Tips for Photographing Flurry of Fun at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

I spent a day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios recently experiencing the Flurry of Fun and want to take you on a visual tour.

Back in September 2017, I came across a curious sight when I saw Echo Lake drained. Later that year we all found out why as the Studios’ Christmas tree was relocated from the outside front entrance to a small island in Echo Lake surrounded by large and colorful floating ornaments in the refilled lake.

Disney's Hollywood Studios Christmas Tree
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Christmas Tree in Echo Lake in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/320s, f/9, ISO 100, EV 0, 24mm Focal Length.

For this day during the Christmas season of 2018, I used only the Nikon 24-120mm VR Zoom lens as it allowed me to capture all the day’s subjects from wide angle views to fireworks at night.

Nearby Echo Lake in the Hyperion Theater, the Christmas version of For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration included songs from the Olaf Christmas special as the cast rang the Yule Bell to much rejoicing.

Christmas Frozen Show
Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and the Royal Historians of Arendelle celebrate the ringing of the Yule Bell during the Holiday version of For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration in the Hyperion Theater at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/60s, f/5.6, ISO 1800, EV 0, 44mm Focal Length.

Photographing live shows can be tricky as you can not use flash unless told it is OK (like in the Lion King Stage Show). I dialed in my exposure using my camera’s LCD. Since I used a relatively slow shutter speed of 1/60th of a second, I did get some motion blur. The shutter speed was necessary to sync with the animation on the screen behind the performers.

Walking into Toy Story Land, I photographed Buzz Lightyear greeting guests in a Santa hat.

Santa Buzz Lightyear
Buzz Lightyear wearing a Santa hat greeting guests in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/250s, f/9, ISO 100, EV 0, 112mm Focal Length.

As I often do while walking around Walt Disney World, I had my camera in Program mode so I do not miss a photo opportunity that might pop up like this.

As day turned into night, I walked over to Sunset Blvd. to take in Sunset Seasons Greetings projection and laser show featuring the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Sunset Seasons Greetings
Projections and lasers on and from the Tower of Terror on Sunset Blvd. in Disney’s Hollywood Studios during the Sunset Seasons Greetings at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Nikon D750/24-120VR, 1/60s, f/4, ISO 11400, EV 0, 95mm Focal Length.

Again, needing to use a 1/60th of a second shutter speed for the animated projections, I allowed my camera to use very high ISOs to be able to capture the colors of the show and along Sunset Blvd.

Last show of Flurry of Fun, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! takes place on the Chinese Theater at the end of Hollywood Blvd. Normally, I would use a tripod for a fireworks show, but the use of projections has changed how I approach these shows. Instead of going for long exposures for fireworks, I decided to use faster exposures to capture the projections and lasers.

Jingle Jam, Jingle BAM
Series of photos from the 2018 version of Jingle Jam, Jingle BAM projection, laser and fireworks show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida. See text for details.

All of these photos were hand-held using a Nikon D750 camera and Nikon 24-120mm VR lens at 1/60s, f/4, ISO 6400, EV 0. Only the focal length varied between the photos: 1.) at 38mm, 2.) at 24mm, 3.) at 32mm and 4.) back to 24mm.

As Walt Disney World continues to add projections to their nighttime shows, we still photographers are going to have to choose which elements we most want to capture and focus on. Or, switch to video capture.

Hope you all have a Happy and Safe New Year’s celebration!

When you’re in Disney, please tag us @allearsnet in your photos!

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Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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4 Replies to “Tips for Photographing Flurry of Fun at Disney’s Hollywood Studios”

  1. Scott; I too appreciate the tip on the shutter speed for the projections. My D5000 ISO only goes to 3200 so would I need to use a faster shutter speed and how would that affect the projections?

    1. Try upping your EV to help the ISO. Try +1.0 to start and go up or down depending on what you see on the LCD screen. Be aware increasing EV will add noise to the image.

  2. Scott, thanks for the night time tips. I have always been a long exposure low iso photographer of the fireworks. This has been eye opening. Are you using auto iso to set sensitivity?

    1. Yes, I always use Auto ISO. In the case of the Tower of Terror projections, I set the upper ISO to 12,800. For the Jingle Jam, Jingle BAM!, I set the upper limit to 6400 as I knew from previous experience there would be a lot more light during the show.