JOE TOURIST - On-Ride Photos

Photography is a fundamental element in any family vacation--and theme parks realize this. Enter the on-ride photo. Here's a listing of the attractions in the Central Florida area that offer this opportunity.

Written by Joe Lane
Published: July 6, 2004 at 9:14 AM

JOE TOURIST – On-Ride Photos
Smile and Say ARRRRRGH!

Photography is a fundamental element in any family vacation--and this is no less true than with theme park vacations. Families that very rarely make trips to the parks or first-time park-goers are usually the folks with the cameras, snapping shots of family members in front of attractions and meeting characters.

Theme parks realize this. That's why they make sure not only to offer lots of opportunities to take photos by suggesting ideal photo spots or neat visual treats, they also sell a great deal of camera and film merchandise in their parks. For Busch Gardens Tampa and Sea World Orlando, Fujifilm is the main sponsor, while Kodak is featured at both WDW and Universal.

There's another side to theme park photography: the on-ride photo. It's a common element in most theme park thrill rides--offering nice photos in a safe manner. The cameras get positions and angles that most people couldn't. It's also much safer to have the park take the photo for you instead of trying to frame yourself with your own camera while your coaster goes into a zero G heartline roll.

It's tough to say which theme park first thought of on-ride photos--or which attraction was the first to feature the element. It does make for an excellent addition to any ride. Some folks don't even realize their picture's been taken until they see the monitors at the ride exit. This often makes for some of the best reactions. It is noticeable, however, that folks don't often purchase on-ride photos. Those that do, do so for a variety of reasons: it might be their first time on the ride, or the ride itself is brand new, and they want to commemorate the event. Maybe they collect on-ride photos, or they liked the way the picture came out. Maybe they bought it as a souvenir for themselves or a family member or friend.

There are fourteen attractions in the Central Florida area that feature on-ride photos. At Busch Gardens Tampa, guests can have their pictures taken on the three major coasters, Montu, Kumba and Gwazi. At Sea World Orlando, there's an on-ride photo op for Kraken. There are six attractions throughout the Disney resort, including Splash Mountain and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, Test Track, Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Rollercoaster and Dinosaur. Universal Orlando has four with The Incredible Hulk, Jurassic Park River Adventure, Men In Black Alien Attack and Revenge of the Mummy.

I originally wanted to feature a complete price listing for each attraction, but this proves a difficult task, as photo prices are apt to change without notice. There's also sales tax to be considered. So instead, I've opted to tell you where and when the photos will take on the attraction and give you an idea of what you can get with your photo.

Universal Orlando
The Incredible Hulk: the cameras are set up just after the brake station during the second portion of the ride--they're easily spotted on the left side of the coaster heading back to load/unload. The pictures feature individual rows, and a graphic design overlays the photo so that everyone appears to be in the front seat of the 'gamma sled'.

Jurassic Park River Adventure: the photo op happens right after the encounter with the T-Rex, during the drop. The picture is suspended from the ceiling, but because of the angle of decent, practically takes the photo straight on. It's difficult to see the camera, what with the mist and the lights and the falling. The picture features the entire boat.

Men In Black Alien Attack: during the ambush scene of the attraction, when the two vehicles take separate paths down an ally. The camera is difficult to spot, but is somewhere straight on, near the lead alien, and takes a photo of the entire car. During proper ride operation, you can even have your scores printed out along with your photo--extra incentive, especially if you've broken your personal best record--or your friend's best record.

Revenge of the Mummy: this photo op takes place after the fake unload station. It snaps during the mine cars following decent, is on the right side, and frames the entire car.

One good thing about Universal Orlando's on-ride photos is that the sizes and pricing are the same all across the board. A standard 5x7 with four wallets runs an average of $18.00, while and 8x10 goes for roughly $17.00. The price can be considerably more for a framed 8x10. The attractions also feature wallet-sized keychain photos for $20 bucks. Of the four attractions, Hulk is the only one to feature a $22.00 tumbler with your photo on it.

Walt Disney World
Splash Mountain: a staple of them park on-ride photos. The photo snaps right at the grand finale drop into the briar patch and snaps the entire log. Unlike its cousin at Disneyland, WDW's Splash Mountain takes its photo on the left side of the flume instead of the right.

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin: the Buzz photo-op was added after the attraction originally opened in the Magic Kingdom. Your ride vehicle will lock in place after defeating the evil Emperor Zurg so your picture can be taken. It frames the entire vehicle.

Test Track: the photo-op comes during the barrier test, with the camera above and slightly to the right, catching the entire vehicle. If you look at the photos afterwards, you can find a hidden Mickey in the upper right corner as a couple of coiled cables.

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: when your elevator car makes its first stop behind the Hollywood Tower sign, looking out over the park, chances are this is when your photo will be taken, although the strobes simulating lightning make it difficult to tell which is effect and which is camera flash. The entire elevator is shot.

Rock 'n' Rollercoaster: the Aerosmith-themed coaster will take your picture during launch. It will take your photo from the right and features two rows per portion of coaster.

Dinosaur: the Animal Kingdom dark ride also has a on-ride photo. It happens during the third encounter with the Carnotaurus, when the fierce dinosaur appears on the right side above the Time Rover. The shot frames the entire vehicle.

Pricing and sizes around the Disney parks are difficult to keep track of. Most of the attractions feature reduced prices for buying additional 5x7s, 8x10s and posters. Prices can range anywhere from about $13.00 for a 5x7 to about $23.00 for a poster. Test Track sells only 5x7s at $13.00, with a reduced $10 for an additional 5x7. Rock 'n' Rollercoaster features a few special items, including a faux CD case with two wallets for $29.00, magnets for $10, and a set of four postcards for $20. There are a wealth of frames available. Generic Mickey frames can go for roughly $20, while other WDW frames can go for a little more. Most of those can be found in the stores around the resort. Some ride-specific frames can only be purchased at the attraction in question, however.

Seaworld Orlando
Kraken: the only attraction in SWO to feature an on-ride photo. Kraken snaps its shot from the right side of the coaster per row immediately after the first giant loop. 5x7s go for $10. Framed 5x7s and 8x10s go for considerably more--up to $23.00 (it's a really nice frame). The attraction also features wallet-size keychains: 2 for $15 and 1 for $11. They also feature snow globes with your photo inside for $15.00.

Busch Gardens Tampa
Montu: the on-ride photo op occurs after the first loop of Montu, when your coaster starts to head underground. There are cameras on both sides that take shots of each row, two seats in.

Kumba: for the life of me, I cannot remember the exact location of the camera op. However, I know it to be early on in the ride, just after the first loop. The camera set up is designed to give a nice view of the entire row from nearly head-on.

Gwazi: I had actually forgotten that Gwazi has an on-ride photo set up, but it does. The cameras take the shot from the left side of both Lion and Tiger, although Lion is more of a head on shot and Tiger is more of a side on shot. Where in the ride is actually a mystery, but the cameras are easy to spot on the ground. The shot features two rows of each section of coaster.

BGT's prices are a little more consistent compared to WDW's. 5x7s on their own go for about $9. There's a reduced price for buying two. There are no 8x10s available for any of the attractions. Keychains and snow globes ($15.00) are also available and range in price depending on the attraction. Kumba offers no snow globes but does have a series of special packages that offer a certain number of photos or keychains and reduced prices.

Hopefully you will find this information helpful--maybe even insightful. Granted, Florida is the only place in the world that offers on-ride photos--there are opportunities on attractions just about everywhere. If you do decide to visit the parks in the Sunshine state, however, at least you'll have an idea of what to expect. Keep on ridin'!

Readers' Opinions

From Pete Brecht on July 6, 2004 at 10:47 AM
I'm glad somebody finally brought up this topic. I've been wondering over the past couple of months what on earth the whole point of the ride photo is. Furthermore, who actually buys them? Almost everybody checks them out upon exiting the ride, but I don't know if I've ever seen anyone actually purchase one. I might actually consider buying one every once in a while if the price were a couple of dollars (given the incremental costs of digital photo development, that would still allow for plenty of profit), but these things usually start at 10 bucks a pop! Also, they're such close-ups that you could just as well be on a park bench for all you can see in the photo.
From Jayson Myers on July 6, 2004 at 2:45 PM
I buy them quite frequently. If it just my wife and me, we usually don't buy them. But we almost always buy them at least once (one ride) when we go with someone, esp if there is something funny going on (like their face screaming). They make great mementos and give us laughs all the time.
From steve lee on July 6, 2004 at 3:00 PM
I bought a picture on the Hulk so my girlfriend could prove that she really did ride it.

Of course, she looks like she was in labor in the picture...

From Chuck Campbell on July 6, 2004 at 4:10 PM
BG Williamsburg also peddles on-ride photos.

Loch Ness Monster: Smile as you speed through the downside of the second loop, just before you enter the station.

Alpengeist: Look for the flash at the bottom of the second loop as you crash through the shack.

Apollo's Chariot: Scream like a maniac as you drop on the last little dip as you approach the station.

Le Scoot (log flume): Cringe in terror, or just look bored, as you drop under the buzzsaw blade and the flash pops.

From Joe Lane on July 6, 2004 at 4:38 PM
Good start, Chuck. If you folks can offer up other attractions from other theme parks that feature on-ride photos, please do so.

Pete makes a good point--not a lot of folks actually purchase their on-ride photo, but Jayson and Steve explain why the feature still exists. On-ride photos are mementos--memories of a first time experience or a fun ride or even proof of accomplishment--whether you braved a raging coaster, a tower of terror or got the most points blasting aliens.

Which reminds me, rumor has it that Disney has been working on incorporating a score printout with their Buzz Lightyear on-ride photos. When I say working on, I mean 'might not happen'--you know Disney, nowadays. Odds are, if the program goes in on the new DL version, it'll make it to WDW.

From Robert Niles on July 6, 2004 at 5:36 PM
One of the frequently asked questions I get is... how can a visitor buy an on-ride or character photo *after* they've left the park for the day? I seem to remember that Universal at one point offered an online option for buying photos for a day or two after they were taken.

If anyone has any info on how to get these pictures after the fact, please post that, too.

From Kelly G on July 7, 2004 at 5:46 AM
Good morning! I recently returned from a wonderful weekend at Universal Orlando. I will be working on a synopsis of our trip a little later to be given to the website...

Anyway, I am in a wheelchair with a physical disability so I like to have a lot of hobbies to keep me busy, and one of those is working on a scrapbook of special things that has happened in my life. I purchased souvenir photos from all of the attractions that offer them (MIB, Jurassic Park, etc.-all previously mentioned). Even though I cannot ride these attractions, my friends can and by purchasing pictures it gives me the feeling that at least I was part of it.

Keeping that in mind, there are a few attractions that I know of that SHOULD have on-ride photos, but do not...

Dueling Dragons: I just think that there should be a way to include a camera somewhere in that attraction. It is so awesome to watch, having a picture of the experience would be fantastic. Not to mention, they could really make some creative frames.

Dudley Do-Right Ripsaw Falls: I think this is pretty self-explanatory. The drop at the end is very similar to Splash Mountain and they have a photo opportunity, so this attraction should have one also. It could be just as they are going down.

Cat in the Hat: I am sure that at some point on the attraction they could include a picture during a spinning moment or something like that. It would be a nice souvenir to have, especially if you have children.

From Jason Moore on July 7, 2004 at 8:05 AM
To offer a little more insight, a ride photo generally isn't something you need to buy every time you ride, but as previously stated there are certain times it is nice. I rarely get one if it is just myself and my significant other riding, but we always chack them out and if it is a particularly good shot (funny expressions, etc.) then we consider it. If I am with a group of friends and we take up a good chunk of the photo, that is also a fun one to get. One of my favorite stories is the time when I was 18 and we had a group of Russian dancers visiting and putting on a show with us. As a treat after the show was all wrapped up our group took them over to Disney. There were two particular individuals that myself and my friends bonded with quite well, and spent the whole day at the park with. We chipped in and bought them the photo of our group on Splash Mountain to take home and remember their American friends.

One reason why it may seem like noone is stopping to buy is that maybe they already have a photo of that particular ride.

From Todd Reicher on July 7, 2004 at 12:57 PM
About 2 years ago I was at Sea World Orlando. After riding the Kraken we were viewing our on-ride photo, and some guy held up his digital camera and took a picture of the on-ride picture. Can't say I have seen that before or since.
From Paul Abbott on July 7, 2004 at 4:33 PM
This info really help in my souvenir hunting during my last orlando trip. Do you think you could see wher the the one ride photo s are for california, texas and, ohio parks?
From Joe Lane on July 7, 2004 at 6:30 PM
Folks who take pictures of the on-ride photo previews usually get a good yelling at by whomever is working the preview monitors, but I haven't seen anything more than a chewing out.
From Dave Bradley on July 7, 2004 at 7:06 PM
FYI: SeaWorld Orlando also has a camera on the Journey To Atlantis ride. I can not believe you dont know about that one. It snaps your photo right on the decent from the top of the hill. shortly before you spash down. You can view your images right after the ride exit, and purchase the photo after going down the stairs, right before the gift store. Pricing is the same as it is on Kraken!

From Pete Brecht on July 8, 2004 at 6:55 AM
I still think that if they cut the price in half, they'd actually make more money. I would consider the occasional $4 or $5 photo, but at $10+ each, I don't see too many on-ride photos in my future.
From Joe Lane on July 8, 2004 at 7:34 AM
Quite frankly, I can't believe I missed the Atlantis on-ride photo, either. I spent nearly a month getting most of this information together...
From Ben Mills on July 8, 2004 at 8:15 AM
Great topic, Joe. WHen you spend so much on ride photos, it's nice to know what quality you're gonna get.
From Robert Niles on July 8, 2004 at 10:07 AM
Last time I caught a Cirque show in Vegas, a photographer was working the theater, taking photos of every couple and group there -- which were then displayed in the gift shop after the show, a la on-ride photos. So the idea's spread to other segments of the entertainment industry.

And that also raises the question, do they do the souvenir photos at La Nouba in Downtown Disney, too?

From Joe Lane on July 8, 2004 at 5:41 PM
You know, it probably would be a good idea if I actually SAW La Nouba--a review might be something worthwhile...

Disney, Universal and Busch are taking extra steps in the photo department. Most folks recognize the photographers that hang out at the entrance of the parks and try to get people to stop walking for a second so they can take a picture (I wonder how those photo folks feel getting brushed off all the time?) A few weeks ago, I saw a photographer at the hanging Jaws at USF--I don't know if people were still allowed to take their own photographs, but it's another example of how parks are trying to make more money by placing their own photographers at their own photo ops.

From Kevin Baxter on July 11, 2004 at 12:44 AM
I don't recall seeing them do this at La Nouba. But then we didn't get there really early either, but I certainly didn't see them selling them anywhere after the show. And if a review needs to be done about this show (Robert?), I'll do it. I've seen it twice, so no need to toss out your hard-earned bucks for it, Joe. Unless you have the bucks. It is a great show.
From Christian Nicely on August 3, 2004 at 5:21 PM
I love photos they are used to relive memories and to prove to your idiotic friends that you aren't chicken. I got one for Splash Mountain, Test Track, Tower of Terror, Rockin Roller Coaster,Hulk,Jurrassic Park, Journey to Atlantis.
From Mike Rumble on August 16, 2004 at 4:22 AM
I'm surprised that there aren't more ride photos offered in Orlando, particularly in Disney World.

Here in the UK ride photography is a pretty big phenomenon - Both Thorpe and Chessington World Of Adventures offer it on six rides each, Alton Towers has it available on a whopping ten rides!

From Ben Mills on August 16, 2004 at 5:58 AM
Well, they've gotta make their rides exciting somehow...the on-ride photo is undoubtedly the highlight of Air.
From Joe Lane on November 3, 2004 at 8:25 AM
Update: turns out things were worse than I thought--I also missed the Photo Op at BGT's Stanley Falls log flume ride.
From Jon Wely on March 5, 2005 at 10:35 AM
I believe Kumba's on-ride photo section is at the bottom of the first drop and it captures 4-across.
From Carol Caracciolo on October 12, 2005 at 7:13 AM
Great topic!! Is there any way to have actual on-ride photos on this page so we can see what we might get? Thanks!