Hello 2024 to all Amsterdam lovers.
This week, I want to start with 5 valuable tips for photographing in crowded spots. This advice is helpful in most overcrowded locations, but as a vacation photographer based in Amsterdam, let me show you examples from real sessions, including the obstacles we encountered and how we overcame them.
Tip 1: Head out early in the morning to catch popular spots before they are overcrowded
Being an early bird lets you enjoy Amsterdam's iconic spots with ease. It's not just about avoiding the crowds; it's about immersing yourself in a serene Amsterdam, capturing the city's true spirit before the world awakens.
I use the Golden Hour app to set the time for each photo session. It gives me the sunrise and golden hour time for any day of the year. I usually set my sessions 30 minutes after the golden hour has passed. This is because tall buildings are everywhere, so the light will reach the bridges after the golden hour.
Now, it's easy to have this amazing light no matter the time of the year, without needing to wake up before the light is seen through your window. But at the same time, starting very early will have its limitations.
- Trash in the mornings: Amsterdam Center and most loved areas don't have an underground trash system so you will see bags in the streets and trash truck collectors in certain areas. Knowing the collection time and day per area helps, but it is not infallible.
- Weather: we cannot control this, so we must work around it if it is a very dark day. Starting too early on covered days will give us a blue light, which is not flattering for pictures, so we must wait a few minutes until more light is perceived. With more light strength, we can play with colors. This is another reason I prefer to wait until after the golden hour.
Tip 2: Plan shoots during weekdays or off-peak hours for a quieter experience.
Planning your sessions before rush hour is the best option possible. Amsterdam is hectic between 8:30 and 9:30 am and after 4:30 pm. So a morning session at 10 am or an afternoon at 3 pm gives us plenty of time to work with. Having in mind major holidays such as New Year, King's Day, and Pride will help organize the route more effectively, avoiding areas that might have trash or be overcrowded due to specific reasons.
Living in the city also allows us to check the construction sites more regularly, so we can change locations easily if a new construction starts.
Private constructions are not easy to predict, so knowing the city very well helps to change location quickly, taking into account your client's goals.
Tip 3: Trust your photographer
No matter if you see many people walking around your photo location, trust your photographer. I cannot stress this enough. During my photo sessions, we start with a 5-minute instruction time. During these minutes, I explain dynamics in Amsterdam, such as we are not staying too long on the bridges, the importance of allowing people to pass, that security is more important than pictures, and what is the meaning of the hand instructions I will be using throughout the photo session. With this said, clients have only two rules to follow: Never cross a bridge without me, and always follow my hand instructions.
What do we accomplish with this?
Talking less during the session, making the most out of your time in front of the camera. Photographing only when there are gaps between people optimizing the number of successful photos. And the people's favorite is having most of Amsterdam vibes in your picture without having to crop the image, or delete people in post. Your portraits deserve all those pixels. All this is because you want Amsterdam to be featured in your photographs.
Tip 4: Compact Gear Rules
Minimizing gear pays off. With the years, I understand there are three lenses I use the most, but one that made the change, and I can use it only if capturing portraits in the city. This is my 50mm lens.
Even though the lens is most overseen among photographers, it gives you beautiful bokeh, making your subject pop against a dreamy background. It's fantastic for portraits, street photography, and even low-light situations when we have to push ISO during winter mornings. Plus, it's compact, and I can cycle with my camera and lens if we want to change locations and have bikes available.
I carry two more lenses, 28mm, and 85mm, and I use them for specific reasons. If areas are overcrowded, I will be torn to use the 85mm to isolate my clients from the background. But I mostly looking for different angles with the 28mm. Having three prime lenses makes the work fast and accurate every time.
I carry only one camera body, one lens attached to the camera, and two lenses on me. My backpack remains empty in case my clients are carrying stuff we can accommodate inside my backpack. Having less equipment makes me more creative, and act fast to create more pictures for my clients.
5: Patience Pays Off: Be patient; we will have the perfect shot.
Photo sessions are dynamic; what you see is not what I see. You will see people judging the energy, and you might feel self-conscious. I have been in front of cameras in destinations as well. And I know it feels awkward at times.
What helps me is changing location every five minutes. That is what I call a sequence. We will work as a team within 5 minutes in each location until having a variety of moments. During these 5 minutes sequences, there will be slow moments where I will only ask you to wait. But as soon the background is clear of distracting colors, and with a manageable amount of people, I will give you a sign to let the action start. And this is when all the emotions and movements take place. The final picture is never what I ask you to do, and it's how you react to it. This way, it is the real you in photos, with a bit of magic direction from my side, as we have limited time and you want lots of beautiful images.
Trust in the process, and you will have results.
See you in Amsterdam soon.
Joanna, your Amsterdam photographer
Enhance your Amsterdam memories with your photographer. We provide photo sessions for couples and families and full-day Lifestyle routes, combining a guided tour and photography to capture your trip beautifully.