It’s a Festival of Fantasy

Walt Disney World rolled out the Festival of Fantasy parade back in 2014 to great fanfare.  By now you can watch countless videos on YouTube or even catch a live broadcast of the parade on Periscope from frequent park guests like Mark Willard (and by the way, if you aren’t following Mark on Twitter or Instagram you really should), but there is nothing quite like experiencing the parade for yourself in person.

While I love the parade, Disney does not do photographers any favors with when they schedule the parade – 3:00pm.  The sun is high and bright in the sky making lighting less than ideal.  Shooting the characters high upon the floats can be very tricky with all of that sunlight to manage.  Make sure you are shooting in RAW mode on your camera so you can adjust things in your favorite photo editing software.


In general I’m happy with the way this shot turned out.  I did have to push things pretty far in Photoshop farther than I’m usually comfortable with, but I like the pose and expression I was able to capture so the shot works for me.

You are more likely to get a better shot of the dancers walking at street level or some of the lower to the ground floats if you are shooting along the Main Street corridor.  The buildings can provide some shade – which again, is less than ideal but you can usually do better at eye level than shooting up.  The performers in the parade….well they are PERFORMERS so if they notice you with your camera, they can mug to the camera and give you a nice look.  You just have to be watching for it and get the image.


I was lucky enough to catch Anna and Elsa looking right into the camera here as the Frozen float unit moved past.  

But even when they don’t notice the cameras, the cast members are having fun.  Make sure you capture that fun in your shots.  It seems like a simple thing to remember, but make sure you get the characters with their eyes open and a good expression on their face.  I know there are a lot better photographers out there and one only needs to look at the volume of parade shots I took where I miss timed it and the cast members eyes are closed.  If this were the film days I would not be a happy camper.

MeridaParadeBlogWe sat through the Festival of Fantasy parade nearly every day of our Spring Break this year, and the cast member playing Merida always seemed to be having the time of her life. 

The other shot to get is the Maleficent dragon breathing fire.  As you are watching the parade, use your ears and not just your eyes.  The dragon will breath fire to the proper cue in the music and it will allow you to time your shot.


Keep in mind that if the wind is too high Disney safety will call off the fire portion of the parade.  The Dragon’s mouth will still open at the proper cue in the music though.  They should probably play The Price as Right sad trombone tune at that point when there isn’t going to be fire that day.

Please leave a comment and provide us with some feedback!  We would love for you to share your tips for shooting the Festival of Fantasy parade. We would also love to hear your thoughts on anything you want us to cover on the site.  Please just click the Read More button below to bring up the page where you can leave a comment.

All of these shots were taken with my Canon 60D.  Some of them I was able to grab with the Canon 70-200 lens which really helps with getting in close to the performers faces.  I don’t own that lens but I rented it (there’s a future post coming on renting gear for a Disney trip).  As always, please consider following this Amazon link as it helps support the site.

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AJ Minotti

about 1 year ago Reply

I shot this parade on my own Canon 60D during my honeymoon last summer and had a blast. The parade moved from Frontierland to Main Street. I started shooting in Frontierland until the last float passed by. Then I booked it through Adventureland back to Main Street and got the entire parade a second time as it made the bend in front of the train station. Like the article says, focus on the performers! They're really good about posing for photographers. I got a fantastic shot of Rapunzel defensively pointing her frying pan at me!


about 1 year ago Reply

I haven't tried shooting it twice like that AJ. Great tip!

Matt Stemerman

about 1 year ago Reply

A few things I would add are just more how to shoot them. A big thing is to use Continuous/Servo focus. While the parade doesn't go crazy fast, the movement of the performers and the floats means that you will lose focus after your initial snap (I also use back button focus to help avoid issues between focusing and snapping the image). Which also means to shoot in Continuous High or some kind of burst mode to take advantage of your camera's frames per second to help avoid the closed eye issues of the performers. One other thing I always do is under-expose by about 2/3 of a stop so that when you switch to those characters on top of floats (Merida and Ariel) you don't have the sky too blown up from the change in the exposure. Plus shooting in raw will not kill your image if it's 2/3 to a full stop below.


about 1 year ago Reply

Great additional comments Matt! Thanks for the tips. Next time I am at Walt Disney World, I'll definitely try that out.

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