Learn to capture important moments amidst the festival's chaos. Today, in our blog, we discuss the secrets of successful shots during colorful parades. Turn the bustle and dynamism of the event into frozen, unique moments.

More than a hundred parades are dedicated to various events and celebrations yearly. Each country has traditions of celebrating certain holidays, including a noisy parade with costumes, music, and performances. Parades are loved in the USA probably like nowhere else in the world. Depending on the state and the event, you can catch a unique sight, participate, or capture special moments on camera. Whether it's a St. Patrick's Day parade, Independence Day, Halloween, Christmas, or sporting events, the basics of photographing such chaotic scenes will help you capture the best shots every time.

In this article, you will find 10 practical tips for creating impressive photos of parades and festivals, capturing their color, bustle, and dynamics. You will also learn about the secrets of photo editing using AI features, which will certainly improve your pictures of such events. 

Without further ado, let's get straight to the point!

Tip #1: Prepare the CameraParade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(2)

It may sound trivial, but without a camera, you can hardly take a photo, at least not a good one. And if we talk with no joke, your camera should be ready to shoot. If you know about the event beforehand, allocate time to prepare everything necessary. Bring extra memory cards and batteries. The only accessory you won't need is a tripod. Due to the dynamic nature of the event, you won't have time to mess with it.

Set your camera up in advance to make it as ready as possible. Unfortunately, there are no universal settings because many factors play a role here — from lighting to traffic dynamics.

Shutter speed

Setting a relatively short shutter speed will give you a sharp photo. A shutter speed between 1/250 and 1/500 is good for freezing most action. However, pay attention to the circumstances and change the settings in time. For example, it is better to use a shutter speed of about 1/1000 to capture the most dynamic elements.


The settings will depend on your vision. A smaller aperture is required to sharpen the entire scene and achieve a greater depth of field. A larger aperture is needed to highlight a specific subject and achieve a shallower depth of field. A good ND filter may be required in bright daylight, especially midday. If you still do not have an ND filter, getting one is a good idea because you never know when it will come in handy.

Exposure Modes

Exposure settings can change dramatically depending on the color of the subject's clothing, buildings, cloud conditions, etc. Therefore, depending on your creative vision, you can set the exposure manually, intentionally lowering or increasing it, or leave it in automatic mode and work further with it during post-processing. Usually, the automatic mode gives the most optimal ISO values. Photos in RAW format will give you more opportunities to work at the post-processing stage. Therefore, leave the correction of exposure nuances for later, without missing important moments by being distracted by manual settings.

Auto Focus

Since parades move constantly and all the participants are in constant motion, you need one more helpful parameter. It is AI-Servo (AF-C in Nikon). Remember to check this setting to keep most photos focused because this flaw will be more difficult to correct at the post-processing stage.

Read our article about How to Photograph Concerts to learn about camera settings for shooting in difficult lighting conditions. It can help you in photographing evening parades and similar events.

Tip #2: Know the Parade RouteParade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(3)

Knowing the parade route lets you scout which spots will give you the best view. You will also be able to plan your movement between them. However, consider the nuance that it will be more difficult to do during the event due to the chaotic nature of the process and the crowd of people. Knowing the route, you can use the nearby side streets and alleys to get from one great place to another. 

It will also be useful to scout places in advance as close as possible to the same time of day.  This way, you can see how the light falls on the route and choose the best spots based on that.

Tip #3: Arrive EarlyParade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(4)

Only if you arrive earlier than others will you be able to claim your pre-selected seat. During the event, spectators can ignore your requests to give in to you at a certain place. Taking unique photos while standing behind the crowd will also be quite difficult. How early to arrive at the venue will depend on the city and the scale of the parade.

Another advantage of early arrival is the opportunity to photograph the scenes of participants' preparation for the procession. You can witness a rehearsal or the final touches of putting on costumes and make-up. It is a good chance to get some cute photos, especially if small children are in the parade. You can convey the event and tell its story — the settings, the actual parade, and the disassembly of the scenery and costumes — if you stay until the very end. Such moments are even more emotional than the parade itself.

Tip #4: Explore the List of Parade UnitsParade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(5)

Usually, the parade program is freely available. But you can also turn to the organizers for help. When you know in what order the participants will go, you can calculate which points and places you can take better shots from. Create a short list to better plan your photos. It will save you time and resources and allow you to distribute frames evenly among all interesting characters.

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Tip #5: Look for Profitable AnglesParade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(6)

Perspective matters. How do you create a picture conveying a story? It can be a close-up of a scene, a portrait, or a general composition. You can shoot from below, above, or directly. Look for the angle that most accurately conveys your vision of the event.

  • Eye Level: It is the easiest way to shoot a scene. With this perspective, you show the event from your point of view and help the viewer feel involved. 

  • From Above: Show a higher perspective that will illustrate the magnitude of the parade. These shots are great for getting the general look of the parade. 

  • Street Level: Low-perspective shots make people and objects appear larger and grander. Their size, lighting, and scenery already create quite an impression, and the low perspective only emphasizes this feeling.

Tip #6: Stand on Street CornerParade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(7)

Get a good position on a street corner. The parade will slow down at the turn, and this may give you time to take more than one quick shot. In addition, you will have a wider angle of view of the moving column and think about what exactly is interesting to shoot.

Tip #7: Pay Attention to SpectatorsParade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(8)

Other people along the parade route are also important to the story. Usually, such events unite different people. Children enthralled by the action, cheerful adults, cute older people, rebellious teenagers, elegant young ladies, and shy young men — all these people have emotions from the parade, and you can show them in your pictures. There are also vendors selling goodies, toys, and other equipment. Brightness and movement make a good photo. 

Discover How to Photograph People in any situation to feel confident in the event's chaos.

Tip #8: Don't Miss the DetailsParade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(9)

Take close-up photos of the scenery. Try to capture them before people block their view. Such details perfectly convey the atmosphere and theme of the parade. In addition, spectators may find it interesting to look at the details of the decorations, which are difficult to see when the parade is moving or if they are far away.

Tip #9: Keep Your Eyes and Camera ReadyParade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(10)

Stay up to date with what's happening at the parade. Don't focus on just one thing because you can miss something else. Also, refrain from looking at each photo after you take it. It takes your attention away from the parade. However, for greater confidence, you will first need to check each control after the settings to feel confident and trust the process.

Tip #10: Pay Attention to Post-Processing

Taking good photos is only half the success. You need to improve it in post-processing. With the help of Luminar Neo, you can get a professional result in a matter of minutes. Try to blur the background image to enhance portraits and highlight the main objects from the general scene. You can emphasize certain people, objects, or elements without disturbing the overall scene and atmosphere. 

Parades and carnivals are always a movement. Show it in your pictures. The picture moving effect will help you create unique photos with the image of movement. Add dynamics and activity to images. Also, you can use the picture eraser to remove excess elements or crowds from the frame. Let only the main thing remain in the picture. 

Luminar Neo has many advanced features that you may need for creative purposes and professional portrait editing. So expand your creativity with this top photo editor, and let your parade photos shine and delight!

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Bottom LineParade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(11)

In conclusion, let us add one more, no less important, advice to these tips: Don't get too fixated on shooting the parade. Allow yourself to enjoy the event and become part of the surprised and interested crowd of spectators. Feel the excitement of what is happening in front of you. Oddly enough, this is exactly what will allow you to make the best shots intuitively. 

After all, you are trying to photograph exactly what you personally like. Buy yourself a drink and some goodies from the street vendors. In a word, immerse yourself in the atmosphere with your head! And while you're savoring cotton candy or spiralized potatoes, think about how to convey that flavor in your parade photos. Complete the pictures with high-quality post-processing and let the parade remain with you as a beautiful photo collection with pleasant memories!

Parade Photography: Tips for Dynamic Celebratory Images | Skylum Blog(12)

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