shooting guidance

There are so many ways to shoot Art All Night and all of you are experienced photographers, so I do not want to in any way tell you how to shoot. Do your thing! Use your own style! And, as this is an event that celebrates art, inspiration and creativity, go for it: be creative, be daring.

Having said that, I want to offer a few thoughts for based on my own shooting over the last 5 years, the team’s experience last year, working with media outlets on providing photos for their stories, and reviewing literally thousands of photographs of Art All Night. Consider these thoughts and tuck them away in the back of your mind. If they help you in any positive way, great; otherwise, don’t let them distract you.

EXCEPTION: None of this applies to any documentary shots you have been assigned! These need to be in a documentary, editorial style ready for a press release. But, this is Art All Night so after you get the safe shot, go for some creativity (and if you can get a dignitary to pose like Mona Lisa or The Scream or in the style of Picasso, go for it)!

Festival Shots: 90% of the phone pics I have of seen of Art All Night are of the party/festival atmosphere (hard to resist). And many serious photographers also get sucked into the party shots–they’re fun, they’re exciting, they’re easy. To a large extent, however, these shots ignore that this is an art festival, and portray it as if it were just any other festival. Drunk people having a great time. These can be great, but try to keep the art angle in mind.

NOTE: Last year our photographers took this advice a little to much too heart so that we wound up with too few part/festival shots! Oops. Please get some of these, between concentrating on the art.

Art Shots: Most of the shots of art (especially hanging art) that I have seen are just of the art. As such, they are static and rather boring (I was guilty of this myself the first go-round). More interesting would be people interacting with the art, people being impacted by the art, the art being influenced by the often unusual lighting at AANDC, or the interaction of the artist with the art s/he is creating live. And when you do take photos of just the art, try not to just be  representational. Instead, recompose their art to make your own art (BTW, all the artists I have spoken to love when we do this well).

Joshua Yospyn, @yospyn,, No Kings Collective, @NoKingsDC,

This off-angled, selective focus shot of Joshua Yospin’s polaroids (shot live) became one of the most used images in promoting last  year’s AANDC (and Joshua also shared my photo of his photos with his social media following).

Projections: The projections at AANDC are amazing and relatively easy to shoot. For those reasons, there are 1000’s of shots of projections (probably 75% of all the non-party, non-selfie  pics). So, for your photo to stand out, you’ll have to do something interesting. Perhaps include an interesting profile of a person or persons watching the projection, odd angles, shooting the reflection of the projection off of something else, shooting into the projector (haven’t tried it, might be a total fail)… whatever.

Nuit Blanche DC 2013

The Projection and the Projected, Art All Night : Nuit Blanche 2013, Shaw

Performance Artists: There is so much great performance art happening at Art All Night. The most often photographed are outrageously costumed people and bodies/faces decorated with day-glow paint. (HINT: these folks are performers who LOVE to be viewed. If they are not in the middle of a composed performance piece, they are thrilled to be moved to better lighting and to pose or perform for your lens. They are also great fun to talk with.) There are also some AMAZING but much more subtle performances that very few people capture, either because they would never get it with a phone camera, or because they don’t know how to capture its beauty if it is not immediately outlandish.

Performance art at Art All Night 2014, Shaw Main Streets

Shanna Lim “On Display”, Art All Night : Nuit Blanche 2013, Shaw (shot through a glass display window)

Music and Dance: I’m not going to say much on this one… you all know how to shoot bands and dancing. Note that as this is an art event, standard shots of musicians performing are not likely to be be picked up by anyone but you and the performer (even though they might have been well received in a normal concert event).

Viewers/Spectators/Portraits: Every year I see so many expressions of wonder, awe, amazement, anger, annoyance and confusion. People are impacted by the art and the spectacle. Yet, I rarely see these expressions or this impact in photographs of Art All Night… most are of drunk people have a great time, and lots of too-wide-selfie-smiles or duck faces. We did a little better last year, but I would still like us to try to show more of the very personal, intimate impact that AANDC has on attendees. (NOTE: when people see you with a good camera and that badge hanging from your neck, they WILL pose for you and vie for your attention. Shoot them, don’t shoot them… whatever. Personally, I like to challenge them to do something unusual or artistic for me to snap a pic–everyone is in a great mood and many are drunk, so most people just go for it!)

Kaitlin Walsh's image of viewers discussing a piece at Art Whino, AANDC 2015, H Street

Kaitlin Walsh’s image of viewers discussing a piece at Art Whino, AANDC 2015, H Street

Fun: Art All Night is an amazing fun event. Don’t forget to have some.

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