Photographing Shows and Exhibitions

I’ve always enjoyed photographing shows and exhibitions. It’s not just the wonderful array of interesting things to look at that makes me want to take pictures – I get a buzz from photographing the exhibitors and enthusiasts themselves. If fact they are often the most interesting subjects of all.

It’s not just the poultry exhibits that are worth photographing at a poultry show – what about all those wonderful characters – the visitors and exhibitors. Photograph by Philip Dunn

The list of shows and exhibitions to photograph would seem endless – there’s something to capture the imagination of any photographer. The scale of these shows can range from events at major international exhibition centres to a few trestle tables with cakes and pots of homemade jam in the village hall. All can produce great pictures.

Shows for all interests

There are dog shows, cat shows, guitar shows, knitting shows, agricultural shows, fur and feather shows. We used to have baby shows. They were a wonderful source of amusing pictures if you could stand the row. Sadly, baby shows are frowned upon these days.

If you’ve got an interest in the subject of the show you intend to photograph, you’ve got an immediate advantage. You’ll be able to understand what’s going on and be able to talk to the exhibitors about their exhibits.

I went along to the National Championship Poultry and Egg Show last weekend. This is a huge affair held at a major exhibition hall in the Midlands. What a great time I had. There were pictures everywhere I looked.

First catch your duck

Patience pays off – photographer Joshua Kittle gets his duck. After several breaks for freedom, the duck decides to pose for a picture. Well done Joshua. Photograph by Philip Dunn

I even photographed the show’s official photographer. What a job he had. He must have had the patience of a saint. I watched as he tried to pose a very wild black duck. Time after time this skinny, agile duck made a break for freedom just as the photographer was about to press the shutter. Time after time the obstinate duck was caught and put back under the studio lights. I felt like giving the photographer a round of applause when he eventually succeeded in getting his picture. And I thought my human subjects were difficult.

White Balance and ISO

The best turkey in the show. Photograph by Philip Dunn

One of the challenges you will face when taking pictures inside an exhibition hall is, of course, the lighting. It’s rarely ideal and there’s not usually enough of it. So chances are you’ll have to push that ISO setting right up. All the pictures here were taken using ISO 3600. I shot just jpegs and used Auto White Balance (AWB). My view is that no matter how much you faf around with post processing RAW images, the colour in these situations is never going to be perfect. So I concentrate of the picture content and let the white balance take care of itself with just a bit of adjustment later.

One of the great advantages of photographing shows and exhibitions in the winter is, of course, that you don’t have to worry about the weather. Let it rain outside, but inside the exhibition hall you’ll carry on regardless. And how good to head back home and spend a rainy afternoon sorting out your pictures.

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