Tips for Photographing That Small Town Parade

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It’s the season for small town parades.  With the Fourth of July just around the corner marching bands and VFW honor guards will be marching down Main Street America showcasing local pride.  If you are planning to attend a small home town parade here are a few tips to make the most out of the day and grab a few great shots.

Color & Pattern

Watch for exciting and vibrant colors or repeating patterns in the parade.  You’re likely to find some interesting compositions in the rows and patterns of marching bands and drum corps.  Look for the well polished more experience groups.  If the are are good enough to be marching in step they’ll look good in a photograph. Banners, flags, and floats can also be a great source of vibrant colors.

Choose the Right Background

While the parade will surely be your focal point, don’t forget to consider your background. If you can frame your images to include a local landmark like a church, school, or old main street theater it will give your photographs a unique sense of place.  Remember, finding the right angle to get that church steple in the frame might take a bit of investigation so go early to scout out the best locations.

Find the Clowns

Be on the look out for anyone in the parade that is interacting with the spectators. This could literally be a clown, or someone just having fun getting the crowd involved.  What you are watching for is an emotional interaction that shows the feeling from the spectator side.  You’re trying to capture the sense of what it is like to be there and witness the parade first hand.  This is the perfect time to use burst mode on your DSLR if you are trying to capture that perfect moment. Just be ready to throw away some of the shoots when you get back home.

Try Multiple Angles

Make sure you vary the angle of your shots. Trying shooting perpendicular to the street, shoot the oncoming parade groups at a 45 degree angle, and if you can try shooting head on.  A head on shot will require you to get out to the middle of the street.  This only works for smaller parades where things are a bit more loose and the local authorities are not too concerned if folks are crossing the parade route.  Just remember you are a guest, and you don’t want to be the one holding up the parade if you try this.  Get in, take your shot, and move back to the curb.

Visit Twice

Everybody knows that practice makes you better.  With photography, shooting the same subject on different days or in different weather can also make for better pictures.  If you have a chance to visit the same parade next year consider it.  However, before you go back take a quick look at your pictures from the previous year to see what worked and what didn’t.  Even if you just review your past work for a few minutes, you’ll be better prepared to capture the next great shot when you are out on the parade route.

If you have any additional tips for getting the best parade pictures leave a comment. I’d love to hear your tips.





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