How To Shoot The World Pride Parade in Toronto

ad_panel_btm-slider-1-altSunday, June 29 will see Toronto host the World Pride Parade and you can bet Marion and I are going to shoot it.Peter West Photo-1-XL The Gay Pride Day Parade has always been one of my favourite events and I’ve shot it on several occasions but this parade is like no other.

First it’s estimated that the crowd could approach two million spectators. That’s 2,000,000 hot sweaty people lining a relatively short parade route (roughly west bound on Bloor from Church, south on Yonge to Dundas. Here’s a link to the Gay Pride site.

This means that you have to arrive early to stake out your shooting location. All of the parade is enclosed by police barriers so there’s no way to shoot from the street itself. This is a huge disadvantage for photographers but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a decent sightline. i-vtjx3Tw-L

If it’s a hot day (and it often is) you must wear as little as possible (see photo to right), tons of sunscreen and a hat. Also you should carry as little equipment as possible. Wear good shoes or at the least comfortable Tevas or the equivalent. Bring water.

Because of the size of the crowds arrive really early. This year’s parade starts at 1 pm (usually it’s 2 pm) and I’d suggest an 11 am arrival time. If you’re going with a friend one of you can hold your spot while your partner finds some street food. It’s a great idea if you can locate near a place that will allow you to use their washroom šŸ™‚ Don’t depend on the parade starting on time.

This is a fun day and time isn’t necessarily one of the things at top of mind.

For equipment I’d suggest a camera or two capable of robust shooting. This means my Olympus cameras (which I love) aren’t quite up to the job when compared to my Nikons when it comes to fast and furious shooting. I will likely carry two camera bodies one with Nikon’s 14-24mm wide zoom and the other with my new (I bought for this parade.) Tamron 18-270mm zoom. (On special for $365 at Henry’s. It’s light and optically just fine and cheap! Great reach with the ability to capture groups of folks close in.)i-rB6DTvk-L

I’m not going to bring a camera bag as it’s just something else I have to carry and in a crowd of this size it’s not something I want to put down on the ground. (Toronto and especially Gay Pride events are very safe but that doesn’t mean I’ll drop my guard when it comes to where I put my equipment.)

I would definitely expect to shoot a few thousand frames and I will be shooting in RAW format as the lighting on the street can vary from very intense to very dull depending on the weather and I will want to compensate in post. Also the colours at this parade will easily exceed the dynamic range of my equipment and shooting in RAW helps to create the best liking images. (I tend to like vibrant coloured prints so my images online can look pretty phosphorescent.)

Once the parade ends everybody (all two million of your newest friends) will troop into what’s colloquially known as the Gay Village. Your ability to shoot photos will be severely limited solely by the crush of the crowd. Having said that there will be tons of photo opportunities to shoot very interesting and photographic images.

As in any street photography situation it’s important to be respectful but generally you can expect that anyone who dresses up (or undresses for that matter) at a public function is going to be okay with having their photo taken. Due to lingering discrimination here and life-threathening issues back home in some countries not everyone may want their photo taken or displayed online. Generally this isn’t an issue but if somebody asks do the right thing by them.


Gay or straight we can all take pride in the advances this city and its people have made to create a tolerant and safe community for everyone.

Come to the World Gay Pride Parade and prepare to have a great day šŸ™‚

Here’s a link to my Gay Pride Parade 2011 shots.

And here’s a link to my Gay Pride Parade 2012 shots.

Missed last year but will be there for World Gay Pride!


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