Disney's Invisible Flashes

While visiting Disneyland Paris, long-time reader Paul Mason of Hartlepool, UK watched a Disney staff photographer work a room doing shots of kids with the characters.

He noticed a remote on the photographer's camera, but saw no flashes anywhere — until they went off.

Disney has always been a great organization for stagecraft.

And true to form, the staff photographers at Disneyland Paris want to make sure the magic spell isn't broken by a bunch of strobes, remotes and Magic Arms hanging about. Given that they work the same room all of the time, the solution is as simple as it is brilliant.

Paul explains:

I just spent the day with my two young kids in Disneyland Paris. One of the high points of their day was the "meet the princess" session, where they got to meet and greet a Disney princess in her castle.

I had a simple walkabout kit (camera, 18-200 and an sb600 mounted on camera). There was your typical Disney photographer lurking nearby who had some kind of trigger in the hotshoe. What surprised me was that when he jumped in and started shooting, the remote units he was controlling were actually built into the wall of the room, and covered with a screen/scrim or similar so that you couldn't even see them until they fired.

Made quite a difference to having light stands and umbrellas as part of the setup, and meant that the fairy castle image could be maintained. I was quite impressed with the setup.

I'll say. That's a pretty slick. So A+ for photo lighting stagecraft. But as for the actual lighting...

The images were less inspiring; rather over-flashed and flat. My on-camera (Editor's note: (o_O)) flash balanced with a little ambient gave good enough results without me needing to spend 16€ on their images!
(Photo by Strobist reader BigDaddy)


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Blogger William Beem said...

Interesting, and not surprising now that you mention it. As you said, Disney is a master of stagecraft and the experience.

As for the flat photo, that goes with most of the photography capturing a moment in the parks. Most of their customers are happy to have that moment rather than being critical of the flat lighting. For them, it's a memory and not an art.

July 27, 2013 10:55 PM  
Blogger John said...

That setup would be great for any shoot with the under 10 crowd since nothing can get a child to stop acting natural like lightstands, soft boxes, and umbrellas. It is a shame that the photos came out "nuked", since a setup like this with a ceiling bounce and in-wall soft boxes should create a nice, even light. I am guessing the problem was more photographer than setup.

July 27, 2013 11:13 PM  
Blogger Zach said...

Is that Canon lens caps I see on that hat?!

July 27, 2013 11:22 PM  
Blogger Michael Rapp said...

Of course they're canon caps.
Since the Nikon ones are doing what they're supposed to do, protecting the Nikon lenses, the canon ones go on the animated rodent.

July 28, 2013 4:53 AM  
Blogger Josh Lloyd said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 28, 2013 1:52 PM  
Blogger Josh Lloyd said...

Wow that's pretty impressive! Keep the magic alive. There's nothing more invasive than flashes going off in your face.

July 28, 2013 1:53 PM  
Blogger Jack and Brenda said...

I'm sure a lot of the reason for the "flat" photos is that the setup has to take into account that the subject is moving around the large room and the photographer has to shoot from all angles. It'd be nearly impossible to do otherwise, unless the "princess" is on a seat and pointed the same direction all the time. What they need is a computer program that tracks the exact location of the photographer and princess in that space and automatically adjust the individual lights for the perfect exposure!

July 28, 2013 3:47 PM  
Blogger DTAB said...

@Micheael Nah....the Canon's being used so much it doesn't need the cap!

July 28, 2013 3:57 PM  
Blogger Paul Mason said...

@Jack and Brenda - You do have a valid point, and maybe I was overly critical of the 'flat' light, but in this situation, the princess was pretty much in a fixed position (not seated, but standing/crouching in an archway) and it was a pretty small room (I shot at 18mm on APS-C...) She did turn a little as the kids moved, so more directional light could have been a problem.

@William Beem - Yup, I guess it's easy to be critical of the lighting, when 99% of parents would be happy with the memory ;) And having spent some more time thinking about this, I would have to admit that flat but clear lighting would win out over interesting light that cast a huge shadow over part of the image.

Despite my moan about 'over flashed and flat' lighting, I'm very impressed with Disney, and the photos *were* great mementos of the whole experience. They just weren't that much better than my on-camera flashed (o_O) shots (IMHO!). I don't want my final negative comment to detract from the magic that Disney create for the kids :)

July 30, 2013 4:46 AM  
Blogger Jyrki K said...

The princess is probably on a standard range from flashes. This kind of photography is far away from art and perfect lighting.

July 30, 2013 5:08 AM  
Blogger Brian Smokler said...

More theme park fun.

Here's what happens when an enterprising photographer fires a flash in an amusement arcade. I thought you'd enjoy this.


July 30, 2013 3:05 PM  

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