A buddy of mine is big in the sneaker collector world, so I decided to join him for New York SneakerCon, dubbed the “Greatest Sneaker Show on Earth” by the organizers. If it’s not, I wouldn’t want to be in the crowd at that a larger event. After waiting in a line stretching seven blocks, I got inside the Javits Center North and peered out over thousands of teen boys and young men trading and buying their favorite sneakers. As a photographer new to this type of event, I had to quickly size up the venue and decide how to shoot it. Here are my steps for tackling a large event.
Tech: All of the photos below were shot with a Fuji X-E2 with a single lens, the XF35 F1.4, which is equivalent to a 50mm on a 35mm DSLR. Having the XF18 F2 (a 27mm equivalent) would have also been useful, but I wanted to shoot quickly and take advantage of the XF35’s fast 1.4 aperture.
Tip #1: Survey the Scene
The first thing I did when I got inside the Javits Center was to take a lap around the whole building. This allowed me to figure out where the best photos might happen. Pushing and shoving through crowded aisles of sneaker fans carrying duffles full of shoes was no easy task, but I eventually reached the back of the hall. Here, past the regional and national vendors, in a chaotic mass, teen entrepreneurs were buying and selling pairs of shoes. It was clear that shooting here would be difficult but fruitful.
Tip #2: Find the Representative Photo
I think you always want to find a single shot that sums up an event. In my mind, it was the image of a teenager holding up sneakers so they can be seen across the crowd. Whenever I had a good angle on this phenomenon, I would snap a few frames. I generally tried to stay lower than the subject and attempted to frame the action with other attendees to get the sense of a crowded room.
Tip #3: Shoot Details
I hate seeing photographers at events doing nothing. If you’re not seeing the decisive moment, shoot details. In the vintage sneaker market, shoes are often shrink-wrapped to keep them like-new and safe from greasy fingerprints.
Tip #4: Think Outside the Event
Don’t pack up your gear inside the event before you leave. Keep a camera ready before you arrive and after you leave. Often, photos around an event can add context to your storytelling. Here, two boys leave with several pairs of treasure.
Tip #5: Have Fun
If you're an amateur photographer and not having fun, what's the point? If you can get fake bills to frame a kid's face in a money booth, even better!
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