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How To Photograph The Chinese Lunar New Year


Red lanterns

Red lanterns by leungchopan, 123RF


It’s a week-long celebration where family members travel home from all over the world to reunite with their loved ones, giving the event the nickname of ‘the biggest human migration on the planet’.


During the holiday season, the town is painted red, fireworks fill the night sky, temples are packed with crowds paying their respects, red packets are exchanged, and entertainment like lion dances come to life.


As one might expect, it’s a beautiful sight for the eyes. Everything is so vibrant and photogenic that no photographer would want to miss out on taking a few good shots of the Chinese Lunar New Year.


Here are some ideas on how to photograph the Chinese Lunar New Year:


Choose a good location for fireworks

Holding a sparkler

Holding a sparkler by phive2015, 123RF


The myth behind fireworks during the Chinese Lunar New Year is that it is supposed to scare off a monster named "Nian" as well as bad luck during the night. In the morning, fireworks are lit up again to usher in the new year and good luck.


So, fireworks are an essential part of any Chinese Lunar New Year celebration. While a straightforward shot of fireworks is great, what might add more value to your image is a scene of children playing with sparklers or smoking fireworks.


Of course, pick a good location where regular citizens are able to light off fireworks and a place that's safe to photograph so you won’t get your limbs blown off.


What food tells us about a culture

Chinese New Year feast

Chinese New Year feast by bondd, 123RF


Sharing a meal is a big part of every cultural celebration, but it's especially important for one as important as the Chinese Lunar New Year.


The dinner on the eve of the new year is arguably one of the most defining parts of Chinese Lunar New Year. All members of the family gather to have a reunion dinner to celebrate the love and respect that bonds them together as a family.


It’s a feast usually served with dishes like steamed fish, abalone, big prawns, chicken, and sweet glutinous rice cake called "nian gao".


Capture the details

Kids opening a red packet

Kids opening a red packet by seventyfour74, 123RF


It’s easy to spend too much focus on the parades and lion dances, but don’t forget to take a breather and notice the small details.


During the celebrations, temples will be filled with devotees while the town will be lined with red lanterns, paper decorations, and statues of the zodiac sign. Adults and children (and even their pets) alike will be dressed in red or traditional costumes.


Red packets are an important part of the celebration. It’s an envelope with money inside. Typically, parents or grandparents give red packets to their children as a symbol of good wishes and luck for the year ahead.


Get close and personal

Family playing mahjong

Family playing mahjong by primagefactory, 123RF


The Chinese Lunar New Year celebration is something that’s done in an intimate and private manner that usually involves family and close friends.


To really capture the essence of the celebration, one might need to go behind the scenes to truly see what the celebration is like.


On the streets, it's a lavish celebration with music, mandarin oranges, and red decorations everywhere. Behind closed doors, it's a close family gathering with cookie tins, an intense game of mahjong and Chinese poker.


Happy celebrating and capturing the festival


In conclusion, photographing the Chinese Lunar New Year can be a rewarding and exciting experience.


With a little planning and creativity, you can capture stunning images that will help you remember this special holiday for years to come.


Do you like the beautiful photos of lanterns and fireworks or that delicious feast you see on the blog? If you want to further embrace yourself in the Chinese Lunar New Year Spirit, head over to 123RF and download your favorites!


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