With Thanksgiving later this week, this is the time of year when everyone starts getting ready for the Christmas parades. Cities, schools, and associations around the United States and Canada put their heads together to come up with great parades that feature music from the local high school marching bands, floats, dancing, and plenty of other entertainment to build up the excitement for the holiday season. Santa Claus often makes an appearance at the end of these parades and sometimes there is even a booth set up at the end of the parade route for kids to go and tell Saint Nick what they want and to get their photos taken with him.
True, this isn’t the only time of year when parades are active — there is Mardi Gras coming up in January and running until Ash Wednesday), Easter parades, and harvest parades throughout the year. However, the Thanksgiving to Christmas is probably the densest parade time during the year. So, to help you out, we’ve got some parade photography tips for you below!
1) Get there early and pick your spot
— Location is key in any kind of photography but especially so in parades. Make certain you get there early enough to pick a good spot and to check with the parade security to see if photographers are allowed to get out on the road for short times in order to take front-on photos of the floats and displays.
2) Backlight your subjects but be careful to avoid shooting into the sun — If the day is sunny, you should consider using the trees and buildings to block the sun while still allowing you to use it to backlight your subjects.
3) Get close or use a telephoto zoom lens — If the parade security or policies won’t allow you to get in front or go over the barricades, make certain you’ve either scoped out a place close to the barricades or that you’ve found a place where you can get close with a telephoto lens and have a clear shot.
4) Check your settings and adjust them as necessary — The sun, clouds, and time of year make this a difficult time for photography with the white balance set to auto. Relying on the auto white balance is a good way to run into problems with shading and colors looking washed out.
5) Overpack if you can — If you have extra gear, try to take it with you. Tripods, monopods, filters, extra lenses — parades rarely require you to hike very far. If you followed step 1, you’ll have gotten there early and you can get your stands set up. If you have a comfortable enough backpack, you can keep most of your gear with you.
6) Be aggressive in post-production
— Parade photography is filled with dynamic images and fluid motions. Don’t be afraid to be a bit more aggressive in post-production and editing to bring out the vibrancy and life in the photos and take out the dizzying blurs and washed-out overviews.
Parades are great things to photograph. With a few tips and a bit of pre-planning, you can make the most of your parade photography and have great photos that will preserve these memories for a lifetime.
— da Bird