Standing out in the crowd - or how to take meaningful photos among lots of people

'Tis the summer (here in the northern hemisphere). 'Tis the season for festivals and fairs and fetes. 'Tis the season when people might want to capture crowd scenes with their cameras. Shooting crowd scenes is easy, yes? There's so much going on that all you have to do is raise your camera, point it in the right direction, and shoot to produce an interesting photo, yes? Ehm... no. Anyone who's ever tried to take a compelling crowd scene photo will appreciate that it's far harder to get it right than it is to get it wrong. Frequently, crowd photos emerge as amorphous collections of strangers with no clear narrative or obvious focal point. Anyone whose attention doesn't wander irretrievably will be left asking 'So it's a photo of what?' But mostly the eye will scan over an ordinary crowd scene shot, fail to find anything of interest and be drawn into the story, and move on to the next shiny thing. Your audience is gone.

It's a crowd. And a large one. But where is it going? What is it doing?

What makes crowd photos so difficult? The very fact that there is so much going on in these scenes is usually their undoing. Every photo must tell a story. (Along with 'Get closer!' and 'Just because it's on the Intergoogles, it doesn't mean it's free to use!' it forms the third edge of the Photocritic mantra triumvirate.) Rather than expecting your audience to determine what the story might be among the tens, maybe even hundreds, of people, you have to set about deciding on what the story is and composing an image that conveys that.

When you're thrust amongst a crowd, or are perhaps looking down upon one, ask yourself: 'What am I trying to relate here? What's the story?'

Sunday. Corner of Brick Lane and Hanbury Street. It's always crowded. Look for the lull, the change, the aberration. The guy leaning, and watching, and waiting.

Perhaps it's the sheer number of people? Maybe it's the focus of thousands of individuals on one figure on a stage? Is it a solitary red shirt in a sea of blue? Sometimes it's a case of waiting patiently for that moment: a sting of eye contact, a dropped doll, a wearied pause. Define the story and you're halfway to creating a compelling image.

Finchingfield, July 2014, waiting for the Tour de France. The village was heaving and when people are sitting a-top fingerposts, you know it's crowded.

Now, ask yourself: 'What can I do to convey this?' How you compose and expose your photo will ensure that your audience can grasp what you're trying to say and will help them to connect with it.

Tamil protestors, London, February 2009. The crush behind the barrier, the emptiness before the barrier, and the 'Stop' sign.

When you're trying to express numbers, find a point of juxtaposition to emphasise them: look for something small or noticeable that stands out and contrasts against the heaving mass. When a horde is focused on one thing, use lines to direct the viewers' eyes and channel them into the moment. For an aberration in the flow of things, try to isolate the rogue figure and plant it amongst the norm.

Rather than point and shoot, hoping that you'll produce an image that people will find interesting, draw on your compositional skills—the rule of thirds, leading lines, colour theory, pattern and repetition—together with your technical knowledge—focal length, aperture, shutter speed, and metering—to tell a story. Then you'll capture the crowd.

Kickstarter: Photographer looks at what happened to the Olympic Mascots

I can't lie - I'm pretty partial to Kickstarter (and that's not just because I'm a prolific backer on there, nor because I've done a campaign myself)... So when our old friend Joe Giacomet reached out and told Photocritic about his project Cash for Gold, I was hooked... Struggling a bit there, Wenlock?!

Cash for Gold is a satirical look at the London 2012 Olympic Legacy and sees London Olympics mascot Wenlock a year on from the end of the Olympics.

Poor Wenlock is now an alcoholic, depressed and disheveled inside a cash for gold shop cashing in his 3 gold medals.

The image is being crowd-funded through Kickstarter -- quite possibly the first Kickstarter campaign I've seen that's targeted at funding just a single image - but what an image it is!

Check out the video below, and then bounce along to the Kickstarter page for Cash for Gold, for the rest of the deets.

Fujifilm's F800EXR, trying to win back the smartphone crowd with wi-fi

With all the focus on Fujifilm's gloriously stylish range of premium cameras, it's easy to forget that they've a range of competent compacts, too. Yesterday, they added one more to the line-up, ready to convince the social media savvy cool kids that they really do want a compact in addition to their smartphones.

This is the F800EXR, successor to the F770EXR. This makes it a little bit more than your average point-and-shoot that's a mania of megapixels and frenzy of filters packaged in garish pink. It's Fujifilm's flagship compact camera, with full manual control and Raw capability. 

It comes with a 16 megapixel back side illuminated EXR-CMOS sensor (the EXR sensor is Fujifilm's proprietary technology that enables the sensor to switch between three modes–high sensitivity/low noise, dynamic range, and high resolution–depending on conditions, for optimal results), 20× optical zoom, and when you deploy the intelligent digital zoom function, you can bump that up to 40×. In auto mode, it can select between 103 patterns to get the best results for an image.

The press release is very cleverly worded to make it seem as if the F800EXR has a faster start-up, shot-to-shot, and auto-focusing speed than its predecessor. However, looking back at the F770EXR's spec, they remain at 1.5 seconds, 0.8 seconds, and a minumum of 0.16 seonds (at the shortest focal distance), respectively. 

But the focus is on making it connected and trendy, so what's the deal? First, you can transfer photos to a tablet or smartphone that has Fuji's Photo Receiver app installed. Up to 30 photos can beam their way from camera to device in one go, wirelessly, and password free.

Second, with the Fuji Camera app, you can send your camera's location back to itself, via your tablet or smartphone. And via that, your camera can also act as your tour guide for wherever you happen to be. Somehow, that seems needlessly complicated to me, with far too much backwardsing and forwardsing between devices. And really, why not just use your iPhone or your iPad to locate your nearest landmarks and points of interest? There's even an app to pinpoint the closest public convenience, and your camera can't do that.

Like any good camera, it has its filters, so that you can flip between pop colour, high-key, toy camera, miniature, dynamic tone, and partial colour, at the touch of a button. And of course you can make full HD video (1920x1080 pixels).

You can create 360º panoramas and there's a multiple exposure mode, too.

When it comes out (I've heard rumours of August in the US, September in Europe, and prices around $350 or £280), it'll be available in black, red, or white.

The question is, is all of this enough to convince those who are deserting compacts and heading off towards the bright horizon of the smartphone? I don't think so. If you want convenience and immediate Facebookableness, you'll still use your smartphone. If you want a gamut of impossible filters, then you'll stick with your smartphone, too.

If you want a compact camera because of the benefits of having a compact, the wifi gimmicks probably won't make much difference. I've a compact for situations when my dSLR is inappropriate or inconvenient, but I still want the control it affords. I'm hardly going to edit my Raw images on an iPhone, am I? And transfering them wirelessly sounds murderous. My parents use a compact camera because they don't have a smartphone, which makes the F800's connectivity a joke for them. We'll buy compact cameras because of their performance, not because of their corresponding iPhone apps.

I remain convinced that there's a place for compact cameras in the market; I think that camera manufacturers need to work out where it is and concentrate on that.

Our photo competition winner takes flight!

Almost Like a Lightbulb, by Giuseppe Maria Galasso

The theme for February was 'flight'. We had some amazing entries, and some of them were very original takes on the theme, so as always, picking a victor was a complete pleasure. But our winner really stood out from the crowd with its gorgeous colours and capture of a moment, so many congratulations are due to Giuseppe Maria Galasso for his Almost Like a Lightbulb.

He's won himself a 12" Fracture.

The theme for March will be going up soon, so keep an eye out for that one. And don't forget that you can keep up to date with our competitions - and other photographic news - if you follow @SmallAperture on Twitter, too!

No more standing still to self-record with Swivl!

Ever wished that your camera could follow you around when you're making a video of yourself, without having to resort to bribing your loved ones or paying off your friends in their own weight in beer? Then you should check out Swivl.

It's an IndieGoGo-funded automated camera mount that will move to record you whilst you prance around your kitchen or boogie in the living room.

There's a base and there's a marker. You attach your camera to the base and the marker to you. Whilst you perform your all-singing, all-dancing recording activity, the base will swivel horizontally and vertically to follow the marker - and therefore you - ensuring that you're always in the picture.

Swivl will work with iPhone 4S and 4s and fourth generation iPod Touches. However, it can't cope with older iPhones or iPod Touches or iPads. Although it isn't Android-enabled at launch, the basic following capability will still work without any software, so provided that your Android phone isn't any thicker than 11mm, it can still follow you around.

Any kind of tripod-mountable pocket-sized video camera or sub-six ounce (170g) point-and-shoot will also attach to the base and let you record yourself in all your mobile glory. If you want to have a go with your dSLR you're out of luck, though.

Swivl's makers, Satarii, are anticipating that the device will ship early next year. If you're interested, you'll need to sign up now and when they're ready to go, you'll be asked to convert your interest into an order. But the bad news is that at the moment, they're only shipping to North America and there isn't any word on how much it'll cost yet, either.

Still, it's so cool when a crowd-funded project comes together!