking for good light. You will immediately be able to cross some spots off your list and then you don’t have to worry about the people in those spots. Trying to decide between a few spots with open shade is much easier than the seemingly endless amounts at any location.
My #1 trick to shooting with lots of people around is putting your subject very close to the background. Whether it be a wall, a bush, anything. People are far less likely to try to cross behind your subject (and into your shot) if there isn’t a lot of space for them to pass. It is a simple trick, but it works (almost) every time.
Another thing that helps to mitigate people crossing in front of you is having a fancy camera and calling out instructions. Most people realize that some sort of photoshoot is going on and that they should try to stay out of the way. (Note – this isn’t a guarantee. I’ve had plenty of rude people interrupt a shoot when they could’ve clearly gone a different way.)
If you’ve found open shade, but have lots of people in the background. Try moving either yourself or your subject. Sometimes moving a few feet one way or the other can get those folks out of the background and quickly solve the problem.
Another way to help hide the fact that there are people in the background is to open your aperture and make the background blurry. You may still see the outline of people, but they will be fuzzier and less descript. Thus, they will also be less distracting. (If you are using a camera, aperture is referred to in ‘f stops’. If you are using a phone that doesn’t let you control aperture, just turn on portrait mode. It automatically blurs the background.)
See the photo of Ashley below. You can see the people in the background, but, since they are so blurry, they are much less distracting.
When all else fails, post processing can be an effective (although, potentially time consuming) way to help make the photos look busy. Depending on where people are in the photo, cropping might be an easy way to get them out of there. Don’t be afraid to try cropping – you can always reset if you don’t like the results. You can also try using the Clone or Heal tool to get people out. I am certainly not an expert on this (and this blog post is not a step-by-step tutorial), but those can work. The best candidates for the Clone or Heal tool are people that are pretty far in the background and aren’t overlapping with the subject. If you’ve got someone really close to the foreground and overlapping with your subject, it is going to be much harder.
Crowds are an unfortunate factor that you can’t always plan on. Sure, you can try to avoid popular areas at popular times of the day, but, sooner or later, you are going to end up in a situation where you need to manage a bunch of people. This list are things that can help mitigate a potential crowd and ensure that you feel prepared no matter what type of situation you are walking into.