Disney Dream Portraits – Annie Lebibovitz

In a previous post we mentioned seeking inspiration from other notable photographers.

Today we attempt the impossible, by looking at the work of the legendary Annie Leibovitz.
The artist is renown for her portraiture.
Sometimes formal, often relaxed, but never accidental.

An extreme example of her work at its most complex is that of the Disney Dream series of portraiture, that first appeared in 2007, featuring Beyoncé as Alice in Wonderland.
Much of Annie’s commercial work involves complex lighting setups, huge visual effects activities and lots of post production (Photoshop etc).

Disney Dreams Annie Leibovitz


In reality, we have no ability to recreate that kind of image in a theme park, but we certainly can take some special cues from the Beyonce image to great effect!
Here are some pointers from the Alice image that can help us create great vacation pictures!

  1. Annie Leibovitz always has a wardrobe and makeup team on set.
    Think about what the kids will be wearing on their most magical day at the Magic Kingdom!  Make sure they’ve got something on that will help bring the best out of the day!  Take a pocket hairbrush and some wet wipes to tidy hair and remove signs of lunch!
  2. Carefully planned lighting setups make the shot work so well for professional photographers.
    Learn how to use your camera flash during the day to stunning effect!
    This shot used a similar technique to the Beyonce/Alice shot, by using a slow shutter speed and the on camera flash to create a very dramatic effect.
  3. If you are able to get your subject and your camera moving together, you get a beautiful blurred background but a sharp shot of the subject, thanks to the ‘freeze’ effect of the flash.
  4. Leibovitz uses a classic foreground, subject and background technique in this shot, ensuring that all three include special interest.
    Nothing in this image of Beyonce is chance.
    As the main subject of the shot, Beyonce’s eyes stare at the camera, creating an effect that she is actually looking at you.
    The Mad Hatter in the foreground creates a sense of excitement as he looks away from the camera, suggesting that something is really going on in the scene.
    The March Hare does the same, but cleverly looks another direction, emphasising that this is a little ‘dangerous’.
    The blurred background makes the whole scene look very fast paced, adding further to the excitement!
  5. If we took any one of those elements of this beautiful picture away, the effect would collapse.  Can you imagine if that grass wasn’t blurred?  Or that the men were looking at you too?  Or if Beyonce was looking at her shoes?

OK, so we aren’t expecting you to pull off a picture like that, but you could step closer towards it each time you get that camera out!
Try just one new idea that Leibovitz used.  As one of the world’s greatest photographers, she is after all worth mimicking!

Good luck and happy snapping!!

Check out Annie Leibovitz’s Disney Dreams Portraits here!


Some pictures are worth more than a thousand words

When it comes to quality travel images, there’s nothing at all quite like National Geographic’s stunning imagery.


If you are after inspiration or simply love staring endlessly at beautiful photography, take a look at their photography section.
Now we know that the images are taken by the world’s most elite science and travel photographers, but we truly beleive that inspiration and ideas can be drawn from thinking about some of the possibilities that cameras offer, when used thoughtfully.
Don’t forget that places such as Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Busch Gardens offer a unique chance to snap some great wildlife shots!


If you look closely the National Geographic site you will see this photo tips section.
It offers a great insight into how many of those images came to light!
With even the cheapest of cameras, a determined photographer with a basic understanding of technique, will turn out amazing vacation snaps.  So don’t give up!

Keep shooting and keep learning from the images that you meet face to face every hour of the day!

IMG_0728 IMG_9505 IMG_3939 IMG_3854 IMG_0577 IMG_9548 IMG_9680 IMG_9380



These travel images are courtesy of the online Orlando Travel Guide totalorlando.com


Learn to Make the Most of Software!

Photographers keep their secrets very close to their chests!

This is partly, because they don’t want others to know their techniques, but mainly because their vanity prevents them from admitting they don’t always get things right!

As a pro, people expect perfection, but in reality, experimentation has long been one of the greatest assets for a photographer.
With the advent of instant views on digital camera backs, the opportunity to take risks and try bold ideas has never been so good!

Add the power of amazing software such as Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture and you are armed with a very powerful armoury on your crusade for fantastic travel photos.

A real life demo of the power of Lightroom!

On an assignment to the Magic Kingdom I was dashing from one area that was bathed in glorious winter sunshine, only to look at my watch to see that the parade was about to begin.  The parade is without doubt one of the greatest opportunities for those iconic images of one Mr M. Mouse!
Miss one of those and you get fired!

As I rushed to my chosen spot (chosen for the best background and light at that time of year) I scurried past a vista that looked really interesting.  I hadn’t time to set up exposures so quickly framed the shot and fired the shutter.
The camera back was useless during bright light as anyone would agree in sunny conditions, but I thought quite incorrectly that I was near enough.

Back at the room, I could see the images importing into Lightroom on my laptop and this drab image scrolled by:

Magic Kingdom Mickey Minnie

The camera had done what I’d asked it to do, and that of course was to expose at my manual settings for the afternoon light.
In this case, Cinderella’s Castle was exposed perfectly in line with my settings.
The subjects were of course another matter!  Poor Mickey and Minnie were indeed left in the shade!

Over the course of over a year, I grimaced whenever I saw the thumbnail in my Lightroom collection, until my editor wanted a topiary of the loveable mice!
As I searched my files, I realised I had little, other than of course the shady characters above!

In a desperate attempt not to fail, I opened the image up in Lightroom’s develop mode and set to with some very basic adjustments just to see what I could achieve.
Lifting the exposure was out of the question, but adjusting the fill, white slider, vibrance, saturation and highlights pretty much got me to where I wanted to be.
With a final tweak to the green and blue saturation and luminosity sliders, I was there.


In hindsight, I’m sure you might think that this is a little ‘overworked’ (messed with too much).
Of course in hindsight you’d be correct, but, I got my money for the shot, the image performed well for its purpose and nobody came back to tell me that I’d boosted the green a little too much (which of course it is!).

My experience has taught me to;

  • Always take a shot that might work
  • Always keep images safe and never delete any
  • Learn to use software well
  • Make bold adjustments then back off a little if it goes wrong
  • Shoot in RAW for forgiveness

I hope that this example encourages you to dig out a few of your library shots and see what you can do!

Luxury Travel Photography – Tips – Catching the Peak Action!

Catching Peak Action the secret to the best vacation shots!

If you’ve ever wondered how to grab yourself an amazing theme park shot that will wow your friends on Facebook, it’s all about that magic moment!

It happens only once for every shot, and if you miss it, it has gone forever.  With the right skill however, it’s in the camera and yours for the bragging rights!

This shot for totalorlando of the Serveur Amusement street performers in the French area of Epcot, is a good example of that moment.  Nothing fast going on to be honest, it’s just that point that counts!  A split second earlier and his feet were on the chair below, a split second later and he artist was purely vertical, somehow losing the impact.

IMG_5922There’s no magic here, you can easily do it yourself, and here’s a few tips to help you on your way!

  1. Even if the action is slow, keep your shutter speed high!  It stops a blurred image!
  2. If your camera has a continuous shoot mode, choose that for a quick burst of images.  Start shooting just before the action starts and you get the beginning, middle and end!
  3. If you are shooting something that repeats, watch it first without the camera, you can judge how things work out for your shoot!
  4. Sometimes it’s nice to aim the camera, then back your head away from the eyepiece to watch the scene unfold.  The wider view allows you to judge timing much better!
  5. Don’t stop shooting until it’s all over.  There’s always a good shot about to come if you are patient!

Sometimes however, there’s no substitute for thinking the action through before it actually happens!  Try and weigh up your environment and look for clues as to where the action will be and how best to position your camera!This shot of Disney’s Lights, Motors, Action stunt show at Hollywood Studios Orlando, was just one of those moments.

I know this sounds a bit boastful, but nothing about this shot was chance, even though it was my first time shooting here this event.  I was so closely following the stunt crews movements that I could see that they were preparing for the car to completely change direction and jump the flames.
How hard was I concentrating?  I had a killer of a headache, but it was well worth it!


Photoshop Crime or Artistic Beauty?

Having graduated with a first class degree in Photography, a painful lesson is learned very early on; a bad shot is a bad shot.

Sure, a little tweaking and adjustment can be beneficial, but a full scale rescue of an image is destined for ridicule by onlookers and peers.

Occasionally we see stunning images that have been heavily ‘Photoshopped’, but, sadly, we are more likely to see some photoshop horrors.

So we set out to find an already popular image from our portfolio and wizz it through one of our favourite editing packages Nik Color Effects Pro to see if we add or subtract from the original shot.

Before (Optimised in Lightroom 4)

IMG_7408After (NIK Color Effects Pro – Solarization)


The Verdict?

We remain undecided ourselves.  The NIK effect is dramatic, but, in our opinion it changes the photograph into a graphic.  We like it, but it is an extreme treatment that perhaps succeeds only because of the subject.  (In this case, Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom).  A slightly different subject and the heavily graphical effect would look very out of place.

Let us know what you feel about the two versions, we’d love to hear more!

Great Vacation Rental Home Photography – Gets the bookings for owners!

Over the course of a year, a good vacation rental home can reach more than 60% occupancy for an owner.  Perfect for bringing in the cash to pay for vacations or upkeep that mortgage!

Owners with fantastic homes however are often staggered that their lovely home doesn’t appear to ‘book out’ as well as their neighbouring properties.

It’s not the decor, the size of the pool or the direction that the sun its the pool deck area that causes the dearth of income.  Quite simply, it’s that awful photography that they blindly snapped away on their point and shoot camera (or worse still, their cell phone!)

Here’s what a great picture can look like for one of totalorlando’s luxury vacation homes, it’s a million miles away from the dull dark snaps that you often see on most homeowner’s private websites!


Our Pick of the Best Orlando Theme Park Photos


This gallery contains 155 photos.

Here’s a sample of our stunning photography for totalorlando.com we love working for them!  Taking pictures all day and being part of the world’s most popular tourist destination is a dream job! We envy our colleague that shoots for their Luxury … Continue reading