Event Photography: “Portraits of Pride”

June is the month for pride and acceptance. It is a month that reminds us to
celebrate the diversity within the unity of our culture, and to support our civil rights.

Across the country, Pride festivities were taking place. Photographer Jim Austin traveled
to Denver to capture the joy of its special parade, rally, music, and dance with his portraiture.

Photographing Denver’s 35th Pridefest
© Jim Austin M.A. www.jimagesdigital.weebly.com

Adventure PhotographerJim Austin takes you inside the event

and shares photo tips and techniques for his amazing Portraits of Pride…


On an 86° Sunday morning, beneath an unsullied Rocky Mountain blue sky, with the scent of freshly mowed lawns wafting through the air, Denver’s Pridefest 2010 began. Thousands strolled, sauntered, and skated out of Cheesman Park and paraded down Colfax Avenue into the Civic Center in the cultural heart of Denver. The 35th annual Pridefest was in full stride and was bringing the community together with entertainment for all–a parade, family day, lots of music, food, vendors and fun.

Denver’s Pridefest is always in June. The month was chosen to honor the Stonewall riots of 1969. To Pride goers, the event is about the values in the rainbow flag: freedom, rights, and the colorful and cultural diversity of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community.

As the parade flowed westward toward downtown with the Rocky Mountains on the far horizon, I saw an enthusiastic group of people helping out the homeless. Out of the back of her pickup, a long-time Pridefest attendee had organized her friends for the 10th year to hand out free food to anyone who was hungry. Her generosity exemplified the soul of Pridefest.

Pridefest 2010 brought in over $24 million in revenue to the community. The Center put together a superb entertainment package with talented bands. Popular music went out from all six stages. A country music stage entertained the crowd with line dancing lessons. Broadway at 14th Street turned into a ballroom of joy.

In the Civic Center, you could browse through a variety of well-organized health and wellness booths. Three dogs relaxed in the shade of the pet adoption kiosk. Several booths were specifically for kids. Pridefest 2010 was a family event for all kinds of families— a fun destination for children, youth, parents and pets.

During the two-day celebration, popular entertainers mesmerized the crowds. The talented performers En Vogue (winners of 7 MTV Video Music Awards, more than any other female group in MTV history) rocked the main stage in the afternoon, while a crowd of several thousand people held up point-and-shoot cameras to pixel-catch the stars.

Happenings off the stage gave a unique flavor to Pridefest.
The Two Spirit Society, dressed in Native American traditional clothing,
honored the event with their presence. 


I chose one lens to photograph this event, a 24-70 zoom. After I wrote an article called Zoom with Your Feet” for Apogee Photo Magazine, June 2010, students asked if I only used prime lenses. Since photography is more about flexibility than hard and fast rules, I answered: “No.”

The zoom let me quickly vary the focal length to match the subject. In crowded spaces, I could not zoom with my feet, but still wanted to quickly change from telephoto to wide angle. During the parades, the zoom let me get in with tight framing. To switch out two different prime lenses on the camera body (say from a 24mm wide angle to an 85mm portrait lens) would have taken longer. At an event, photographic opportunities do not wait for photographers.

While my favorite prime lens was in the shop, I borrowed the zoom from a photographer friend. Because the zoom lens was fast and sharp wide open, it was quick to auto-focus and focus manually in low light. Its light weight made it an ideal lens for environmental and standard portraits; it was easy to carry around while running to catch up with fast moving parade floats.


Photographing while strolling the Parade, from back stage, and in the VIP area at Pridefest, I practiced 7 techniques:

1. Quickly deciding on a subject.

2. Searching for subjects that emphasize color and motion;

3. Choosing a focal length that fits my framing before asking someone for a portrait;

4. Checking the histogram to ensure correct highlight exposure;

5. Taking several images from differing vantage points when possible;

6. Making vertical compositions;

7. Changing to wide angle often, because that makes me move closer to my portrait subjects.

Photo of Joe & Sue Giadone (left): The challenge of photographing an event like this required quick judgments. Since there was no time to set up any plug-in light sources, all the portraits were made with on-camera flash and available sunlight. Like the tanning booth advertisement at the festival, my Pridefest photography was “done in the sun” although some portraits, like the one to the left, are better “made in the shade”.

Overall, this sunny and warm June event gave opportunities for portraits of pride everywhere you looked. It also offered something special: all who joined in the festival had the chance to connect, celebrate, and cherish their pride.

by Jim Austin M.A.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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