How To Take Photos Of Amusement Park Vacations

"My Vacation photos NEVER look anything like yours..."

how to photograph amusement parks 1

It never fails that when we have gone on a trip and I post images from the trip on Facebook and Instagram, I will get people who ask me, “can I hire you to come on vacation with us?!?!?” They always say that I photograph it in such away that you feel like you are right along side me on vacation.  So I thought I would share with you some ideas on how to make you feel the same about your own photographs from your trips.

Simple Gear

First, let’s talk about what camera to take.  This is a great question and one that can be answered several ways.  Best answer is whatever camera you are willing to keep up with.  Over the last year I have taken my Fuji xt-1 with a 35mm lens and my iPhone Camera.  My xt-1 is by far my favorite travel camera for a few reasons.  Since it is a mirrorless camera, it has a much more compact body than a DSLR, but has the benefit of detachable lenses as well as all the manual functions of a DSLR.   My 35 mm lens is super small and doesn't protrude out from the camera much but has great ability to open wide to 1.4 so that I can gather in as much light as possible and shoot faster shots in low lighting situations. I know that my 35mm doesn't reach far for catching far off shot of my family but that is when I let my feet do the walking and use a little post production cropping.  I would rather have the f1.4 ability over the telephoto. My iPhone is always with me and I use it more often for when I want to take a selfie, or use the self timer for group shots.

Extreme Lighting Situations

Constantly changing lighting situations are never easy in places like amusement parks where you are always going from the bright outdoors into a dark, indoor ride or theatre show.  Thankfully DSLR and mirrorless cameras as well as point and shoots can easily change their ISO sensitivity when moving from one lighting situation to another.  So when outdoors in the bright sunlight, drop down your ISO to 200-400 range, when the sun is setting or in cloudy/shady situations raise your ISO to 800-1600, and when indoors or low lighting 3200-6400 (and higher).  

 ISO 200

ISO 200

 ISO 800 This was a tea-cup ride where we were under a shade covering that was darker than expected but still moving quite fast - so I felt the need to raise my ISO to 800 so that I could capture them in faster shutter speeds and avoid the blur.  Still yet, you can see that a few of the kids moved just a hair and came a tad bit out of focus, which is easy to happen when you are trying to capture while you are a rider as well!

ISO 800 This was a tea-cup ride where we were under a shade covering that was darker than expected but still moving quite fast - so I felt the need to raise my ISO to 800 so that I could capture them in faster shutter speeds and avoid the blur.  Still yet, you can see that a few of the kids moved just a hair and came a tad bit out of focus, which is easy to happen when you are trying to capture while you are a rider as well!

 ISO 6400 

ISO 6400 

 ISO 12800 - VERY dark room with hardly any light, the higher ISO really helped!

ISO 12800 - VERY dark room with hardly any light, the higher ISO really helped!

 ISO 6400 allowed me to get great light and the "snow" falling at the Frozen Sing Along in Hollywood Studios.

ISO 6400 allowed me to get great light and the "snow" falling at the Frozen Sing Along in Hollywood Studios.

Midtone Metering

While we are on the topic of lighting situations, let’s talk about metering.  I am a huge fan of spot metering.  With the spot meter I can be really specific with where exactly I am metering.  When I am making that choice, I will look for a mid tone area on my subject.  Midtones are typically a 18% tonnage of that area. So I will point my spot meter at a midtone to set my aperture and shutter speed to level out my meter scale.

 Midtone would be his hand or the blue sleeve by his hand.

Midtone would be his hand or the blue sleeve by his hand.

 Midtone is the medium gray on the castle.

Midtone is the medium gray on the castle.

 Midtones would be on my husband's cheek.

Midtones would be on my husband's cheek.

Action Shots!

Another issue people often run into on vacations are action shot or trying to stop the action. There are a few things that play a factor in this equation.  

So if you are wanting to capture some fast action, then it requires some know how of how ISO, Aperture and shutter speed all work together, ultimately the exposure triangle.  If you have that knowledge then simply remembering that the higher you raise your ISO will help your ability for a faster shutter speed, as well asopening (small number) will as well in turn help you get a faster shutter speed for your shots.  So those are two things I would encourage you to learn how to manipulate so you can capture photos better in low lighting.  Bright lighting is hardly ever an issue when it comes to taking a photo with a fast shutter speed, the bright light in itself almost demands you to use a fast shutter.  

Predicting Action

Along with a fast shutter speed is the ability to predict action or prepare for the upcoming photo by zone focusing. Zone focusing is basically focusing on a subject or object that is in the same focal plain or distance that your subject will be moving into at the peak of action.  You can do this with auto focus, but it is much easier to obtain it in manual focus mode. 

 I zone focused here while other boats came through, that way I was ready when my riders came through the zone I was ready and focused!

I zone focused here while other boats came through, that way I was ready when my riders came through the zone I was ready and focused!

 Back focus buttons make it faster and less able to bounce your camera while shooting in low light.

Back focus buttons make it faster and less able to bounce your camera while shooting in low light.

The back focus button on your camera is a God send in moments like this too. I highly recommend locating this button if you have one so that you can focus more easily in fast action moments.  

 You can see the Back Focus button here on a Canon.  All cameras label them differently, so do some research on your camera model or contact me and I will help you locate it!

You can see the Back Focus button here on a Canon.  All cameras label them differently, so do some research on your camera model or contact me and I will help you locate it!

Burst Photography 

A feature that most DSLR Cameras as well as my Fuji X-Series, and iPhone have is kind of a “burst photo” option.  This function on the camera allows you to hold down your finger on the shutter button and take several images in fast repetitive, back to back shots as long as you depress your finger.   

 I got this priceless image with my burst setting on the xt-1.

I got this priceless image with my burst setting on the xt-1.

Anticipating the action!

Lastly is anticipating the action and knowing that your subject will possibly be reacting to a specific spot on the ride or moment in the show!  This is nothing I can really teach you other than some simple people watching and good old fashion common sense.

 We were watching a show that was really gross so I looked over to my kids for their reactions.

We were watching a show that was really gross so I looked over to my kids for their reactions.

 Even though this is a food shot, it is still a hilarious reaction!

Even though this is a food shot, it is still a hilarious reaction!

 I knew there was going to be an explosion so I kept my camera focused on her face!

I knew there was going to be an explosion so I kept my camera focused on her face!

Fences

Nothing can a ruin a photo easier than a silly fence to keep you and your people safe! LOL.  But that shouldn’t keep you from getting a great shot of a fun moment! Cameras are set up to notice and grab the most easy and closest object in the frame to assume that is your subject.  So you will need to change your focus point to the center point to have more control over it. After choosing the center point, you will need to open up your f-stop to the largest possible your lens will allow( hopefully in the 2.0-4.0 range).  From there the fence will drop out and you will be able to chose to focus on your true subject.  Another option and and one anyone can use immediately with a point and shoot or camera phone, is to simply walk up to the fence and put your lens up to it and make sure your lens is placed in the opening. That will easily allow the fence to disappear.  

photographing through fences 1
photographing through fences 2

Food

Don’t forget to photograph your food…I know many people laugh at how often we photograph food these days in the rage of social media however many of my family’s memories are tied to food.  We are foodies and LOVE to remember what we ate, where.  It helps revoke the senses.. I like to photograph food in away that makes me remember how it smelled and tasted, or the reaction of people who were eating it.

how to photographing vacation 3
how to photograph vacation 3
How to take photos of vacation photos 4

Photos of YOU, the photographer!

I am a firm believer in wanting my kids to remember what I looked like when… or that I actually took trip and was an active member of their family.  Whoever is typically the photographer inyour family sometimes is the invisible member.  So I have committed to taking photos of me, even when I don’t look or feel my best because one day I am going to look back and think, “Damn I look good!” when looking at photos like these.  In order to keep my commitment, I often use my selfie view and self timer on my iPhone.  I use those two most because I like to be in photographs with my whole family, however on occasion I will hand the camera to my husband or kids to get a photograph or two.

 Selfies while on the actual ride is too fun!

Selfies while on the actual ride is too fun!

 Family selfies! We decided that waiting in line to meet the characters was just our thing, but if we saw one out and about we would take a family selfie with the character in the background.

Family selfies! We decided that waiting in line to meet the characters was just our thing, but if we saw one out and about we would take a family selfie with the character in the background.

Taking sweet images with my kids will never be something I will regret!

Surroundings!

Don't forget to take photos of simply the cool surroundings! I want to remember all of the sights and sounds of a trip as well as the fun we had, so often I will take photos of the beautiful images I saw with my eyes so I can look back and remember them!

Everyday moments and Accommodations 

Lastly, if you are staying the night on your trip, don’t forget to photograph the everyday moments like snuggle time, quiet moments, campsites, breakfast moments and so on, these are just as important as the highlight reel at the amusement park.

 Morning Chess.

Morning Chess.

 Sister braiding hair silohette.

Sister braiding hair silohette.

 You can almost smell the campfire.

You can almost smell the campfire.

 The campground greeter!

The campground greeter!

If This Sounds Like Gibberish...

If all of this sounds like gibberish and you would love to have more knowledge on just exactly how to understand it as well as how to do it I would love to speak to you about one on one mentoring, or invite you to join my notifications list as I will send out information on my latest class listings and online courses!

As always you are welcome to email me here and I would love to hear more ideas on what you would like to learn to photograph!