Vacation photography that doesn’t scream ‘Disney’

Anyone who has been Walt Disney World has the instantly recognizable photographs of their family in front of Cinderella Castle or Spaceship Earth or the Sorcerer’s Hat (at least until last year).

There’s nothing wrong with those photos; I have a ton of them myself. But I’ve found that some of my favorite photos from my favorite vacation spot were often in unconventional locations — places where you can escape the crowds and still find a striking background. Here’s one case in point.

Photography at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
An unconventional spot for a photo.

Can you guess where this was taken? Most people looking at it probably wouldn’t think it was at a theme park. No characters or crowds to be seen, just an exotic looking setting providing the background for a magical moment.

We happened upon this location in the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, an area that’s full of interesting details. Here, you have the weathered, ancient walls of temple ruins, enhanced with various props. In subsequent visits, the bicycle pictured here had been moved to another location in the park. So this ended up being a one-of-a-kind snapshot for us.

But this is what I love about the Disney theme parks. The effort the Imagineers put into theming even out-of-the-way corners creates photography opportunities far beyond the Nikon branded picture spots.

By the way, the above photo was taken with an average point and shoot camera. I’m no professional, but that doesn’t stop me from experimenting with the settings on my camera, particularly when it comes to shooting at night. I encourage you to play around with the shooting modes or ISO settings on your camera to see what works in various situations. Most point and shoots allow you to adjust ISO (the camera’s sensitivity to light). Some also allow control of shutter speed and aperture, which gives you even more control.

Photography at Epcot.
Morocco in Epcot is a beautiful location at night.

If you intend to shoot at night, I recommend you get a mini tripod that you can slip into a backpack or purse and then take out when you’re ready to shoot some photos. If you don’t have a tripod, I’ve found garbage cans can be convenient tools to steady your camera and avoid blurry images. Don’t forget to turn off your flash unless you’re taking a picture of a person or object in the near foreground.

One of my favorite places to shoot at night is World Showcase in Epcot, once the crowds have cleared out after IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Beautiful architectural details can be found around every corner, and the dramatic lighting accentuates the scenery. Plus, with fewer people walking around, you avoid the distraction of random tourists in your shots.

Photography at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
The picturesque path from Disney’s Wilderness Lodge to the boat dock.

Finally, be sure to look for opportunities to shoot photos at resorts with theming that doesn’t scream “Disney” (Art of Animation would not fall into this category). Two of my favorite resorts for photos are the lodges, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Both resorts boast a stunning lobby with detailed decor and interesting vantage points. For example, you can get some interesting photos from the fifth floor bridge that spans the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby. Both also carry their theming outside to the grounds. At Wilderness Lodge, the landscaping says Pacific Northwest, not Florida. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’re transported to Africa, along with furry and feathered friends for your photography pleasure. I also enjoy shooting resort pools at night, when they’re clear of guests. The tranquility of an empty pool, as the lights reflect on the water, can make a great photo.

Do you have a favorite non-conventional photo spot at Walt Disney World Resort? Please share your thoughts and photography tips in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Vacation photography that doesn’t scream ‘Disney’

  • November 11, 2015 at 11:32 pm
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    I’m also a Disney photography nerd! One place I love to take photos is the Yacht Club. I think the views are stunning and the architecture reminds me of classic New England. I love the lighthouse on the pier. To me, this is a major part of my vacation. Great article, I hope you have more like it in the future! °0°

    • November 12, 2015 at 9:41 am
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      I agree. The Crescent Lake area is fantastic, particularly at night with the lights on the Boardwalk.

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