Theme Park Photography: Interview with Photographer Bill Forshey

A lot of people take pictures while they are in Universal Orlando and other theme parks and then share the photos online for others to enjoy. We really love looking through these pics. Viewing trip photos through someone else's lens not only helps us see the theme parks between visits, but also provides the opportunity to look at familiar subjects like the Hogwarts Express and Gringotts Dragon from another point of view that we may not have experienced ourselves. 

We appreciate the theme park enthusiasts who share these photos. This week, we are going to put the spotlight on Bill Forshey, a theme park photographer whose photos have warmed out hearts, made us smile, and most recently, have even garnered a special award from Universal Orlando Resort. In this interview, Bill discusses his theme park photography and shares some tips to help you take your photos to the next level. 

Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. Copyright Bill Forshey. All rights reserved. 

Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. Copyright Bill Forshey. All rights reserved. 

How long have you had an interest in photography? 

I started to gain interest in the last four years. The theme park photos just started out as family pictures and then turned into attraction photos.

Your theme park photography is beautiful. Can you tell us what you like most about shooting in theme parks?

My theme park photos are really different than the A-typical empty park night time shots. My photos are of guest enjoying the parks, riding rides, standing in lines, smiling and having a great day. 

What kind of equipment do you use to take your photos? 

The only camera I have for now is simply a GoPro Hero 3 Black edition. It is very small and is really known for action videos, but I love it for the fish eye effect and super wide angle panoramic shots. The GoPro has its limitations: very hard to use at nighttime and can go through batteries quickly ( I carry four daily). I normally take 400-600 pictures per park visit.

Hollywood Boulevard in Universal Studios Florida.  Copyright Bill Forshey. All rights reserved. 

Hollywood Boulevard in Universal Studios Florida. Copyright Bill Forshey. All rights reserved. 

What is your favorite thing to shoot in Universal Orlando? 

That is a great question. Universal really has the best attractions and my favorites are Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Kings Cross, Diagon Alley, and Gringotts Bank. However, I have had some great shots in Marvel Super Hero Island, Seuss Landing, Toon Lagoon, and of course, the Shrek, Minions, and Transformer rides.

Universal Orlando recently awarded you with one of their #UOGlobies for the epic theme park photos you've posted on Twitter. What was that like? 

That was a surprise. Universal Orlando and I have had a great relationship; they actually started following me shortly after I opened my Twitter account, and they have the best social media team on the planet!! My brand of photos are always full of color and are very vibrant and extremely different than what is normally displayed on sites like Tumblr and Flickr, and as I stated before, I try to get the guest in the photographs. The #UOGlobie was a great compliment from Universal and it really made my day. I always try to stay humble about my photos, and that was a great sign that I am heading the right direction.

The Florida sun can be both helpful and troublesome for photographers. Do you have any tips for taking pictures in full sun? 

One thing about Florida is that great big beautiful sun, and it generally can be the real Star of the shot whether you like it or not. I try to take photos opposite of the sun, however, some shots you just have to get, and you either work with it or crop it out in editing, I will tell you, my wife and I look for a blue sky with lots of puffy clouds (not rain clouds); this is when you know it's going to be a great day for photos.

Marvel Super Hero Island in Universal's Islands of Adventure.  Copyright Bill Forshey. All rights reserved. 

Marvel Super Hero Island in Universal's Islands of Adventure. Copyright Bill Forshey. All rights reserved. 

Do you have any tips for taking pictures in low light settings? 

I'm currently investing in a second camera for nighttime shots. My wife uses a Nikon D7000 but the problem with taking a great camera is that you risk damage and theft. It is very hard to carry a bag around or store it in a locker while enjoying attractions. The nighttime shots that are normally shown are taken by photographers being the last to leave the park. The parks are so lit up at night that if you have a decent camera you are going to get a great photo. Just take a moment to get the right setting, such as background, subject, etc. Always remember the camera is searching for light.

When is it helpful to use the Auto Mode on a camera or phone to take pictures?

It is always great to have standard settings; we all do it. It is really a great idea unless you're a pro, and you constantly want play with settings in the park. I hardly do that. I like to stay in my comfort zone of point and shoot. Always remember: you can adjust the photo in editing.

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

Most phones and cameras have some forms of editing presets however if you are looking for a slight boost, you can add Adobe Lightroom and the even more extreme editing with Tone Mapping (Photomatix). This is an art within itself. If you have a great photo that needs cropping or a boost in color, editing software is the way to go.

Balloon vendors near Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom.  Copyright Bill Forshey. All rights reserved. 

Balloon vendors near Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom. Copyright Bill Forshey. All rights reserved. 

Do you have any other photo tips for theme park visitors?

In Disney, I always use the balloon vendors for a background for family photos. Always look at the subject and then the background; you don't want a picture of the Partners Statue with someone eating a turkey leg behind it. Go high. Go low. If doing a street view (if not busy), place your camera close to the ground viewing the entire street. If the park is a little busy, I always hold my camera up high (hand high in the air) and get a great photo. Also take many photos; the one shot that you may think is great may have some defect that has made it not so great. When shooting an attraction, think of different angles. For example, I will capture Cinderella Castle from all sides; the Dragon at Gringotts Bank inside Universal Studios, I like to capture it from the front and two sides.

Where can we see more of your photography online? 

Here is my Flickr Account: Super Silly Fun Land and Twitter: @b4she4144