If you find yourself in the middle of a street festival in Asia it can sometimes be overwhelming. Trying to shoot scenes and people but you don’t have a clue to what is going on or don’t speak the language. It can be chaotic but we have some tips for you to make it easier and much more fun!
I live in the Philippines and here in my city we have two festivals. Other very well known festivals in the country are just a puddle jump away. I got started because of an invite from a fellow street photographer and I got hooked! What’s also fun is that you get to meet new festival photographers and join contests. I’ll share with you what I have learned over the years of shooting festival photography.
Secure a Photographer Pass
The most important tip is to get a photographer pass. These days most street festivals in Asia have barriers lining the streets to separate the crowd from the performers. Onlookers are not allowed to mingle with the performers for safety reasons and also not to hinder the flow of the parade.
You can circumvent this by securing a photographer or media pass. The pass can usually be secured from the festival’s office or the local tourism office. Do this ahead of the festival to avoid any hassle. Security personnel usually let photographers with the proper identification through the barricades to shoot freely amongst the performers.
Choose your gear wisely when shooting street festivals in Asia. You won’t go very far with a trolley or backpack full of expensive equipment. The sheer weight of all the gear will hamper you from getting to the places you need to go to get the perfect shots.
I normally just carry around one body with a wide to normal zoom lens attached. I also have a small point and shoot camera with a telephoto zoom in my pocket just in case I need to shoot something far away. I carry around just a flash, some extra batteries, an ND filter if the sun is extra bright and a gorillapod or monopod.
It would also be wise to bring along an extra shirt or two and some water. The heat can be quite an inconvenience in festivals in Asia.
Know the Festival Route
Scout the route of the festival a day ahead of the parade. Get to know the important locations like the staging areas, grandstand areas and where the media stays. These are good clues to where the good shooting spots are for the parade.
Look for other vantage points and interesting places to shoot from along the route too. It would be a good idea to get a map and mark the places down so you don’t get lost.
Be mindful of other photographers
I have not attended a street festival in Asia that has not had its fare share of photographers. There will be a lot of them around. So be mindful of your surroundings and see if you are getting in the way of another festival photographer. Photobombing another photographer will surely not earn you any new friends. So keep an eye out for others who are shooting the festival with you and perhaps you will make new friends.
Feel the vibe and have fun
The last tip is to get into the festival spirit. Feel the beat of the music and the atmosphere. Once you get the beat, you will know when to press that shutter button for the key shots. It would also be good to let go and just have fun. Dance a little, and join the crowds. You will get a better perspective of the events if you have fun.
Shooting a street festival in Asia is one very unique experience. It is colorful, vibrant and exciting. If you find yourself in a local festival, bear in mind these tips. They will help you get into the action and capture some awesome memories.
Go out there and have fun! Stay safe.