Make Your Pow Wow Pics Pop! Helpful Tips from Professional Photog

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown July 13th, 2015 Last Updated on: July 13th, 2015


Sharky James with photography website Lensshark recently shared an article titled ‘Pow Wows: Something I Guarantee Most Photographers Haven’t Shot and Your Opportunity to Do Something Different‘. While this article was written more for the newbie who has never been to a pow wow, I thought there were some great pow wow photography tips in there for those that want to take better photos with their cameras.


So what angles work best for pow wow shots?

If you can shoot from a higher angle such as in the stands, rather than at ground level, you’ll get what I think are better shots as you’ll have dirt and/or other dancers in your background rather than spectators.

In shooting pow wows, I’ve tried many angles and have found that shooting from a bit higher angle was more pleasing, but of course you’ll want to vary your angles so all your photos don’t look the same.

Should I use flash or no flash?

Nearly every time I’ve shot a pow wow, it’s been on a bright sunny day. The kind of days which create deep, nasty shadows. If you’re able to get close enough and it’s extremely bright out, break out your flash. It’ll help fill in the shadows and improve your photos.

Your flash is only useful to a certain distance so keep the Inverse Square Law in mind. But within the working distance of your flash, you’re going to get nice results. Zoom the flash head to more narrow the beam or use A Better Beamer to get more flash downrange.

You’ll find that if you can put a little bit of flash on your subject that you’ll be more pleased with the results. You’ll often get a catchlight in the eyes and the colors will pop more.

Can I sell my photos?

If you’re shooting for a publication and you’re credentialed then you’re good to go. But I’ve heard of more than one photographer who’ve shot a pow wow and peddled their images later which ticked off the pow wow committee and performers. made things harder for photographers at subsequent pow wows.

Tribal law isn’t necessarily the same as laws off the reservation, so do a little research and it would be wise to contact the pow wow committee in advance of shooting the pow wow should you be interested in selling your photos. As always, if you’re planning on selling photos as stock photography, you’ll need signed model releases.

If you’re not shooting with the intent to sell your photos, this likely won’t be an issue. But it’s always wise to be aware of the committee’s rules regarding everything photography.


Like most of us know already, you should always ask before you take a photo.

Often, there are signs posted near the entrance to the pow wow with a list of etiquette tips while other times you may see a “No Photography” sign. Most of the time however, photography is indeed allowed. Just ask first and you’re good. If you’re told no, please respect that.

Photographing the Grand Entry and dances (more on that in a bit) are generally allowed. It’s extremely colorful, fun and people want to shoot photos to show family and friends. This is where your best photos are going to come from.

Great advice Sharky! Make sure you check out http://www.lensshark.com/ for more great photography tips.

Home » Native American Articles » Pow Wow » Pow Wow Photo Tips » Make Your Pow Wow Pics Pop! Helpful Tips from Professional Photog

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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