SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: An In-Depth Look At Theme Park Photography

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at theme park photography! Over the years the SATURDAY SIX has become known for tough-as-nails, hard hitting journalism that tackles the controversial subjects no one else dares to touch. You may remember our exposé on Disney Pet Peeves, the groundbreaking look at the Worst Places to Propose at Walt Disney World, or the review which single-handedly caused Disney to continue their dog-friendly policy at hotels. Today we are going to head into a world many know of, but few have ever been allowed inside. A world that allows the rest of us to live vicariously while we slave away at our boring day jobs; looking at Disney hotels we want to be staying in, attractions we want to experience, and dreaming of delicious food we want to eat.

Today we look at Theme Park Photographers.

We don’t like to use the world “hero” lightly around here, but get ready to enter a world in which true heroes overcome all obstacles simply for the pure love of art, and the ability to lift the rest of us up out of our general malaise and give us a brief taste of what it would like to be living our best lives.

# 6 – Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these photographers from the swift completion of their appointed shots

Most of us know how hard it is to get good photos even under the most ideal of conditions. Our parents had photo album after photo album filled with pictures that no one really wanted to look at again. Thanks to digital cameras, the photo albums have been replaced with hard drives, with the biggest difference being we all now have even more awful vacation photos than ever before. The theme park photographer doesn’t have the luxury of perfect weather, because they have to work under the conditions of “if you ain’t first, you’re last.” Crowded parks… extreme weather…Cast Members reminding them the park closed an hour ago and it’s time to leave… NOTHING gets in the way of a theme park photographer getting their perfect shot.

Tom Bricker – an icon of theme park photography – battles the elements to make sure the readers get a much needed shot of his bottle of soda. (photo by Guy Selga)

 

# 5 – Why bringing plush into the parks is more important to a theme park photographer than bringing other humans

In the past, theme park guests liked to have photos taken with their friends and family. Today’s audience of millenials aren’t as interested in old timey and outdated concepts like “human relationships.” Instead, they like to see pictures of Disney plush at the parks pretending to be humans. This is not a uniquely American concept, and can be seen trending worldwide. For the photographer, this can be a painstaking process as they have to make absolutely sure the plush is in the correct position for the photo, lest the audience suffer from an uncanny valley situation.

This particular Gelatoni plush has been pictured at so many theme park restaurants that it has its own Tables In Wonderland Card. The cat is actually training Cookie and Tippy Blue for future photo shoots.(photo by @MysticFlights)
Plush photographers must throw continuity out the window so that we can say “Sweet Dreams” to small Duffy the Bear, large Duffy the bear and Shellie Mae. (photo via Twitter user @DuffyPianoforte)
(photo by Twitter user @Gelatoni_0827)
Presented without commentary. (photo by Twitter user @Gelatoni_0827)

 

However, guests at the theme parks in Florida are seeing a more recent phenomenon of  Disney plush being photographed in front of alcohol. This photography practice is so cutting edge and new that even we don’t understand the thought process behind it. All we can do is assume that it is so high-concept and ahead of the curve that our simple minds can’t comprehend it.

A team sets up Disney plush surrounded by alcohol to be photographed by several photographers lying on the ground. (photo by @cheeksadam)
In this Dramatic Reenactment, @CheeksAdam photos his Disney plush with alcohol from EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival.

 

# 4 – The lowly garbage can is a theme park photographer’s most trusted companion

Many theme park fans know the oft-told story that it was Walt Disney himself who wanted garbage cans placed within every 30 feet of each other inside the parks. While the conventional wisdom dictates that the cans were to encourage guests from littering, Disney Historians now say the garbage cans are proof that Walt always foresaw a Food & Wine Festival at the parks and realized he needed more tables for capacity. Whatever the reason for their existence, over the years these garbage cans have become as important to a theme park photographer as a camera! Garbage cans are an invaluable tool in the photographer’s tool belt with uses including:

  • A table to display items on
  • Work good enough as a tripod for photographers on a budget
  • Are a handy stool to help take pictures over a pesky construction wall
Brandon Glover used a trash can in the Magic Kingdom’s hub to take a photo of the fabled “rose gold” cupcake.
Indescribably beautiful. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Brandon Glover uses a nasty garbage can in Adventureland to take a picture of the Dole-Whip Topped Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
“Do you believe in miracles?!” – Al Michaels
A garbage can shot with a garbage can as a background. The rare garbage can INCEPTION. (photo by @blog_mickey)

 

# 3 – A theme park photographer’s greatest strength is their RESOLVE. They must be unflappable at ALL TIMES, regardless of the situation

While most guests inside the theme parks get distracted faster than Dug seeing a squirrel, a theme park photographer has to have nerves of steel. The perfect shot comes when it’s ready, not when you’re ready. There are times when a theme park photog has to summon all the skill of a highly trained living statue in order to be in the perfect position for when a photo presents itself. While now retired, longtime Disneyland photographer Andy Castro once spent 11 hours in the same spot – never moving a single muscle – just to get a shot of a guest smiling at Red Rocket’s Pizza Port. That’s the type of dedication we’re talking about.

Travis Terrell, a theme park photographer who specializes in Halloween Horror Nights pictures, here steadies himself for a shot while being stalked by a scareactor. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Would YOU be able to concentrate this hard with a scareactor breathing down your neck? Travis is literally THE IMMOVABLE OBJECT. (photo by Brandon Glover)
The fact that Travis is just taking an updated menu shot for the Dippin’ Dots cart by Minion Mayhem just shows he is a professional 24/7. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

# 2 – A theme park photographer must always be in PEAK PHYSICAL CONDITION for their body to handle the contortions they must put it through

While movie fans have heard stories of Tom Cruise doing his own stunts for the Mission: Impossible films, what many don’t realize is that for six weeks before every M:I, Cruise shadows theme park photographers to get his body in the extreme physical shape that those stunts demand. To get the shots we all take for granted, oftentimes theme park photographers have to contort their body into more positions than a Cirque du Soleil performer. They don’t do it for the glory. They don’t do it for the money. They do it for YOU.

Brandon Glover leaning on a couch to get a shot of a drink at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
VOILA! (photo by Brandon Glover)
Hunter Underwood gets the exact perspective he needs by lying on a ground that hasn’t been cleaned in days, possibly weeks, solely FOR OUR ENJOYMENT. (photo by @Caitlizgrace)
Perched on a chair, Brandon’s 3-times-a-week squat routine at Gold’s Gym prepared his quads to get the exact photo he needed.
Thrillgeek’s own Clint Gamache – dressed in full Haunted Mansion garb no less – sits on Main Street USA to get this shot of the MNSSHP logo that has been projected onto the pavement.
Bingo! (photo by Clint Gamache)
Heather Keller and Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders laid on their backs for hours taking shots of the atrium on the Disney Magic cruise ship. (photo by Tammy Whiting)
Despite suffering near crippling osteopetrosis in his back for years because of what it took to get this shot, Captain Cruiseline said he would do it over again in a second. “The readers deserve our very best.” (photo by Scott Sanders)

 

# 1 – Approach all food photographers with EXTREME CAUTION, as they are known to multiply quickly once food is around

Thanks to Instagram and other forms of social media, everyone thinks they are the next Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz taking photos of their theme park food. However, there is a CODE OF ETHICS within the world of theme park food photography that is strictly enforced by the Blogging Guild.

The Official Rules of Theme Park Food Photography:

RULE #1: The camera eats first. Always. If you are at a table with a food photographer you keep your hands to your side and your mouth shut until all the photos are taken. If the food becomes cold that is what the photography industry calls “collateral damage.”

RULE #2: Once a particular food or drink has been photographed it must never be ordered again. EVER. The item has now become unbloggable. Therefore ordering it becomes such a selfish act that the photographer is subject to a “shunning” by their contemporaries for a period of no less than 8 weeks depending on the violation.

RULE #3: A theme park food photographer is encouraged to bring the longest zoom lens they can into the parks. That way they are able to take pictures of other guest’s food without their knowledge and without the photog having to open up the wallet.

RULE #4: The more theme park photographers who can split an item, the better. It is not uncommon to see half a dozen or more photographers shooting a shared cupcake. The goal is to get a group large enough to try every single new item at Food & Wine without any individual spending more than $5.

Can’t eat it, ’till you Tweet it. – @Blog_Mickey, explaining the theme park photographer’s mantra

Travis Terrell using an appropriately sized lens to photograph a dessert in Diagon Alley. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Chef Art Smith of Homecomin’ may make food that TASTES GOOD, but its photographers like @ViewsAndQueues and Brandon Glover who make it LOOK GOOD.
When a new dessert is introduced at WDW, this is what you are going to see if you are watching true professionals. (photo courtesy of Corless Cronies)

The Golden Rule of Theme Park Photography: Do upon food as it would do upon you.

The average theme park guest goes into the purchase of food items with the intention of actually eating them. Nay nay says the theme park photographer! The purchase of food items is for the sole purpose of getting the best picture possible. Period.Whether you are hungry or the food actually tastes good is IRRELEVANT!

The Pop-Tart Sandwich from Disney’s Pop Century Resort, once photographed in every conceivable angle, goes back into the bowels from which it was birthed.

 

Belle cupcake in front of the France Pavilion. “Pretty as a picture” as they would say…

Belle cupcake. (photo by @ViewsAndQueues)

This is how the cupcake tasted.

Honorable Mention – It is important to remind oneself that theme park photography demands UTMOST PATIENCE, as above all the other guests are trying to ruin your shots

Who hasn’t tried to take a picture of their loved ones in the gallows at Liberty Square, only to have another guest walk into your shot? (photo by Brandon Glover)
A theme park photographer can camp out their parade spot for hours, only to have another guest come by at the last second and haphazardly snap a phone pic. OUTRAGEOUS! (photo by Brandon Glover)

So there you have it: A SATURDAY SIX Special Investigation on Theme Park Photography! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles, or, for your listening pleasure, check out the E-Ticket Report podcast. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following:

The SATURDAY SIX Uses Disney Villains To Explain Theme Park Blogging

SATURDAY SIX Investigative Report: The WORST Places To Propose at WDW

6 Pieces of Disney Merchandise That Don’t Exists (But Totally Should)

Are Disney’s Hotels Going To The Dogs? A Review.

Walt Disney World Locations Used in Hulk Hogan’s THUNDER IN PARADISE

SATURDAY SIX Investigative Report: Disney PET PEEVES

Special Thanks to our spirit animal Brandon Glover, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, Terrifying Travis Terrell, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Mr. ‘Ohana Tim Grassey, The Dynamic Duo of Caitlin Dineen and her partner in crime @Elliphant, “Jammin” Julia Mascardo, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, Clint “Grave Digger” Gamache of ThrillGeek, blogging’s rookie of the year @Blog_Mickey, Johnny On The Spot @CheeksAdam, Disney Photo ICON Tom Bricker of Travel Caffeine, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the World Famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, Tammy Whiting of Storybook Destinations, High Seas Heather Keller, the one and only Josh EasyWDW of EasyWDW.com,  WDWNT’s own Tom Corless and his “Corless Cronies” including Steve Jobs’ biggest fan @Kryptonlogic, the man who took down DISFLIX @Schmoofy, the babyface of ThemeParkReview and the only person who admits to liking John Carter Adam Roth, the only man who walks through Carsland with BTTF auto-lacing shoes Guy Selga, crazy cat lady – and our Fearless Leader – Laurel Stewart, and blogger to the stars Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

FINAL PLUG! Did you know The 2018 Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando has a special edition of the SATURDAY SIX in it? Finally, someone came up with an actual reason to read a book. ORDER this baby now!

An untrained guest using a TABLET to take a photo – IN PORTRAIT NO LESS – committing two sins of theme park photography at once. This is exactly why should all let the professionals do their job and get out of their way.

12 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: An In-Depth Look At Theme Park Photography

  • September 8, 2018 at 10:31 am
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    This was hilarious!! Thanks to all the “heroes” out there! Haha!

    Reply
  • September 8, 2018 at 11:44 am
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    As soon as I saw the title I knew I would love this article and it did not disappoint! I too must thank these “heroes”! (The Tom Bricker photo shot is the best, and seriously, I don’t get the thing with the plush pics at all.) Love your articles Derek!

    Reply
  • September 8, 2018 at 2:18 pm
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    This might be the funniest blog I have ever read.

    Reply
  • September 8, 2018 at 11:33 pm
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    I’m laughing out loud! My husband thinks I’m crazy…

    Reply
  • September 8, 2018 at 11:42 pm
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    This is about the funniest blog ever, absolutely hysterical! I think it may be tough to top this one. Forget the rides & parades, my next trip to the parks I’m on a scavenger hunt for theme park blog photographers.

    And, the Scott Sanders photo of the cruise ship atrium ceiling is stunning!

    Reply
    • September 10, 2018 at 12:47 pm
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      It’s going to be more exciting than hidden Mickeys!

      Reply
  • September 9, 2018 at 12:55 am
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    Aw, don’t out down the poor little portrait mode. There is a time and a place for it: usually it involves conference calls.

    Sorry I stepped on you last labor day. I thought you were part of the decorative flooring.

    Reply
  • September 9, 2018 at 11:04 am
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    That was so funny, but doesn’t refer to me…at all. Not at all, okay? (Look around)

    Reply
  • September 9, 2018 at 11:18 am
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    That picture from the atrium on the Magic is next level bananas. As a veteran DCL customer I never once considered that angle for the chandelier. I guess that’s why my many requests to submit a photo to the SATURDAY SIX have been repeatedly denied!

    Reply
  • September 9, 2018 at 4:23 pm
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    Love the pic of a Duffy and friends climbing the stairs.

    Reply
  • September 10, 2018 at 3:14 pm
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    You guys rock! So funny!

    Reply

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