Salute to Parades!
June 25th, 2019 by David LaBelle

Look at a parade from the perspective of the participants and the spectators.
Photos by David LaBelle

“Where are the floats and the marching bands?” the editor asked the newspaper photographer. “Readers expect to see a grand view of the parade.”

The photographer had documented the parade for years. This time he ignored the predictable overall picture of the parade and instead focused on preparations and colorful individuals in the procession.

It’s great to be interpretive. As an editor and instructor, I encourage photographers to take risks—after first making the literal event picture.

Here are a few tips to help you make parade pictures:

  • Find a high or low vantage point on an incline to see the long string of participants and record the overall view.
  • Arrive early so you can meet the participants. When possible, stick around after the event. My best pictures from parades are almost always before and after the parade.
  • Do your homework. Know who will be there: the oldest person, king or queen, or a local hero or celebrity.
  • Challenge yourself to do more than make a lifeless document that says you were there. Leave your comfort zone and try new techniques—perhaps long shutter speeds to produce swirling colors of movement, or lower angles that give your pictures a surprising or fresh view.
  • Dare to take your eyes off the marching participants and scan the sidelines. Look for animated subjects with great faces and uninhibited emotion. Choosing good subjects is more than half the success of making interesting pictures. If I notice an excited, engaged family, I position myself across the street and wait for their reactions.
  • When people ask for pictures, give them a business card with your contact information rather than taking down theirs. Put the onus on them to get in touch.
  • Challenge yourself to interpret. I teach students to dig deep and learn to make pictures that go beyond showing what people are doing, instead revealing how they feel about what they are doing. Anybody with a camera can make a decent picture of people doing things. An artist looks deeper for the emotion that reveals the love of the action. Make the overall, scene-setting picture first, then look for things that catch your eyes or reveal stories.
  • Focus on a theme: a specific color, flags, or people’s hands and feet. The possibilities are endless.
  • Give yourself permission to photograph. People expect to be seen and photographed. This helps young photographers learn to feel comfortable photographing strangers.

As always, have fun!

Photographer, teacher, author and lecturer David LaBelle has worked for newspapers and magazines across the U.S. Visit