Taking Character Portraits

Taking Character Portraits

As a photographer I’m always on the lookout for an event that includes a great day out for the family and the opportunity to practice the craft of photography. The Abbey’s mediaeval festival is one such event that is held on the Sunshine Coast regularly that does just that!

Taking Character Portraits

However the popularity of such an event attracting thousands of visitors often makes it a difficult event to photograph.  Amongst the many characters in period costume there are plenty of onlookers wearing civilian clothing that unfortunately do nothing to add to a great character portrait.


The telephoto lens that most of us acquired as part of the original twin lens kit when we purchased our DSLR camera would be just fine to capture characters at the festival.  The reason I like this lens, it has two attributes it does well even if it is only a kit lens.

  • Provide a tight crop on your image.
  • Create great background blur.

The telephoto lens I road tested and used at the festival was Tamron’s 70-200mm.  This lens was the perfect choice for the festival, with its aperture f 2.8 it meant I could control the background blur and eliminate distracting crowds and backgrounds.  I love working with this focal length the ability to cropping tight or back off to 70mm capture the whole scene. I had also taken in my kit that day Sigma 24-70mm that I was going to use as backup.  However I found myself content working within the 70-200mm focal length all day, in fact the lens never left my camera.


Crop Tight

By choosing a higher focal length to shoot at your camera’s field of view is naturally more restricted. This is perfect for a medieval festival and allows you to focus all the viewer’s attention on one main subject.  Allowing you to crop out unwanted spectators and make your images more authentic.


A strong character portrait needs to have a background conducive with the character in Frame. If you are unable to have your subject placed in front of a background suiting the portrait then blurred it out. This is always the advantage of using a lens such as the Tamron with an aperture of f 2.8 giving me ultimate control over how much of the background you ultimately see in my images.

Photographing at the types of events are a terrific way to build street photography skills and add wonderful character portraits to your portfolio.

There is also a talk about weddings here