" How To’s "

Start to Finish – Matterhorn and Monorail

Happy Monday! For today’s post, I would like to take you all through my editing process for one photo from start to finish. I was lucky enough to visit Disneyland this past September to check out the 60th anniversary, and one thing I never really had a shot I was proud of was the lagoon area in Tomorrowland with the Matterhorn in the background. So, on my first night out in California, I had the tripod with me and used my 14mm lens to capture a wide, nighttime scene. This is what the original RAW file looked like:


When I first saw this in Lightroom, I liked what I saw, but it was definitely clear that it needed some work. There is a buoy two thirds of the way down the right hand side of the frame, as well as a guard rail in the bottom left corner. Interestingly enough, when I applied the Lightroom profile for the 14mm lens that I was shooting with, it took care of both of those, which was nice. Once that was taken care of, my next pain point was the color balance. When you’re in a Disney park, there are lots of lights. Those lights tend to cast a warm temperature on the image and make things look more orange than I like them to. So, I lowered the white balance a bit to cool things off.

From here, I felt like the image was pretty dark. Thankfully, with today’s sensor technology, we have some pretty serious parameters to work within when it comes to exposure. Since this was not an HDR image and comes from only one exposure, I was able to boost the exposure to +.65 in Lightroom to make it bright like I wanted it to be. Since I ended up doing that, I also had to pull the highlights down quite a bit to balance out some of the lights and the smooth silky water. Big assist to the breeze that night for helping make that happen.

Since I had upped the exposure so much, I really didn’t need to pull the shadows up too much, so from here, I basically just lowered the black level to -51 and the contrast up to +22. I like the crunchy textures on the mountain itself, so I added some clarity as well, and then moved the vibrance slider up to 24. I love the vibrance slider because it boosts the color, but not in a completely global fashion like the saturation slider does. It only applies it in places where it thinks it needs to go.

From here, I went in to the HSL tab and selected luminance, just to tone down a few of the colors that I thought were a little too strong, mainly blue, purple, and magenta. Then it was just time to sharpen the image a tiny bit, as it was pretty sharp already from being manually focused in Live View on a tripod, and we have the final image here:


It’s a pretty big change, and an edit that took really no more than about 10 minutes in Lightroom. I love the motion and energy of this area, with a monorail skirting through the image as well as the subs from the Nemo Submarine Voyage. For those curious, this shot was taken with the Sony a7 and the Rokinon 14mm F2.8 lens, both of which are available at Amazon. Thanks for reading!

Fireworks Friday – Wishes

I can’t get enough of watching and photographing Wishes.  I know it is heresy among the Disney community to say this, but I’ll take Wishes every night of my trip over Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.  Now to be fair, I haven’t seen any of the Holiday variants of Illuminations so that might tip the scale in one direction but I doubt it.  Thanks to tips I’ve gotten from this blog (thanks Cory, Ryan and Adam) and some of the other Disney Photographers like Kevin Davis, Tom Bricker, and Ben Hendel, I’m finally starting to like the shots of Wishes that I’ve gotten.  Now that I have some shots from dead center of the castle printed out, I’m going to have to work on getting some pictures from alternate locations around the park.

In the coming weeks we are going to have an entire series of posts up on the blog for improving your fireworks photography, but for now we will leave you with a couple of tips.

  • You’re going to have to get your camera on a tripod, as mentioned in my gear review here I shoot on the MeFoto RoadTrip.  The shutter is going to be open for a long time and any vibration is going to turn the shot into a blurry mess.
  • You’re going to need a remote shutter release.  Remember how I just said that any vibration is going to turn your photo into a blurry mess?  Well when you depress the shutter, you are probably (I’m sure there are shutter pressing ninjas out there in the world that can depress the shutter without moving the camera, but I’m not one of them) going to get a blurry mess there too.
  • A Variable ND Filter.  You are going to be leaving the shutter open a long time in order to get multiple bursts in one frame like the shot above.  Without an ND filter you are going to wind up blowing out the highlights out.  A Neutral Density Filter works like your sunglasses cutting down the intensity of the bursts and allowing you to get color on the castle and other objects in the image.  As you leave the shutter open longer you need to adjust the amount of filter you are using.


See what I mean about blown out highlights.  The first time I shot fireworks in the parks was at Hong Kong Disneyland and I didn’t have my ND filter set up right.  There are spinners on the front of the castle and you can’t see a thing as they are so bright they overwhelmed the shot.

  • Pray for good weather.  Sometimes when you are shooting Wishes the wind is blowing from the wrong direction and your photographs will turn out to be a mess as the smoke clouds from spent fireworks flood the castle in a haze.


Here’s another shot from that night at Hong Kong Disneyland.  See all the smoke clouds?  When the wind is blowing the right way the castle and your shot will be overwhelmed and ruined.  

  • Memorize the performance.  When you are shooting at a local fireworks display you just have to go with it.  Maybe you can see the streak of the shots going up so you can take a good guestimate of when the bursts are going to pop open.  But with the Disney fireworks shows, there are countless YouTube videos out there that show the fireworks shows.  By memorizing when the bursts are going to come, you can better time when you open and close the shutter.


This shot is from PhotoMagic 2013 about six months after my trip to Hong Kong Disneyland.  I had gotten a bit better then my first attempt, but the shot still isn’t what I wanted.  

Many Disney Photographers have started to capture the whole fireworks show in one shot.  I haven’t tried that yet but the images I see on Flickr are just amazing.  We are going to see a post soon from Ben with a how-to article on this topic in the coming weeks.

On a side note, I would like to thank all the people that have found this blog again after it was dormant for so long.  We’ve gotten a lot of great emails and comments from you and we really do appreciate it.  We are going to stick to a regular post schedule of Monday / Wednesday / Friday for the foreseeable future as we fill the blog with content.  Are there any subjects you would like to see us cover going forward?  Please leave a comment (hit the Read More button below to bring up the comment form) and we’ll try to work on something to help you out.

Printing Your Photos

So we make these trips to Walt Disney World.  We bring all of our lenses.  We fill up countless memory cards.  We drag our tripods all over the place.  We stay way past closing to get shots of the park with no other guests in them.  But what do we do with our photos?  Do they just sit on hard drives probably never to be looked at again?  Our hard work deserves a little appreciation and printing them is a great way to do it.  As I look up from my computer, I have over twenty prints hanging in my office.  Nearly all of them are mine – I do have one of Cory’s photos hanging on my wall.  They’re great conversation starters.  But more importantly, when I’m having a hard day at work or something I’m doing isn’t going right I can look up and take a moment to remember something fun.

I used to dabble in printing the photos myself and actually quite enjoyed it.  But the printer I had couldn’t print edge to edge so I was constantly trimming the images after I was done or leaving the white border in tact.  A number of times I accidentally moved the print before the ink was totally dry and printing myself turned out to be a bit of a hit or miss option for me.  That was all before I discovered Adorama Pix though, and I don’t think I’ll go back to printing images on my own ever again.  They’ve been my go-to source for photo prints for the last three years now and I’ve always been happy with the results.  Their work is outstanding and as luck would have it they are having a sale on prints right now.  The sale ends Monday so get cracking over the weekend!!!  $5.99 for a 16×20, $1.99 for an 11×14 and only $0.99 for an 8×10.  They also throw in free shipping if your order is above $39.

Once you have your photos uploaded to Adorama there are several options you have to go through in order to place your order.  One of the first things you have to decide on is what kind of paper you would like them to use.  Adorama offers their prints on a variety of paper and they do a good job of describing the finishes but I wanted to see how my images looked on each of them.  At $0.99 for an 8×10 it was an easy decision and ordered three images on each of the paper choices.  In fact, when I order prints I usually wait for a sale like this and then order them on multiple paper styles just to see what works out best.

  • LUSTER: Adorama calls Luster their most popular paper and it is easy to see why.  The glossy finish has a bit of a sheen to it and colors just pop off the page.  To my eye, Luster is between Matte and Glossy in terms of just how glossy the image is.  Most of the prints that I have are on Luster paper as I like the slight sheen that the paper has and the texture on the paper is very fine.  Besides the 8x10s I ordered, I got each of the three photos as 16×20 prints and are already hanging on the wall.  Luster just makes your photos pop, especially if you have a lot of color.
  • GLOSSY: Glossy is a step up from Luster in terms of how glossy the finish is.  I tend to like he Luster variant better, especially in the lighting conditions of my office.  The high gloss just picks up too much of a glare for my liking.
  • METALLIC:  Metallic costs a bit more than all the others ($1.50 for 8×10 instead of the $0.99 sale price) but the cost is definitely worth it.  I love the way prints turn out on the Metallic paper.  There is an even more pronounced sheen to the paper than the Luster I mentioned above.  The colors pop right off the page and there is a certain depth to it.  I have a Black & White HDR image hanging in my office that just looks gorgeous on the Metallic paper.
  • SILK : Silk is one of their newer finishes.  The paper has an almost vintage feel to it as there is a linen like texture to it.  You can see the grain of the paper in the image which is really nice.  This is definitely more of a matte finish.  Adorama recommends it for wedding and portrait pictures, but I really like the way this image turned out with it.  The streaks of the fireworks almost pick up a slight lenticular effect to it which is pretty neat.  I can imagine that this paper would look great for a black and white photo too.
  • MATTE: There is almost no shine at all on the Matte finish papers.  Colors are true but it makes the image look just a bit flatter than I like.  I definitely wouldn’t order a fireworks shot on the Matte paper, but I have a picture of an elephant playing in the water in Animal Kingdom that just looks great on Matte.  This is another paper that Adorama recommends for portrait work for how well it handles skin tones.  I think I’ll grab a couple of character shots and try them on Matte next time I place an order.
  • DEEP MATTE: This is only available on 16×20 prints and I didn’t order anything on the Deep Matte.  So I can’t comment on how this paper would look.

When you are editing your photos remember that you are looking at the image on a nice, back lit screen.  Your photos won’t have the benefit of that back light – unless you are mounting them in a light box.  So push the images a little bit more than you are comfortable with as your prints will naturally turn out darker.







One of the options when placing your order refers to color corrections.  By default, the Apply Image Corrections radio button is clicked on.  As I was ordering this round of images, I messed up and forgot to click the No Thanks option.  Did it ruin the images?  No.  It didn’t.  When I look at what I sent them and what I got back two of the images are spot on to what I sent them.  In regards to my red Wishes photo though, I know I pushed the highlights because I liked the red glow that the people took on in the crowd.  When Adorama color corrected it, they backed the highlights down and the fireworks look better but it lost the crowd.  Again, this isn’t on Adorama, this is on me.  I messed up and forgot to click the radio button that I had already color corrected it.  No worries though.  I already have another order placed to correct it.


So do you print your photos?  And if you do where do you hang them?  We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

This image was shot with my Canon 60D and the kit 18-135 lens at f/8 and I was using my MeFoto RoadTrip tripod (which I reviewed on the site here).  Please consider following the Amazon link as it helps support the site.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights Photography Tutorial

Hello everyone! It’s great to be back posting on the blog again after our long and unfortunate hiatus. We’re really looking forward to having a lot of great weekly content, featuring tutorials and ways to learn, not just sharing our own photos.

For today’s article, we are taking a look at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now, 2015 is the last year that these lights will be presented, but if you come down to Walt Disney World between now and January, hopefully some of these tips can be of help. If not, hopefully you’ll just enjoy the photos, or maybe put the tips to use somewhere other than Disney!

Tip #1 – Shoot a normal focal length

It may be very tempting to shoot the Osborne Lights with a super wide lens. While that look is super cool and can lead to some really neat stuff, chances are you won’t get that opportunity unless you wait until the very end of the night once all the crowds leave. This event tends to get very busy, so if you shoot at a normal focal length, such as 35mm or 50mm, you can get some great portraits of some of the decorations.


Tip #2 – Find the characters

This year, Disney has added a lot of the characters to the lights. Finding them can help your photos become identifiably Disney, and also make for some cool portraits. I won’t post all of them, but here are a few of them.

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Tip #3 – Shoot with a fast lens (if possible)

When it comes to shooting the Osborne Lights, it can be very difficult to be in there with a tripod unless you wait until the end of the night. So, much of your shooting will be handheld. Since you’ll be shooting handheld, having the fastest lens you own will help you for several reasons. If you have something that is f/2.8 or f/1.8, you can let more light in to the sensor of your camera, which can keep your shutter speed up and your ISO down. With a faster shutter speed, you’ll get sharper photos, and with lower ISO, you’ll have less noise to deal with.


If you have a fast lens like what I’ve mentioned above, you can also take advantage of the 5 million lights that are present in this display. After you find a subject, once you change your aperture to f/1.8 or however fast your lens is, you can blur out all the lights in the background that can make for some pretty cool effects!


Tip #4 – Try something different

Seeing as Disney is a place visited by so many people, you’re going to see many of the same shots from everyone’s camera. Trying different things or techniques can make for something that you can take home that is unique and fun, and differentiates your shot from some other person on Instagram. For the shot below, I decided to instead of focusing on the Mickey wreath of lights, switch my camera into manual focus and blur them out. Perhaps it isn’t the best photo ever, but I think the result is somewhat interesting.


Tip #5 – Tell a story

Whenever we are taking photos, telling a story is a very important part of the process. There are plenty of snapshots out there, and some of those are awesome. But, when a photo has a unique element and story behind it, people can relate to it, and emotion can be drawn out of it. In the photo below, I decided to get low to be on eye level with the puppy. The puppy is eyeing up the Mickey lights on the planter, something which many people’s dog have done. The lighting is soft and adds to the overall feel of it. It just feels very Holiday Season to me, and was one of my favorite photos from my trip through the lights the other night.


Hopefully you can use some of these tips when you visit the Osborne Lights yourself. It’s a great exhibit that I’m personally sad to see going, regardless of the fact that what is replacing it should be spectacular.

If you’re curious, every photo in this article was taken with the Sony a7 and the Zeiss 55mm F1.8 lens, both of which can be purchased at Amazon. If you have any questions, or would like to share any tips of your own, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading!