Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico

featuring National Geographic Photographer Tino Soriano

"Day of the Dead is one of the most traditional and visually stunning celebrations"

What I like the most as a National Geographic Photographer is the ability to be close to the people. The landscapes and the architecture require more of an emotional and creative proximity of the mind, which allows the thoughtful and peaceful application of the classic composition rules and to emphasize the qualities of light.

But, to photograph people, specially in events which capture the interest and passion of people around the world like the “Day of the Dead” in Oaxaca, demands a different set of skills and way about it. For this, it is of the very important to interact, to understand, a rapid composition, and to be able to transmit to the viewer the spirit and the essence of what is going on, in just a fraction of a second. No time for a tripod or to wait for the sunset. The magic moment, the split second of lucidity or the emotion can appear at any moment.

In this workshop we will focus on portrait techniques, the spontaneous photography and the classic story telling without forgetting a few other fundamental photography techniques and specialties that will help you highlighting the spirit of the place, the people and the celebrations. The ancient ruins of Mitla, the Benito Juarez Market and the graves in Atzompa, the landscapes, the artisans in San Martín Tilcajete will be the perfect match for this great celebration: An original and photogenic cult to the dead known in the world for its grandiosity, its action and, at the same time, for its warmth and intimacy. A story and a tradition of interest to the world, which through hard work throughout the workshop, will help all become better photographers. A one of a kind photography workshop you cannot afford to miss!

¡Un abrazo!

Tino Soriano 


Day 1 — Oaxaca City

Arrive in Oaxaca and check into our beautiful De la Parra Boutique Hotel, located just a few blocks from the zócalo, or main square. This evening gather for a welcome dinner in one of the best local restaurants. They serve contemporary mexican food, using the same ingredients as traditional mexican cuisine yet presented in new and creative ways.

Hotel de la Parra (D)

Day 2 — santo domingo church

This morning we will have our first class.  Tino will review student portfolios or a selection of their best work in order to understand their needs and interests. He will then teach a lecture about composition. 

After lunch, we will head to the beautiful Santo Domingo Church and the former monastery that now holds a museum. A beautiful Baroque style complex that was built between the 16th and 18th centuries. We will also have the opportunity to photograph the church´s atrium, which is a meeting point for locals, especially vibrant during this time of the year. 

Hotel de la Parra (B,L)

Day 3 — san martin tilcajete

This mornining we will have our first edit and critique session.  Every day, Tino will review a selection of student work shot the previous day in order to give feedback and make suggestions.  This time is also a great opportunity for students to ask questions that may help to improve their photographs during the week.  Tino will also share his own work produced during the workshop  so students can see his own creative process as it unfolds. This morning Tino will also teach a lecture about the use of color in photography.  

After lunch, the group will head to San Martin Tilcajete, a village renowned for its artisans who produce fanciful wood carvings called Alejibres. We will have the unique opportunity to visit and shoot the workshop and the artisans of internationally renowned mexican alebrije artist, Jacobo Angeles. This will be a great opportunity to apply the lessons Tino shared at the morning´s lecture. 

During the evening, students will have an optional shoot at the Zocalo (main square) where every Wednesday people gather to perform “Danzón”, the official genre and dance of Cuba, which is also an popular musical form in Mexico and many other countries in Latin America.   

Dinner tonight will be as a group at a traditional oaxacan restaurant located on the Zocalo.

Hotel de la Parra (B,L,D)

Day 4 — xoxocotlan graveyard

During the morning we will have an edit and critique session as well as a lecture, this time about how to approach people in photography, a very important topic that is usually one of the biggest challenges for photographers. Tino will teach students how to approach people in a respectful way so students can photograph in a more intimate and authentic way. 

Today, the Day of the Dead celebrations start.  After lunch, we will photograph the preparation for comparsas, a canrival-like parade of people disguised with intricate Day of the Dead masks. After dinner, we will make our first incursion into a graveyard when we visit Xoxocotlan, a small and picturesque cemetery which will be magical tonight due to the thousands of candles and marigold flowers adorning the graves and the people that mourn their departed ones and await for the return of their spirits.

Hotel de la Parra (B,L,D)


The Day of the Dead celebrations will continue through November 2nd, so this morning there will have an early departure (4:30 am) to the Atzompa Graveyard to witness how the elaborately decorated graveyards mix with the first rays of the early morning light. This is a one-of-a-kind experience that never ceases to amaze and offers wonderful photographic opportunities. 

We will return to Oaxaca by 7:30 a.m., and allow time for students to rest until 1 p.m. At that time, we’ll have lunch, followed by the daily edit and critique session and lecture. Dinner tonight is on your own, after which we will go to San Agustin Etla to experience one of the most impressive   and vibrant parades known as “Comparsas”.

Hotel de la Parra (B,L)


After our daily edit and critique session, we will enjoy lunch, and then head to the town of Abasolo, where we will visit local families.  This will be a great opportunity to photograph them in their everyday life and create beautiful portraits in a real context.   

Hotel de la Parra (B,L)


After breakfast, we’ll head into the town of Tlacolula where we will have the opportunity to shoot the market, one of the largest, oldest, and most colorful in the state of Oaxaca. This market draws people from all over the Valley of Oaxaca every Sunday. We’ll be back in Oaxaca City on time for lunch after which you will have free time.

The group will come together for the last time this evening for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. Before departing to the restaurant, we’ll present a slideshow of the best photos taken by all students throughout the week, recapping all of the sights we shot together during the course of the workshop. A great opportunity to celebrate all the learning and hard work accomplished during the week. 

Hotel de la Parra (B,L,D)


The workshop ends today, after breakfast, departures


Who should attend?

This workshop is for amateur and serious digital photographers. All participants must bring a digital camera, laptop computer and software for organizing and presenting images.  The workshop is limited to 16 participants to allow for maximum individualized attention.

Terms and conditions

To reserve space in this workshop, a $500 per person deposit is required at the time of making the reservation. Deposits are due no later than 90 days prior to departure. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure unless indicated otherwise in the description of the tour or workshop. All payments must be made by credit card or wire transfer to Photo Xpeditions, LLC, and instructions for payments will be mailed upon confirmation of participation.

Photo Xpeditions reserves the right to cancel a reservation if full payment has not been received by 60 days prior to departure. For reservations made within 60 days of the departure date, full payment is required when the reservation is accepted. All cancellation notices must be received in writing and will become effective as of the date of the postmark. If you cancel 90 days or more prior to departure, a refund less an administrative fee equal to 50% of your deposit will be made. Per person charges for cancellations that occur less than 90 days prior to departure are as follows:
60–90 days prior to departure: 100% of your deposit amount; 
45–60 days prior to departure: 50% of the expedition cost; 
45 or fewer days prior to departure: 100% of the workshop cost.

Photo Xpeditions reservs the right of cancelling the workshop at any time if the minimum amount of students required for the workshop is not reached. If a workshop needs to be cancelled for this reason, a full refund will be given to all participants.