Florida – The Worst Place In The World To Take Good Photos?

After coming back from a family vacation to Florida and downloading all of the images from the trip, I have come to the conclusion that Florida just might be the worst place in the world to take good photos.

florida the worst place in the world to take good pictures jp danko toronto commercial photographer

If you’re not sure where I’m going with this, I think this photo pretty much sums up the photographic opportunities Florida has to offer.

Read on and let me explain!

Now before all the native Floridians leave angry comments, I am sure that there are tons of amazing photos of Florida taken every day.

They just aren’t anywhere near Disney World or the surrounding big box stores, strip malls, counterfeit souvenir shops and chain restaurants.

I mean, is it a law that everything in Florida has to be branded?

Its probably part of the same law that says there has to be a Denny’s every two blocks.  Not that there is anything wrong with Denny’s – the Denny’s balloon guy was the highlight of the trip for our kids – I could have saved the $100 per person per day at Disney and just gone to Denny’s…

I could have also saved admission to Disney and pretty much the cost of the entire trip if I knew that the kids would just want to sit inside an build a giant Lego Cinderella castle all week…but I digress.

florida the worst place in the world to take good pictures jp danko toronto commercial photographer

Continuing with the rant…

And not just a subtle logo here and there – no – big honkin’ in your face BRANDING!

Oh, and people.  There were also crowds of people everywhere.  I am not a crowd person.  I don’t like people all that much.  I like people even less when they are messing up my shot.

So, where was I going with this…?

Well, every family vacation or interesting outing we go on, I try to make it a point to come back with at least a few sellable stock images.  The idea being that over time our library of family vacation stock photos grows to a point where future vacations are self funded.

We semi-jokingly tell the kids that it is their “job” to model for photos – and with the right incentives (like ice cream) they take their job seriously.

The goal is to one day get to a point where we go on extended family vacations for the sole purpose of coming back with amazing family experiences and the photos that go with them.

Some people make their kids work on a farm, we make our kids pose for photos.

Back to Florida.

I took a whole bunch of the usual tourist snapshots – but I found it really tough to find anything worth really photographing.  The light was generally bright and harsh all day long, there were people everywhere and I swear every single thing I pointed my camera at had a logo on it.

That, and there just seemed to be some sort of flaw with everything I tried to take a picture of.  The sides of the pool had some weird staining that is really obvious in photos, but not in person.  The water at Cocoa Beach was kind of grungy.  There was some obnoxious fat guy in every background.

florida the worst place in the world to take good pictures jp danko toronto commercial photographer

Cocoa Beach – azure blue waters and white sands it is not.

florida the worst place in the world to take good pictures jp danko toronto commercial photographer

Harry Potter Land (or World or Fake UK World or whatever) – OK, so maybe a theme park isn’t the best place in Florida to expect good photos – but there is so much wrong with this photo that it almost makes me nauseous to look at it.

But, in the end, I did manage to come back with at least a few sell-able stock photos.

In what I should have realized was a sign of things to come, my favorite photo of the trip was taken on the plane on the flight there.


florida the worst place in the world to take good pictures jp danko toronto commercial photographer

And if there is one thing that Florida is great for – its taking photos in a pool.  In fact, I am pretty sure that Florida is the pool capital of the world…which is actually kind of fitting if you think about it since a pool is really just an idealized fake representation of a lake (just without the gators and golf balls).

child swimming underwater in outdoor pool jp danko toronto commercial photographer

child swimming underwater in outdoor pool jp danko toronto commercial photographer

child swimming underwater in outdoor pool jp danko toronto commercial photographer

For some tips on underwater photography, check out “Natural Light Underwater Photography Tips” and “How To Edit Underwater Photography With Lightroom And Photoshop”.

Where Have You Been That Was A Photographic Challenge?

Have you been somewhere that was a challenge to get decent photos?

Have you been to Florida and came back with great photos of your trip?

Are you from Florida – any tips of where to go to escape the tourist trap?

Leave a comment and let us know!

Obligatory Photo Of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

(*Correction – I have since been informed that this is in fact Cinderella’s Castle.  We apologize for any confusion we may have caused between Disneyland and Disney World).

child swimming underwater in outdoor pool jp danko toronto commercial photographer

You know we couldn’t leave this shot out!

And in the interest of fairness, here is my favorite shot from Universal Studios – courtesy of J. Jonah Jameson.

child swimming underwater in outdoor pool jp danko toronto commercial photographer

  • Bryan

    Florida Orlando is not.

  • Jared

    FYI that is Cinderella’s castle. Sleeping beauty castle is in California.

    • http://www.blurmediaphotography.com/ JP Danko

      Damn – I was sure it was Sleeping Beauty…oh well, I guess that tells you how much I pay attention to which princess castle is which.

  • http://wilcfry.com/ Wil Fry

    Disneyland/world is for the kids and corporations. If you know that going in, it’s a lot more fun. For photos, avoid the costly spots. I’ve found the places that cost the least money are best for photos — wildflowers near a highway rest stop, grasses on the dunes at a public beach, etc. And, like you, I’m not a crowd person. Take the side roads. Avoid the cities that are sponsored entirely by big box amusement parks.

    (And I’m pretty sure Denny’s just has one “e”. At least where I live. :-)

    • http://www.blurmediaphotography.com/ JP Danko

      Thx – fixed

  • Dup

    Go to places in Florida that arent theme parks.

  • Governor of Florida

    And its spelled Cocoa Beach.

    • http://www.blurmediaphotography.com/ JP Danko

      Potato / Potatoe… thanks – fixed

  • Jim A.

    You can get a cool photo at Disney, you just have to work for it – shot at Disney:
    But I agree, Orlando is focused on extracting cash from visitors – it doesn’t reflect the best Florida has to offer. Next time visit John Pennecamp State Park, Rainbow River State Park, Ginnie Springs, Homosassa State park, the Kennedy Space Center, the gulf coast beaches near Bradenton and Sarasota (White sand, blue water on calm mornings and sunsets) wildlife photo ops at Myakka River State Park, etc. You just need a few decent suggestions. St. Augustine is a touristy place, but it is pretty nice for photography if you’re patient.Visit Flagler college and the surroundings as well as the fort. Just my $.02

    • http://www.blurmediaphotography.com/ JP Danko

      Great photo – and thanks for the suggestions!

      • Jim A.

        BTW- I think the underwater shots in your article are great, maybe you could do a quick article on how to do that sometime? Thanks!

    • http://www.speedofmyshutter.com/ Matt Owen

      Agreed on the Gulf coast beaches – much better for photos, plus you get sunset over the water.

  • sl33stak

    Ugh…..Maybe avoid the most visited tourist spot on earth next time?
    Try the Keys? Or try a smaller town on the coast?

    Bahia Honda State Park

  • anitaboeira

    I don’t think I agree with you… I have taken many beautiful photos at Disney World, and I always come home happy with my photos after a trip! And isn’t this the challenge of being a good photographer? Making even a place that looks like it won’t be good for pictures shine? Also, try visiting in the off season. Summer in Florida is just so hot, no wonder you didn’t get inspired! And a commenter below mentioned the keys, and I’ll agree it’s a beautiful area. Miami is great for pictures too. And the water is super blue :)

  • asterion

    Totally agree, I also was disappointed with photo ops in the Orlando area, but thanks to the others posters now know where to go next time, cheers guys.

  • WolfNippleChips

    Why not take kids to see the Dead Lake of Wewahitchka or the multitude of really beautiful natural spots that haven’t been paved over by a big corporation. I live in Orlando. It’s like purgatory.

  • Rick

    Good photographers don’t blame the venue, they overcome it.

  • Rob

    I think you need to look at this more objectively. You may not have gotten the great photo you wanted because you went with your family and enjoyed being with them. You werent waiting for the perfect moment at the perfect angle and waiting for the right time of day. I agree i could go and have fun in the parks and take ok photos more for memories than good photography. But dont blame the location for your limitations whether that is your photographic knowledge or because you put something something else in a higher priority. I know for a fact that people can go there with photography as the priority and walk out with amazing photos whether it is inside a theme park or outside in a natural setting.

  • Ed Rosack

    I would have been happy to give you some pointers.


    • Lyle

      You took those all in FL? But where is the theme park?

  • Frank Nazario

    Im a photographer in Orlando, FL and all I can say is “another one pulled in by the Disney World black hole”… there are plenty of beautiful places in the Orlando area for photo opportunities but… they are not in Disney. Universal Studios Orlando is very photo friendly … downtown Orlando too… Winter Park artist area … anyway im sooooooo sorry that the “magical world of disney world” gave you that sour taste, believe me Florida is way beautiful. Tampa sunsets and Kissimmes Tohopekaliga Lake in sunrise are ammmaazzing but then again they are NOT inside Disney. Call me the next time… I’ll plan a photowalk with you to remember!!! Cheers

    • Jason Wright

      I fly out to Florida/Disney in 2 days…. Care to leave a “MUST do/see” tip for me?

  • Ralph Hightower

    There’s more to Florida than Harry Potter or DisneyWorld. There’s Kennedy Space Center!

    I didn’t drive twice to Florida in July 2011 for a vacation. It was more of a personal mission. My first trip was to check off the only item that had been on my Bucket List for 30 years, years before that Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman movie. Yea, I know I’m gonna die; I just don’t know when. But July 8, 2011 was now or never. I had been registering for the NASA Tweetups that NASA had been having for the remaining Space Shuttle launches. Plan A: Win the Tweetup lottery to be part of the NASA Tweetup group held by the Countdown Clock; fail, I made it to the “waiting list”. Plan B: Win the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center lottery to buy tickets to park at KSCVC and take a bus to the NASA Causeway; fail! Plan C: Buy a ticket from one of the tour companies allowed on the NASA Causeway; SCORE! I booked a hotel in Kissimmee that was the pickup spot for the tour company. I got tips from a photographer of Florida Today to use ISO 100 film since it was a day launch, underexpose by -1/3 stop and also mount my camera on the tripod so that the tilt handle was under the lens so the upward movement wouldn’t be impeded.

    July 8, 2011, weather was a huge concern for launch. Traffic on I-95 for July 7, slowed to 25 MPH at times due to heavy rains. Once I arrived at Kissimmee, lightning was dancing all around us. But there was a brief window in the weather for Atlantis to launch. Then there was the launch abort when Atlantis’ computers found a problem with the O2 cap retraction. Launch Control verified that the “beanie cap” was in the proper location and the count resumed.

    Yea, I am not a crowd person either. But I had to accept it in order to check off my only Bucket List item. I was glad that I got tickets for the bus trip rather than drive my own personal car to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center; I left the headache of the gridlock after the launch to the bus driver. It was absolute, total traffic grid lock; worse than Atlanta, DC, or Charlotte.

    Reading the local Florida news outlet, over one million people saw the final launch.

    So why did I make a second trip to Florida in July 2011? NASA picked 50 of the STS-135 Launch Tweetup to view the landing of Atlantis. I didn’t need the beach since this would be an overnight trip from South Carolina. I booked a motel in Cocoa, FL (not Cocoa Beach, FL); it wasn’t a Motel 6, but it should’ve been classified as such. We had to get our credentials checked at the NASA Press Accreditations Center and since it was a pre-dawn landing, I had to dump the film in my camera to load in B&W ISO 400 film that I shot at 1600. In hindsight, I should have ordered Kodak TMAX 3200 film and had next day delivery.

    At the Shuttle Landing Facility, I was 200 yards away from the runway. There is a huge difference from watching a landing on TV and seeing it in person. On TV, the twin sonic booms sound like a muffled “boom! boom!”; in person, it sounds like a “BANG! BANG!” It’s no wonder that Florida residents and vacationers call 911 about hearing gun shots.

    PS: A week before launch, our Chevy HHR was T-boned by a Chevy Tahoe. I didn’t want a “rental dog” without XM Radio; since it was still driveable, I chose to drive the HHR to Florida twice from South Carolina. After the landing, I said “Okay, fix it.” The rear axle needed replacing since it wouldn’t align within measurements.

    I was interviewed twice by WLTX-TV. The first was recorded for airing on their 6 PM news. The second was a live interview during their July 20, 2011 6 AM news as a stop over on my way to KSC.

    Flickr Collection of NASA: The Final Space Shuttle Mission Featuring the Final Four (STS-135):

  • Andy Oliver

    Indeed, the trick is to stay away from the tourist stuff (or stick with the kitschy tourist stuff). And the light down here can be a real pain. That said, my style (perhaps *because* I live here) uses that harsh harsh light for very graphic images: https://www.flickr.com/photos/coherent_noise/7188210431/

    It has gotten to the point that I pretty much don’t know what to do on a cloudy day.

  • Teodorico Morell
  • Björn Lubetzki

    So you complain that you didn’t get good images, but you write “But, in the end, I did manage to come back with at least a few sell-able stock photos”
    My impression was, that it was a family vacation…..I’m happy if I have a few good images at the end of a vacation and I’m not constantly thinking about photography.
    I don’t really understand what your point was. As far as I see it, the point of the story is “I was on a family vacation in Florida and I had to spend a lot of money. I wanted to end up with commercial grade images that I could sell but in the end all I got was a few stock images”.
    Don’t get me wrong, I get your point when it comes to “this location sucks” but as Rick wrote. “Good photographers don’t blame the venue, they overcome it”. And I don’t think that a whole state sucks as a photo location…..

  • Garrett Jimenez

    What camera is used for the underwater shots?

    • http://www.blurmediaphotography.com/ JP Danko

      D800 with a EWA Marine case.

  • https://www.facebook.com/BurritoBear Garrett Jimenez

    What camera was used in the underwater shots?

  • Fred Smith

    The highest point there is probably a bridge…not exactly Colorado or Utah for scenery, unless you hit the Everglades.

  • http://www.kurtlanger.com/ Kurt Langer

    Takes guts to put up an article like that and take the punches. Next time maybe go to Italy.

  • jrdnjstn

    You can get great shots at Disney World, specially at night. The fireworks they shoot off by Cinderella’s castle and the castle itself at night turns different colors. The laser show at Epcot center. The great big huge tree at Animal Kingdom, the tree has different carvings animals in it. NASA is only an hour drive from Orlando and you went to far from it since you were at Cocoa beach. Pensacola has a beautiful beach, white sands and blue/turquoise water and great sunsets. Clearwater has a great beach, the water is so clear you can see the bottom.

  • http://www.speedofmyshutter.com/ Matt Owen

    Even in the parks you have plenty of chances, like these Moon Jellyfish at SeaWorld:

  • Neal

    Try the Wildlife Preserve on Sanabel island on Florida’s Gulf Coast near Ft, Myers. We go there every time we go the Florida, about once a year. The opportunities for wildlife photography are different each visit

  • Tim Cleary

    I’ve taken some pretty nice photos at Disney World before. Here’s a link to one of my trips a few years back. You just have to be patient and treat the crowd like white noise.


  • scatterbrained

    Well, I think your problem was that you were worried about getting salable images. You can get some great images at Disney World, so long as you aren’t worried about being able to put them in your stock portfolio. https://www.flickr.com/photos/tltichy/sets/72157625474761997/
    If you worry constantly about whether or not you can make something to sell every time you pick up your camera, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities.

  • Nate Hudson

    You had a choice to go to the beach and you went to Cocoa…. That right there was your problem. If you are looking for pretty white sands and clear blue water, you need to go the gulf side. Also, I live in Orlando, we have crystal clear springs that are just amazing and teaming with wildlife. So the title of this story should be, “I went to the worst tourist trap and the crappiest beach in Florida…. and now I’m complaining about the pictures I got because I didn’t even do the slightest bit of research about all the beautiful areas in Florida I could have captured”

  • tlmasejr

    Yes, in cities that offer nothing but the box-in-go sites, you need to get out of the area and go to places that are native like, Big Cypress Swamp, the Swanee river near Live Oak. Here are some of my photographs from Florida.
    shoot both 35mm film, medium format, large format film and, digital.