Theme Park Photography: Interview With Mike Sperduto

We never get tired of looking at Universal Orlando theme parks. Combing through the thousands of photos that we've taken on previous trips is fun and helps us bask in all of the good memories we've made. But we also enjoy looking at the parks through someone else's lens. When other park enthusiasts share their images online through social media sites like Twitter and Instagram, we like to marvel at all of the most impressive shots and have ourselves a nice visual feast in between park visits. 

This week we'd like to put a spotlight on one of those theme park photographers. His name is Mike Sperduto. We first spotted his work on Twitter, where he shares a lot of fun #UniversalMoments. His work has even attracted the attention of Universal Orlando, whose social media team has honored him with several special awards for his theme park photography. We recently chatted with Mike to get to know more about his work and to get a few tips on how we can all take better pictures in the park. 

 The Universal Orlando globe. Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

The Universal Orlando globe. Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

How long have you had an interest in photography?

It all started with a rainy day in South Florida back in 2011. At that point, I wasn't big into photography and had a casual cheap point and shoot as the main camera I used. Well, that all changed one day after my wife left our camera outside, and it just so happened to experience one of South Florida's typical summer thunderstorms. Needless to say, after that, we were in the market for a new camera, and it was also around the same time my involvement in Twitter increased and I would see all these amazing photos being posted from around the theme park world so the idea of getting more serious into photography popped in my head and off I went to buy my first Sony DSLR. The rest is history. 

We are big fans of your theme park photography. Can you tell us what you like most about shooting in theme parks?

First, thank you for the kind words. I always enjoy and am humbled by all the positive feedback I receive from my photography.

I grew up going to theme parks and have always been a fan, so when I picked up the photography bug, it was just a natural progression into theme park photography. I really enjoy seeing the parks through my lens in angles and views that I never have really noticed in the past. It has given me another reason to love and enjoy spending time at the parks. Also it has been really great meeting other theme park photographers and fans; a lot of people I would have never met if it wasn’t for my involvement in photography, so that means a lot to me.

 Universal's Cinematic Spectacular in Universal Studios Florida.  Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

Universal's Cinematic Spectacular in Universal Studios Florida. Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

What Kind Of Equipment Do You Use To Take Your Photos?

Currently, I am shooting with a Sony A99 camera and Sigma 35mm Art, Tamron 70-300, Rokinon 12mm Fisheye and 85mm lens. At night, you will find me dragging around my Manfrotto tripod and as of late my Gorillapod tripod if I’m not in the mood to carry the larger one.

In Which Areas Of The Park Do You Like To Spend The Most Time (When You're Not Taking Photos)?

I could spend all day in Diagon Alley and be totally happy to tell you the truth. Being immersed in everything Diagon has to offer is amazing to me, and I love what Universal has brought to the table with that and Hogsmeade.  I do have a feeling that once Volcano Bay opens, I will be spending a lot of time there. Lol. I love waterparks, and that, combined with Universal, is something I am really excited about.

 The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida.  Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

What is your favorite attraction or character to photograph in Universal Orlando?

There are really so many wonderful things to photograph from the parks to the resort, I enjoy all of it. One of my favorites are the long exposure night photography around the parks with rides like Kang and Kodos, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, and now Hulk - all offering nighttime lighting packages on the rides that allow for some pretty amazing light trails through the photos.

 Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at night.  Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at night. Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

You have won four #UOGlobies awards from Universal Orlando for the fantastic theme park photos you have shared on Twitter. Can you explain what each award was for and what it felt like to win? 

I love it and find it flattering to be honored by Universal with their #UOGlobies Twitter awards. I know to some they don't mean much, but I truly appreciate it. I believe the first one I won was for "Cool Photo of the Week" and the other three have been for "Epic Photo of the Week" for various photos I have taken around the resort, and winning those has been a blast.

Do you have any photo tips for amateur theme park photographers?

Practice, practice, practice. Get out there and just shoot. Learn your camera and the settings, the ins and outs and how changing a setting manipulates the picture. It becomes second nature before you know it. Don’t be afraid to experiment and talk to other photographers to see how they approach certain shoots or what settings they use.

 The marquee of The Incredible Hulk Coaster.  Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

The marquee of The Incredible Hulk Coaster. Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

Do you have any photo editing tips or recommendations for photo editing software?

As for processing, I learned a lot from watching YouTube tutorials and websites offering tips and tricks. Another great source was getting involved in different forums and sharing tips and tricks with other photographers. The constructive criticism helped a lot with seeing things from others eyes to help better my technique. I mainly use Lightroom and really just jumped into and taught myself the ins and outs. From there, I use some different plug ins like Nik Color Efex and occasionally jump into Photoshop when I'm feeling really spunky and have some time on my hands.  

What else do you like to photograph (besides theme parks)?

With having three younger kids, naturally I take a ton of photos of them running around and playing, which also helps me to better my portrait skills in the process, which is something I have wanted to get better at. I also tend to shoot a lot of landscape and nature photography around my neck of the woods, down here. 

 Ukraine Ironbelly on Gringotts Bank.  Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

Ukraine Ironbelly on Gringotts Bank. Copyright Mike Sperduto. All rights reserved.

Where can we see more of your photography online? Do you have any photos that are available for purchase?

I am all over the internet, but keep just about all my posted pictures centralized on Flickr and then have some non-theme park photos up on Fine Art of America for anyone interested in purchasing any. Also earlier this year I started my own site, mikesperdutophotography.com, where I just showcase some highlights of my photography.

Image Gallery

See more pictures from Mike Sperduto in this image gallery.