How to Photograph Holi

March 28, 2014 10 Comments »


Camera  protection Holi

Holi is the colorful spring Hindu festival which is a photographers dream and nightmare at the same time. Colored powder and water are thrown and painted on people which is beautiful to photograph, but also concerning from a gear standpoint.

You can read about my complete experience on how to participate Holi in Jaipur, however as much fun as it is to participate, I was there to take pictures too. Here are a few tips if you are attending Holi to take pictures with a DSLR.

Cover Your Camera

I used this LensCoat Raincoat to protect my Canon 60D. I secured it with duct tape so that I could zoom in and out easily. The only issue is that it’s not see-through material – so I had to shoot blindly for part of the time. You can also use a clear plastic bag and wraps which solves the issue of being able to see, however it is a less easy to zoom depending on the size of your lens and potentially not as durable as the Raincoat. Some didn’t use anything and just planned on doing a thorough cleaning afterwards such as an air gun/compressor.  This strategy can work as long as you can avoid the colored water.

Don’t Open/Change Anything!

Pick one lens and don’t change it out. Same goes for batteries and SD card. Do not open that camera body at all! Some photographers solved the lens problem by simply bringing two cameras. Something I don’t have the luxury of doing. I shot with my 17 to 55mm in a RAW format and knew that I would just plan on cropping in on the shots in order to get closer, zoomed in images.

Shoot in a Mode You are Comfortable With

Don’t plan on fiddling around with manual settings unless you are a pro at it. Do test shots first and ensure you have your ISO, aperture, metering, focal point set as much as you can for each Holi situation you walk into before you walk into it. Then just keep those settings and fire rapidly. I set mine on Aperture Priority and shot away not worrying about the shutter speed since I was mainly shooting in outdoor lighting conditions that weren’t changing.

Get Up High

Images showing the powder and playing from above are always great. I saw many people standing on chairs and shooting from balconies whenever possible.

Don’t Forget the Details

Get some detailed shots too of the makings of Holi, not just the people but the materials.

Ask to Take People’s Picture

This is not a holiday to be shy. It’s so easy to ask people to take their Holi photo – they love showing off their colors! Ensure you get those great close up portraits. And return the favor and agree to be in other people’s photographs!

Go Out For a Ride

Hire a rickshaw or car to drive you around – it’s a great way to see capture all of the action on the streets. You can cover a lot more ground than walking and keep valuables protected if you want to walk around an area for a bit.

Are you a photographer who has been to Holi? Do you have any tips to add?

Here were some of my results from Holi 2014 Jaipur

Kids Holi

Kids play Holi

holi 2014

A very pink thumbs up!

Holi with Locals

Celebrating with locals

holi powder

Remember the details!

playing holi

Playing Holi


Driving around the streets to capture Holi revelers in motion

holi powder

Bags of powder – colorful details!

playing holi

Playing Holi

holi powder

Reloading powder supplies!  Change perspectives to mix up your shots.

colored hair holi

Colorful hair and new perspectives

Capture the action!

Capture the action!

Holi photo post 12

Shades of Purple – ask people to take their photo

Holi photo post 6

Locals crowd into a small bus to keep on partying

Other great resources for Holi photography tips that I utilized:

Guide to Holi Festival For Photographers

10 Tips for Photographing Holi

Holi Festival Photography Guide

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