The Fourth of July holiday and local parades go hand in hand. Gathering together with our community and veterans to celebrate the founding of our country and appreciating all who protect our liberties is a personal and moving experience. It’s also a wonderful photo opportunity and a chance to experiment with perspective and viewpoint. Here are a few of our favorite pointers for taking great parade photos:
Claim Your Parade Photos Shooting Spot Early: Positioning is key when it comes to photographing parades. You don’t want be stuck behind a group of people crowding your shot or, worse yet, blocking it entirely. If possible, set up on a corner as that location will give you a variety of angles of parade floats, the band and the marchers. It will also provide additional mobility as opposed to being wedged in the middle of a crowd. If you can find a location that elevates you above the group a bit, that’s another plus, but some of the most intimate shots can be created at ground level. The key is to claim a small space that isn’t obstructed by other people. Setting up a tripod can help you establish a compact working area and keep people from crowding you as you shoot.
Consider the Sun: Another factor to take into account is the sun’s location in relation to your shooting space. Photographing directly into the sun can pose a myriad of problems from hot spots in an image to general overexposure. Evaluate the area to see how you can best use the available light as an asset; for example, if the parade starts in the morning, the lighting may be considerably softer and ‘warmer’ in tone than at high noon. Also, you might find your photographs benefit from a lens hood. They’re designed to minimize glare while combating unwanted stray streams of light, protecting the integrity of your image. See our full selection of lens hoods here.
Flash Outdoors? Absolutely!: Even though you’ll be shooting in bright daylight, your flash can still come in handy when using it as a fill light. When photographing kids or other subjects, the harsh overhead sun can create shadows on the face; the flash works as a ‘fill’ and brightens under the eyes, evening the overall skin tone from forehead to chin.
Small Details Give Grand Results: Parades are packed with action, so it’s important to decide how you want to tell the story of this particular event. Go beyond the basic ‘long view’ shots of the crowd and zoom in on the details such as the child perched on his father’s shoulder, a couple smiling at the delight of a parade float, or a single small flag displayed in honor. With an event such at this, we often feel compelled to try to take in the entire scene at once. This approach isn’t always necessary. It is often the small and expressive details that can best convey the overall sentiment and help others experience the parade in a more connected manner.
Finally, remember to enjoy this important celebration in our nation’s history. While a parade can be a photographer’s dream, it is the sacrifice of so many that came before us that allow our dreams to now become reality.
Happy Fourth of July! Take plenty of parade photos!