Shooting the Venice Carnival

The atmosphere in Venice is very festive during the carnival, with people walking the streets dressed up and throwing confetti all around you, which traditionally is very much part of the festivities.




I arrived in Venice with the weather being less than ideal, which was alright as it gave me the time to just chill and sort out what I wanted to do, pack the gear I was wanting to use. The next 9 days were going to be a little crazy, up at 05:30 to get ready to go down to San Marco Square where many masks come down to be photographed in the morning light, which, could be exceedingly beautiful as the dawn breaks, for the rest of the day its pretty much moving around from location to location looking for Masks as they generally wander the streets normally towards the larger spaces as the narrow streets of Venice are not easy for them to walk in, in their costumes. To make the most of the Masks and their costumes, is to take them away to a location that's away from the crowds where you can photograph them in a little more peace and with better backgrounds, that in itself is not always easy as they will not just go with you  unless they know you or know of you.


It is not just about the photography though, as much as it is a part of meeting new people, other photographers and forging new friendships along the way that make this annual pilgrimage such a rewarding experience, that makes you want to return time and time again. The  colorfulness of the costumes and masks can make for some gorgeous images matched with a good background and you might just have a wonderfully unique portrait. Photgraphing the Masks is not always an easy task as you are up against the cell phone brigade who sometimes in their enthusiasm have no idea that they are jumping in front of you to get their shot or selfie, but these are generally only a problem in the touristy areas where they mostly hang around, so to get them away with you can be as easyily done as just asking them to move to another location, sometimes they are willing and sometimes not.

By going to the carnival regularly it becomes easier, the masks get to know you, they have received their photos you took of them so they know you will send them images, they go to so much trouble and effort to make these costumes that its almost a sin to walk past them and not shoot them, now granted many people take photos and send them to the Masks, but not all the images will be liked by the Masks. Some people who send them images have done no edits to them so have not brought out the best in the image, while others have really made good edits to the images and they will be remembered by the Masks, so when next year comes around they are almost looking for you to shoot with you.

There are many places to go shoot in Venice, the challenge is to find a different background, something a little different but trying to compliment the dress, otherwise it could just look out of place. Shooting in San Marcos square early in the morning certainly never gets old, it does not matter if you shoot there a hundred times, you never know what conditions you will find in the morning, it could be misty, sunny, raining or overcast, personally my two favourite conditions are misty and early morning blue hour, misty being my absolute favourite the conditions are so surreal and moody. The drawback to shooting there is that it can get really crowded with photographers and with models, so it can be hard to find a clean background or the composition you would like. 

Venice is such an exciting city with so much to see and do, enjoying the narrow alleyways finding little shop's that make speciality tiramisu, other shops making chocolates, shops making lamps from glass blown on the island of Murano, clothing shops that sell garments from local designers, all hidden in alleyways around corners, it's a wonder anybody can find shops there as it can be a little challenging especially if its your first time, but then again for most first timers its the one and only time they will come to Venice and they mostly see the sights. Now as a photographer there is basically a picture around every corner, and its not hard to find one.

If you come to Venice specifically to shoot the carnival be prepared for early mornings long days and late nighters if you so choose, the models are all over and walk around, there are some gatherings at certain places through out the time where many of them come together, it can be a little crazy though with many models and possibly even more photographers so that's when a little patience can be handy otherwise you will never get the image you would like.


What equipment should you bring:  The key to that question is try and travel as light as possible or drag along an unpaid assistant.

One or two bodies, a backup is always essential, a 24-70, and a 70-200 at the very least, a wide angle is another good lens to bring. For many of the images you can shoot without a strobe, so if you don't have one or are to afraid to use it don't panic. The only time you would really need it is the balance the morning like and the evening light with flash, shooting with the gorgeous sunrise and a little flash can really give you very pleasing results. Some folks bring constant lights but they can be frowned app-on by other photographers. Comfortable shoes is essential or you will have a dire day. If you are incorporating the carnival into your holiday, you can still shoot the models in the morning enjoy time with the family and shoot again for sunset, this way everybody is happy. 

One  of the most exciting part of Venice for me is the number of really good places to eat dinner, I would stay away from any of the restaurants near any of the touristy areas and the level of food is mediocre at best, do a little research there are truly some fabulous restaurants to dine at.

If you have been thinking about going to Venice, don't put it off, spend at least 4 days there, anything less than that you will not see much of Venice, its will all be a blur of trying to see everything. Hope you have enjoyed this short little blog on shooting the carnival, if your have any questions hit me up here on the blog, instagram or Facebook.