5 tips for photographing Diwali, the festival of lights

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Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is the festival of lights. Celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Newark Buddhists around the world, it honors the triumph of good over evil. During the five-day festivities, people clean up in preparation, buy new clothes, adorn their homes with lights, and share food with friends and family.

The most important day of the festival is the third and is known as Lakshmi Puja. Dedicated to Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune, prosperity and the embodiment of beauty, on this day people’s homes light up with lights and candles – and it is there that Diwali takes its name from the festival of lights.

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With so many beautiful lights, colorful flowers, and intricate outfits, Diwali is one of the most photogenic cultural events around. From vibrant displays of flowers, powder paint and incense to the men, women and children dressed in gold and silver jewelry, there is so much to be photographed.

As the festival takes place during the darkest period of the Hindu lunar calendar, you will really need to know your camera settings to make sure you get the most out of your photos. You’ll be battling glittering, low-light fireworks, moving people, and all kinds of environments, depending on where you’re celebrating.

To make sure you can spend as little time as possible worrying about the settings and more time participating in the celebrations, we’ve put together a guide to our top five tips for filming Diwali this year.

1. Experiment with a slow shutter speed

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You will need a tripod or a flat surface if you want to shoot with slow shutter speeds. We also recommend that you invest in a shutter release cable or set your camera to timer mode so that there is no risk of camera shake when you press the shutter button. Using a slow shutter speed will create beautiful light trails which are perfect if you spot someone playing with a sparkler or want to get an abstract image of fireworks. You can change the length of time the shutter is open, depending on the desired size of the light trail.

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2. Shoot with a wide aperture

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Adjust your opening so that it is as wide open as possible; if you have a lens that goes down to f / 1.8 or f / 2.8, we suggest using it, as you will create images with nice rounded bokeh in the background due to all the lights. Don’t worry too much if you don’t have a lens that has such a wide aperture – if you’re shooting lights in the distance, you should still be able to create that blurry effect.

3. Get a mix of wide and detailed shots

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There will be plenty of opportunities to get detailed photos of hands covered in henna, burning candles, brightly colored clothing, and shrines adorned with flowers and food. These scenes work great with a wide aperture, as you’ll get your subject in focus and a beautifully blurred background. However, Diwali is also a time for friends and family and the decorations are breathtaking, so take a step back, use a wide angle lens and close your aperture to try and capture the magic of the whole scene.

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4. Capture fireworks and sparklers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

No doubt there will be some magnificent fireworks displays during Diwali, and the best way to capture them in all their glory is to shoot manually. This way you will have the most control over ISO, shutter speed and aperture. We recommend taking pictures with a fast shutter speed, an aperture between f / 10 and f / 16 and the lowest possible ISO sensitivity. You can also use these tips to capture sparklers if you don’t want light trails.

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5. Be respectful

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Remember that Diwali is a religious holiday, so be careful when taking photos and make sure you get permission from the place or people you are photographing. Most people will be more than happy to have their picture taken of them; At the end of the day, Diwali is a holiday and a joyous time for many, but it is best to be cautious when it comes to any religious event. If possible, try not to use flash in order to be more discreet.

Read more:

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How to Prepare for Low Light and Night Photography


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