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5 Tips for Photographing Festivals

Image: Goroka Show, Papa New Guinea. © Jeremy Flint

Goroka Show, Papa New Guinea. © Jeremy Flint

The performance, color and wonderful crowds that are the signature features of festivals make them an excellent subject for photography. Festivals are great organized events worth attending and can occur anywhere at any time.

A festival is defined as ‘a day or time of the year when people have a holiday from work and celebrate some special event.’ Festivals could be a day or period set aside for celebration to commemorate an anniversary or other significant events. A festival may also occur for feasting, such as religious events or for performances of music, theatre, and dance.

These special events are usually held periodically and are designed to entertain, providing a fantastic opportunity to capture some interesting images.

Consider if there is a festival or event you have always wanted to attend? Whether it’s at home or abroad, it will be sure to offer an array of colorful and compelling subjects and scenes.

Here are five 5 tips for photographing festivals:

1. Shoot local festivals

Image: © Jeremy Flint

© Jeremy Flint

You don’t have to travel long distances to visit festivals. Find an event that is going on near you and head out with your camera to capture it. Often festivals are seasonal, so time your visit to a festival that takes place during your favorite time of the year such as summer or winter. Arrive early for the chance to get your bearings and find a suitable place to see and photograph the event.

Remember festivals in towns and cities can cause built up traffic, and road closures may restrict access. Allow extra time to get to the event and be observant to ensure your gear stays safe in crowded situations.

Image: © Jeremy Flint

© Jeremy Flint

2. Shoot festivals around the world

If you are traveling abroad, consider visiting a festival during your vacation. Some incredible festivals are celebrated around the world including the Holi festival in India, the Rio Carnival, the Goroka and Mount Hagen shows of Papa New Guinea and Oktoberfest in Germany. They offer the chance to see a unique and varied side to the people of the place you’re visiting.

Image: Goroka Show, Papa New Guinea © Jeremy Flint

Goroka Show, Papa New Guinea © Jeremy Flint

There is generally a great atmosphere during these events, and the costume-clad festival participants are dressed to impress and hopefully won’t mind having their photograph taken.

Festivals involving cultures, such as those in Papa New Guinea and parts of Asia, brilliantly combine local culture with exciting tribal traditions. I photographed this image at the Goroka show in Papa New Guinea where local groups demonstrate their unique song and dance.

Image: Goroka Show, Papa New Guinea © Jeremy Flint

Goroka Show, Papa New Guinea © Jeremy Flint

Try and get a bit closer to the action and capture the variety of activities taking place. Alternatively, if you are with friends and family and prefer to remain in one place, wait for the action to come to you.

3. Add color

Festivals such as carnivals, street parties, and fetes create endless opportunities for lively, colorful images. Since everyone taking part in the celebrations are enjoying the occasion, they are happier than usual to have their picture taken. You can take advantage of this by capturing interesting poses and joyous people.

Be sure to look out for vibrant individuals in which to point your lens. Take portraits of cheerful revelers and capture the participants in their colorful clothing.

Image: © Jeremy Flint

© Jeremy Flint

4. Capture action

Image: © Jeremy Flint

© Jeremy Flint

At festivals, things happen fast. With parades and processions, attendees move quickly, so be ready to capture the action. With this in mind, I recommend you use a fast shutter speed to capture any aspects you find interesting. Try experimenting with different shutter speeds of 1/100th of a second and above.

Image: A guy falling off a horse, Llanthony Show, Brecon Beacons, Wales © Jeremy Flint

A guy falling off a horse, Llanthony Show, Brecon Beacons, Wales © Jeremy Flint

5. Relax and enjoy it

Don’t get hung up on getting the perfect shot. Take time out from the photography, and you can enjoy it more. Spend time soaking up the atmosphere and see the activities with your own eyes. Similarly, immerse yourself in the event and enjoy the spirit of the festivities and the kaleidoscope of color.

Join in the festivities and dance or walk with the participants if they are marching.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the event, you will have a much more memorable experience.


In summary, festivals offer a wonderful chance to create pictures with color, impact, and action. Most importantly, relax, enjoy it and don’t get too engrossed in taking the perfect shot. When photographing festivals remember these tips to help you improve your images. Therefore, get out there and capture a festival near you and share your photos below!


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Jeremy Flint
Jeremy Flint

Jeremy Flint is an award-winning photographer and writer, specialising in travel, landscape and location photography and is known for documenting images of beautiful destinations, cultures and communities from around the world. Jeremy has won awards including the National Geographic Traveller Grand Prize and the Association of Photographers Discovery Award, besides being commended in Outdoor Photographer of the Year. He has also been a finalist in the Travel Photographer of the year and British Photography Awards several times. He has been commissioned by commercial and editorial clients worldwide including National Geographic Traveller, Country Life, Discover Britain, USA National Parks and Visit Britain and has travelled extensively to over 65 countries.

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