Taking Festive Parade Photos

Parades and other ceremonies are exciting and colorful, and always offer fun photo opportunities. If you enjoy photographing such events, they're worth going to some effort to locate. Some of the most famous of these include the Rose Parade, held in Pasadena on New Year's Day, and the Macy's Day Parade, held in New York on Thanksgiving. These annual events draw throngs of people, but you can still get some great shots at any number of local parades held around the country, especially during the summer. Many of these events will be on a smaller scale, but can still be exciting to watch and photograph.

A Clear Vantage Point
Before the parade begins, it's imperative that you find an unobstructed vantage point from which to shoot. You can take pictures from a hotel or office balcony, or a high set of steps. It's a good idea to arrive early to find a good shooting position before the crowds arrive. If you're unfamiliar with the area, ask around a few days in advance. Another option is to visit the event's website for maps, route information and a telephone number to call for more details. This approach may yield valuable ideas in advance for where to position yourself.

Whether you're in New Orleans for Mardi Gras or at
a local event, parades offer great photo opportunities.
Reader photo by Rushabh Gandhi, Bensalem, PA

Other Shooting Options
If the parade route is jam-packed and your view is blocked, don't give up! You can try raising the camera over your head and shooting from a high angle. You won't be able to frame your images carefully, but some of your shots may still be successful, and will capture the festive nature and motion of the parade. In some instances, you may also be able to politely make your way to the front of the crowd to shoot a picture or two--just be sure to go back to your original spot after you get the pictures you want.

Reader photo by Cindy Morris, Raceland, LA

What To Photograph
People (and often children or pets) are usually at the heart of any special event. Many times, parade participants and audiences are less inhibited than they would normally be, so your candid pictures of strangers will be more friendly and intimate. Parades usually celebrate something of historical or traditional significance, and this can add depth to your photographic collection. Look for costumes or decorations that symbolize the focus of the event, such as the American flag and Uncle Sam costumes which are often a colorful staple in Fourth of July parades.

If you have a telephoto lens, or a zoom lens with telephoto capability, zoom in to isolate candid expressions and reactions in the crowd. Remember that it's easy to include too much clutter in parade photos. If you want to photograph someone in an interesting costume, isolate your subject. Use the wide angle setting on your lens to encompass marching bands, floats, or other large subjects along the parade route.

Your parade photos will be more interesting if you don't take all your images from an "eye level" perspective. Try shooting down from a high vantage point, or crouching down low to get some unique details.
Reader photo by Byron Barrett, Vancouver, BC

What To Bring
· Your digital or film camera; preferably with a built-in zoom lens, or one that accepts interchangeable lenses.
· A moderate wide angle (24--30mm), a "normal" (50--55mm), and a moderate telephoto lens (100--300mm). If you have a wide-range zoom lens that encompasses focal lengths from wide angle to telephoto, this will lighten the load in your camera bag.
· Lots of film or high-capacity memory cards.
· A lens hood-- some parades are held midday, and the sun is bright. If you don't have a lens hood, use your hand or a hat to shade the lens from glare.

Reader photo by Michael Tozzi, Hamilton, NJ

Send Us Your Photos!
Readers are encouraged to submit photos to our monthly Back To Basics feature. Please refer to the table of contents, which lists the location of the entry coupon and more information on monthly topics.