As you can probably tell, I am by no means a professional photography. I got my first DSLR about a year ago, and to be totally honest I have no idea what I’m doing! (Okay, I’m attempting to learn what I’m doing with the camera, but at this point I’m in no position to give actual photography advice. For Disney photographers who do know what they’re doing, I’d recommend checking out the photography section of our creator directory.)
Rather than telling you about all the technical aspects for shooting Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade, I’m just going to share some quick tips on how you (assuming you’re also an extremely amateur photographer) can get some decent photos with whatever camera you have, or even with your cell phone. Most of the photos in this post were actually shot with my Galaxy S10…
Perhaps I’m too picky in this respect for someone who is an extremely casual photographer, but my biggest pet peeve with parade photos is scrolling through tons of pictures of the back of other Guests’ heads. I’m basically in the camp of “if I’m not in the front, I’ll just see the parade another time” to begin with, but I understand that I go the parks a lot more than an average Guests so I have the ability to simply do it next time. Even more so then, if you do not get a chance to get to the parks very often, I’d definitely recommend trying to get your spot for the parade early if seeing it is a priority. (You didn’t spend tons of time and money getting to Walt Disney World to look at the back of heads, right?)
If you’re planning on watching Festival of Fantasy from Main Street or the hub around Cinderella Castle, you’ll want to arrive at least an hour or so ahead of time depending on the crowd levels in the park that day. You will not need to arrive nearly as early if you’re watching from Frontierland or Liberty Square, and every location can make for some really great photos (though of course getting the Castle in the background is a nice bonus if you’re able to watch from there).
As for how early, about an hour is typically a safe bet, but during a busy week like Christmas you may want to get there even earlier and on a slow weekday in January you may be able to show up a little more last minute. I typically gauge how early I need to get into position based on other Guests, if a couple of people appear to be camped out but there are still plenty of spots left I’ll get mine as well.
Either stay standing, or let the Guests behind you know you will be standing
One of the most annoying things (right up there with kids on shoulders) that happens when you’ve waited for a show at a theme park is when the sitting family in front of you decides to stand. If I’m not taking photos, but I have a ‘front seat’ to the parade, I almost always remain sitting. You’re probably on your feet all day, why stand during the parade? Plus, if you’re in the front and you’re sitting more people behind you will have a better view.
If my goal is to take lots of photos though, I always stand. You do not need to have lots of technical know-how to imagine that photos taken from a standing angle will come out better than they would angling your camera up while sitting on the ground. To avoid standing in front of other guests (and as a bonus, to avoid people standing next to me and blocking some of the shots) I like to find a lamp post or a trash can or something where people can’t really stand directly behind me anyway when I’m taking parade photos.
Sometimes though I want to shoot from somewhere different or I just can’t find this kind of spot, and in this case I either stay standing so the Guests behind me know what they’re going to get or on occasions where I do sit, I let whoever is behind me know that I’m going to stand when it starts.
Take photos of the entire parade, not just the characters
Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade is my favorite Magic Kingdom parade… since Mickey Mania (which I understand was certainly NOT everyone’s taste!). The costume and set design in this parade is honestly phenomenal, and you’re doing yourself a disservice by only taking pictures of the characters. Some of my favorite photos from this parade are of the dancers or the floats!
Without getting too technical, if you’re looking to capture some different shots this is a fun parade to try to shoot various details. I don’t have too many of these myself (totally amateur, remember?) but I love seeing photos that focus in on details I would have never thought to shoot. I’ve dabbled in this a bit with some of the steampunk details of the Maleficent dragon and I’m sure if you’re feeling creative (or just know what you’re doing) you can get lots of fun shows by going for the smaller details.
Be respectful of other Guests!
This isn’t really photography specific, but I thought I’d include it here since most of the issues I tend to see with Guests being rude during parades is due to them trying to get photos. First let me say that in terms of someone pretty involved in the Disney fandom, I’m probably more forgiving of poor Guest behavior than most people are. I’ve worked in tourism one way or another for almost 10 years now, and tourists will always be tourists. Yes, they don’t always know how to read signage, they’re typically in your personal space, they stop in the middle of walkways… It’s annoying, I don’t disagree. But I’m sympathetic (within reason) to the fact that they’re overstimulated, in an unfamiliar place, could have some cultural differences where personal space is less of an issue, etc…
Still, the biggest ‘rude Guest’ issue I see with parades is when Guests are in your space because they’re trying to get photos. Typically these aren’t the people who know what they’re doing taking photos, they’re your average tourists with iPads or iPhones trying to record the parade that they’ll probably never see again. I love seeing them so excited to watch the parade and take some of these memories home with them, but there is still no need to stick your phone in front of another Guest or lean/push uncomfortably into someone else’s space.
The WORST of this I’ve ever experienced was during my last Disney trip as it was the first time I watched the parade from a wheelchair. I tore my ACL just before our trip, and this trip was the first time I had ever used a wheelchair. I was prepared for rude stares and that kind of behavior from other Guests (which I especially got when I stood up for photos as I could physically stand on my knee but I could definitely not put weight on it for an entire day in the park) but the one thing I was not prepared for at all was to have other Guests touch the chair, which seemed to really only happen during the parade.
Chaz and I staked out our spot in Frontierland near Pecos Bill’s, with Chaz in front of a trash can (so no one would stand directly behind him anyway) and my chair right next to him. Without generalizing, because I could have just had bad luck with the family behind and next to us, watching the parade from the wheelchair was definitely the most I’ve had other Guests invading my space. The Guests to my right kept inching to get in front of me, then seeing the stirrups from the chair and moving back, but worst of all were the guests behind me who kept leaning on the chair. I’ve always heard that you should not touch someone’s wheelchair because it’s essentially an extension of themselves, so if you wouldn’t lean on a strangers shoulder you definitely shouldn’t be leaning on their chair.
It was pretty uncomfortable, because even though I wasn’t entirely used to using a wheelchair it still felt like these Guests were right on top of me, and I honestly didn’t know what to do. Since I don’t regularly use a wheelchair I wasn’t sure what the best way to handle the situation was. Chaz wanted to just say something to him, but I felt like that would have been weird since I was the one in the chair. Ultimately (and this is probably not the correct way to handle this!) I ended up adjusting my position so my arm was leaning over that part of the chair, and when they realized their hand would have essentially been in my armpit they seemed to move. I know this is totally passive aggressive but I had no idea what to do, and now even more-so than before I totally feel for Guests who regularly use wheelchairs and probably deal with this all too often.
Now that this post has totally derailed– Be courteous too all guests, standing, sitting, in wheelchairs, ECVs, strollers, camera, no camera, whatever. (And if you do use a wheelchair or ECV regularly in the parks and feel like writing a guest post on here about it, please let me know! I did no research before taking a wheelchair to the parks and clearly I should have…)
Try your hand at editing your photos
Now that I’m off my soapbox… I think when people compliment my photos, they’re really complimenting my editing skills and not my photography skills and they probably don’t even realize it. I use Lightroom and have a bunch of different presets, and it’s really fun to play with different editing techniques especially with this parade since the colors are already so vibrant.
I can’t really give any technical tips here (I still don’t actually know what I’m doing), but what I will say is don’t automatically just discard most of your photos. Sometimes cropping and some basic editing can really bring them to life regardless of whether or not you knew what you were doing when you took it or if you were using a camera or phone.
I hope this post was helpful (and I hope you got through it with my random tangent in there!). If you have any more super general parade photography tips, or hey if you want to teach me how to actually use my DSLR, drop a note in the comments! 🙂