Whether you are a budding photographer or simply want good parade photos, I want to give you some tips so that you get the best pictures you possibly can!
Picking Your Spot
Scout your position early, specifically you want avoid busy backgrounds. Start with that, and then make sure you get in the front row. Everyone wants to be in the front row at parades but, if your goal is to get good pictures, you really want to be in the front row.
If you’re planning on watching/shooting the parade on Main Street in either Disneyland or Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to get there at least an hour or so before (depending on crowd levels) to ensure a spot at the front. If not the front row, get a good high ground. This can be hard to do. One of the main places that comes to mind is at Disneyland, near “It’s A Small World.” There’s a wide terrace that is right on the parade route. If you get a spot at the front, where the railing is, you’ll have a very clear view of all the floats that come by.
The thing about a parade is that you can't really move once it starts. Whatever is in your background will be there for in the shots you take, even if you're zoomed in. Put some care into selecting what kind of background is on the opposite side of the parade route from you.
Camera Settings & Gear
I honestly feel like the best advise I can give about camera gear is to know your camera gear. You're not going to get quality photos if you're not comfortable with your gear. I've seen many new photographers who think that the camera will do all the work for them. Wrong. You do all the work! You're the creative!
So if you're new to the photo-taking world, go out and shoot! Practice and play around with your camera to gain more control of what you're doing before you get to the parks.
Whether you have a little or a lot of experience shooting with professional photography gear, the first time you shoot a Disney parade you will probably feel overwhelmed. There's a lot going on! The music, the costumes, the choreography, etc. So just do your best and get to know the parade, and what the performers do each time.
What's worked best for me is using a DSLR camera that I'm comfortable with (in the past I've used the Canon t3i, Canon 60D, and I'm currently shooting with Canon 5D). I also shoot with lenses that can give you a nice zoom, but I've also used my 50mm lens, which I am most comfortable with.
I always have extra batteries and memory cards with me, just in case. Usually I make sure my battery is charged before the parade starts, as well as checking that my memory card has plenty of room for more images! I tend to get a little snap happy during parades!
The Best Lighting
Take note of where the sun is or where it will be during the parade. Aim for the most even light possible. At both Disneyland and Disney World, parts of Main Street are really nice for the daytime parade since everything is fairly shady without harsh light, which gives you that even light.
The best light would be a slightly overcast day, but I mean, you can't really control the weather! But if a day like that happens to be the day you're at the park, prep to take lots of well-lit photos.
Sometimes one of the hardest parts of shooting parades is capturing something unique. It’s easy to see each float and get caught up in the entire thing! It can be overwhelming with the catchy music, exciting characters, and various visual displays going on. Try and focus on one thing at a time.
Zoom in! Pick one performer, or one part of a float and get closer. Take a look at what each character is doing in that moment. They could be interacting with another character or with an audience member, maybe they're dancing or waving. Each performance is different from the last, so enjoy those little unique moments from each performer!
Let the characters see that you’re taking their photo! Usually they'll interact with you. They know they’re on display and expect to have their photo taken. So don't be shy! You have a camera and you're not afraid to use it!
Put Down Your Camera
One of my rules is, I always see a show, parade, etc. first before I shoot it. That way I can really enjoy it for the first time! If you use this approach, you won’t feel like you missed something each time you put your camera down to see everything with your own eyes.
Sometimes you just need to put down your camera and watch the parade! Don't stress, don't get too trigger happy, and just enjoy the experience!
And just keep on trying! You'll be a pro before you know it!