A Photographer’s Guide to Holi Festival

For those of you who don’t know what Holi Festival is, it’s an ancient Hindu Festival celebrating the arrival of spring, the blossoming of love and for many, it is a festive day to meet friends and family and to mend broken relationships (forgive and forget, that sort of thing).

One of the ways that this festival is celebrated is by smearing people with coloured powder and drenching them with water balloons and guns (starting to ring a bell right?)

me after a day shooting at holi festival

Though originally celebrated in India, this festival became popular in non-Hindu areas of South Asia and in more recent years, it has also been adopted in the West (I’m assuming because we didn’t want to miss out on the fun!).

So, with Holi Festival exactly one month away I thought that today would be a great time to share some practical tips to make the most of this exciting event. You may not be in India or on our Nepal Photo Tour to celebrate, but chances are that there is a Holi Festival happening near you too! (Check out where Holi is celebrated here)

PREPARING YOURSELF MENTALLY AND PHYSICIALLY:

You’re gonna get dirty. Sorry folks, there’s no way around it and besides it’s part of the fun!

So, once you have come to terms with that, pick out some old clothes (not the kind that have holes in them and that you’ve kept for sentimental value, but the kind that you have at the back of your wardrobe advertising your hairdresser’s company in comic sans) and set it aside for the big day.

I would also recommend wearing sunglasses to avoid getting powder in your eyes and finally, before stepping out the door cover yourself in baby oil (and I mean COVER yourself) so that when you get back you’ll be able to get the colours off more easily (in a day rather than a week!) Now that I think about it, It’s kinda like glitter which reminds me of a funny story about a Sunday night glitter-fest and a surgeon who had to work the next day, but I’m getting off topic…

PREPARING YOUR CAMERA:

Those of you who have met us know that we are not very much for spending money on the latest cameras or gadgets because at the end of the day, they won’t make you a better photographer (researching photographers, watching YouTube tutorials, or investing in a photo tour or workshop are just some of the many ways that will), so if you already have rain cover for your camera, great! But if not, here’s a solution that’s low-cost and that we have used not only for Holi festival, but in sand storms, snow blizzards and rain.

SHOOTING

Before getting into the ways to shoot and what to look for, a quick side note: If you’re one of those people that has a hard time getting close and taking photos of strangers, an event like Holi festival is the perfect way to start overcoming these fears. Not only do people tend to be in the best of moods but also, as it’s a public event they expect to be photographed. You can read more about overcoming your fears in street photography here.

Right, so there are two main things that I recommend for this particular festival. If you haven’t guessed it already, the first is to get close, real close and the second is to be ‘camera-ready’ at all times.

There are so many people and it will be messy, so by getting close you’ll be able to isolate specific scenes, be able to capture the expressions of the people and allow your viewer to really feel like they are there when looking at your photographs.

By ‘camera ready’ at all times I mean that you need to be fast. It’s an event where lots of things are happening at all times and being too slow might mean missing the shot of the burst of coloured-powder on someone’s head! The best way to avoid missing these moments is to forget about having to focus and this means using hyperfocals. If you don’t know how to use hyperfocals, check out this article.

The other thing that in my experience is always interesting is to watch the ‘sidelines’. Some of my best photos of Holi were taken around the event rather than in the event itself.

And last but not least, have fun with it!!

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