What I am about to tell you will not make your photos better, but it will give you access to positions that can open up opportunities to make better shots during festivals.
Imagine this: Each year, more and more people get into photography. This means more photographers during festivals. More photographers mean lesser position options and more similar looking photos. Due to the growing number of photographers, pros and hobbyists alike, during festivals, a lot of LGU’s choose to cord everyone off. Imagine having 30 or more photographers shooting during a parade. That’s an eyesore really since the streets get too crowded. How do you remedy this?
I recently came back from Hinugyaw Festival in Koronadal, South Cotabato, Philippines and had the time of my life just enjoying the city , the colors, and the people. I took shots occasionally but found myself almost free from the hassles of festival security personnel and shared shooting areas.
The trick isn’t really a trick. A lot of it is planning and knowledge of the festival activities. Here are my 5 tips.
1. Know your festival wisely. Its good to know how crowded a specific festival could get. Which one allows you to shoot freely? Which ones most people go to? Which one will get your camera damaged by water? This will do wonders for you.
2. Find out Parade Routes. Its good to ask organizers where parades would pass through hours before the event. This will allow you to scout the area for possible vantage points for your shooting spree. Know which areas parades will stop. Most photographers are in that area. Find areas that will give you a different perspective than usual like on a 2nd floor building, an overpass, a platform, the roof of a truck, etc. Make sure to make arrangements ahead of time and ask permission if need be.
3. Shoot during Assembly Times. If you think nothing happens during assembly then you’re missing a lot of photo opportunities. It is during this time that participants have their dress rehearsals. They also do their make up retouches here, and it is where you will find participants still looking fresh. If they’re a dance group, they practice some of their routines here. It is also at this point that you can have people pose for you all dressed up because they’re not conscious yet of marching or choreography. For festivals with final showdown contests, they would have a second Assembly area right after the street parade. This is also a great time to shoot.
4. Shoot the other events. The Main event is not the only event. During the Hinugyaw festival, I only saw the photographers during the final showdown of the Mardi Gras and around 4 others during one of the stops of the Mardi Gras street parade. That’s sad for them because there were other times available for them to shoot. In my case, I was there on all events. You don’t get a lot of shots but you get good positioning and a lot great photo opportunities.
5. Attend Smaller Scale Festivals. There are festivals that a lot of photographers attend. There are also those that only a few attend. I was not the official photographer but I was arranged to shoot whereever I want. I was even shooting in the middle of the dancing lines and the security didnt really mind. Some festivals are of bigger scale than others. The not so large scale festivals are those that most photographers go to. But there are festivals like the Hinugyaw festival that you can enjoy without the hassles of overcrowded photography enthusiasts. These festivals aren’t downplayed. They are as rich and colorful as the others with less security hassles.
I can summarize my five points in one fluid statement – “Don’t go with the flow”.