Photo by Xtian Lozañes

“Good Syat”: 10 Simple Tips for Shooting The Dinagyang Street Parade

By xtian lozañes

Well, January is here again, and we’re at that time of the year when Iloilo City is alive to the beat of the drums and the dances of color. As almost every Ilonggo knows, this is the month we celebrate the Dinagyang Festival and, for this year 2016, the festival has so much to offer.

For most parts, I’m sure a lot of you guys are itching to see the festival with a camera at hand, whether it’s through a DSLR, a typical point-and-shoot camera, or just your camera phone. Let’s face it: Dinagyang is one of those festivals that just begs to be documented, and photographers from all walks of life will surely crowd the streets of Iloilo this weekend to take photos of the festival.

Surely, most photographers won’t be lucky enough to acquire exclusive media passes or be able to take pictures in the comfort of the front row seats from the judging areas. In this sense, I’m giving a few tips for those of you reading this who may just opt to shoot the festival along the main street route of the tribes.

Of course, these tips below are just simple guides for you guys to make the most of shooting the Dinagyang street parade. Hopefully, these will be useful to you guys. Read on below!

Dinagyang Photography Tips - Project Iloilo
Photo by Xtian Lozañes

1. The early bird catches the worm

Let’s face the facts head-on: the city streets will be really crowded during Dinagyang, and the best way to find yourself a spot is to be there at the venue early. Not only will you be able to maximize your shooting experience, but this will also give you more opportunities to take photos of the competing tribes while the areas won’t be that crowded yet. And of course, you can also take better portraits not just from the dancers, but from other interesting people who will gather at the event.

Dinagyang Photography Tips - Project Iloilo
Photo by Xtian Lozañes

2. Be mindful of your surroundings

As much as you may want to immerse yourself in shooting Dinagyang, you must be aware of where you are positioned in relative to everyone else. Being conscious of your surroundings should make your shooting experience a more fruitful one. Surely, you also don’t want to inconvenience the people around you? But of course, being mindful of your surroundings can also be a good security measure (which we will touch in more detail later in this article).

3. Don’t block or interfere with the street parade.

Unless you fancy yourself as quite capable of doing so, don’t stay in the middle of the street to shoot. The tribes couldn’t even care less about their photos being taken, since they’ll more or less ask you to stay on the side of the street.

Keep this tip in mind, as some tribes will be rushing in-between the judging areas and will be carrying the heaviest props you can imagine. Impolitely staying in the middle will get you in trouble and, worse, will even get you hurt in the process. Trust us: the last thing you would want to do this Dinagyang is to stay in the hospital for the rest of the weekend.

4. Be polite with other photographers or other people taking photos in general.

Surely you don’t want to be the ire of the other people taking photos. When you see people taking photos, it would be nice if you can give them enough space for them to take photos. It is really rude to block the point of view of other people taking photos. You don’t want that to happen to you as well. Be mindful of where people are aiming their cameras.

5. Always be prepared.

Shooting the festival under the sun can be exhausting. So, be sure to carry an ample supply of food and water because when the streets get crowded, you don’t want to leave a good shooting spot just to find something to eat or drink.

Besides, staying under the sun for the most part will be tolerable if you can have the opportunity to hydrate once in a while. If you can bring medication with you, then do it. Being prepared means avoiding suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke and, again, will give you higher chances of avoiding the hospital.

Dinagyang Photography Tips - Project Iloilo
Photo by Xtian Lozañes

6. Be mobile.

Sometimes, staying in one spot is not the best idea for shooting. If given the opportunity, you should move from one spot to the next. This will give you more opportunities to take a variety of photos which will not be available to you if you stay in one specific spot. And of course, staying in one spot for hours may prove to be boring for some, too.

7. Know the parade route by heart.

This item is in relation to Tip No. 6 above: one should be aware of where the street parade will be passing as to ascertain how far and where your ideal shooting spots will be. Knowing the order of the tribe will help as well, especially if you aim to take photos of specific tribes you may be following during Dinagyang.

Dinagyang Photography Tips - Project Iloilo
Photo by Xtian Lozañes

8. Always secure your personal belongings.

Nobody else is responsible for your own belongings but yourself. The streets will be so crowded and, this being the Philippines, will surely be a haven for pickpockets and such. You should be aware of your personal effects and be mindful of the people who may be gathering around you.

9. Stay out of the judging areas if you don’t have media passes.

Unless you want to embarrass yourself and be dragged out of the judging areas like a miscreant, please don’t force your way inside judging areas unless you have these two magic words with you: media pass.

With this in mind, do know that specific media passes can only be used for their corresponding judging areas. And yes, don’t even think of going inside a judging area if that isn’t the area you’re designated to.  For security reasons, certain areas will be strict with people, and you don’t want to get in trouble with the law, don’t you? When authorities say you cannot enter, then don’t.

10. Enjoy.

Dinagyang Festival is one of the best events in Iloilo City to take photos. Keeping the tips above in mind, just go and shoot with the purpose of enjoying the festival. After all, you’re there to have fun!

So, think we might have missed something with our Dinagyang street shooting tips? Well, don’t hesitate to post your suggestions at the comments section below!

Xtian Lozañes is a multimedia artist and a photographer. His photos can be viewed on his Instagram page.